Despite suffering from incurable prostate cancer that has spread to his hip bones, 72-year-old Michael Baine is once again training for Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend.
The veteran marathon runner plans to walk a half marathon — 21 kilometres — to raise money for The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre , where he has spent much of the past year undergoing tests, radiation, surgery and chemotherapy.
Baine has already had a titanium rod inserted into his right femur because of bone metastasis from his Stage 4 cancer. Last month, he found out that cancer cells had invaded his pelvic bones.
“That really hurts when you walk,” he says. “I can’t even walk properly for any distance without some assistance so I’ve been experimenting with a cane versus the hiking poles that I’ve used to do my mountain trekking, and I think I’ve decided on the poles.
“I’m a tortoise, but I’m going to get to the finish line.”
This year’s virtual edition of race weekend allows participants to plot their own race courses and to complete them anytime in May. Baine has decided to attempt his walk on May 16th — exactly one year after his cancer symptoms first appeared.
Last May, Baine was in training for what he hoped would be a trek up Mount Kilimanjaro when he discovered blood in his urine. Days later, he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer, which had already spread to his lymph nodes and femur. His thighbone was in danger of breaking.
Baine told his doctors to chart an aggressive treatment regimen. “I can take it,” he told them. After surgery and radiation, he endured almost five months of hormonal therapy and chemotherapy that tested his resolve.
“I felt like I was beat up in the ring,” he says.
In January, doctors told him his cancer was in remission and might remain at bay for a year. But last month, Baine discovered his cancer had returned and moved into his pelvis. By then, he had already announced a plan for his 21-kilometre fundraising walk, and after consulting with his doctors, he decided to forge ahead: He intends to walk from his home in Westboro to Lisgar Road, near Rideau Hall, and back.
“It’s going to be a test, I must say,” Baine concedes. “But my oncologist said the cancer will not get worse by walking a half marathon. He said your pelvis is a big bone and it won’t break even though there are lesions in it, and your body will tell you when it’s time to quit.”
He’ll have the support of his family, Baine says, and may borrow his mother-in-law’s walker or lean on his granddaughter’s stroller if he’s struggling to reach the finish line.
Before the cancer moved into his pelvis, Baine had built up the strength to walk 16 kilometres. Since then, he says, he has continued to stretch and to pedal an exercise bike while “saving up this old body.”
A lifelong distance runner, Baine has taken part in almost every race weekend since 1978, running the full marathon, or when it was necessary to save his knees, the half marathon. “Race weekend has just been a part of my life,” he says. “I really love challenges.”
In 2019, he trekked 450 kilometres from Munich, Germany to Venice, Italy, mostly through the Alps. He has walked with his wife, Deirdre, in the Rocky Mountains, New Zealand, Australia and Ireland, and has trekked to Everest Base Camp in Nepal, and to Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes.
“I love the solitude, the physical demands,” he says.
Born and raised in Hamilton, Baine spent 35 years with the Ottawa Catholic School Board where he was a teacher and basketball coach at St. Pius X High School, a principal at St. Paul High School, and a superintendent of special education and student services.
In retirement, he served on CHEO’s board of directors and as chair of the Youth Services Bureau. He has volunteered with The Ottawa Hospital Foundation for almost two decades, and in 2019, was awarded the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers.
A father of four girls and now a grandfather to 12, Baine calls himself the luckiest man in Ottawa.
“I’m having a great year, and I’m not saying that facetiously,” he says. “I don’t want the cancer, but I’ve got it, and from that I’ve had these amazing connections with friends and family in different ways — things I never felt like I had the time for, like authentic conversations, exchanges of kindnesses.
“I don’t think there’s a luckier guy in Ottawa than me, despite having cancer, I really don’t. I’ve had a blessed life. I’ve been healthy all my life until now. What’s there to complain about?”
He’s hoping to enroll in a clinical trial to maximize the time he has left. “I have no fear, whatsoever,” he says. “I’m upset at times because my family is so worried — that’s the hardest thing.”
Baine has had about 120 medical appointments in the past year. His next appointment is Tuesday for radiation designed to alleviate some of his hip pain. “It should help me walk better,” he says.
Baine wants the money he raises to help some of the people he’s met at The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre: patients without the emotional supports or financial resources that he enjoys: “For so many, cancer is just the last thing they need. I want some way to help those people. That’s what I want.”
This content was originally published here.