Like all cowboys, Len LeBlanc has enjoyed a physical, outdoor lifestyle with little room left for nonsense or complaint.
So when a series of surgeries to fight life-threatening bladder cancer left LeBlanc adapting to an external bladder bag he admits he really wondered what kind of quality of life he would have moving forward.
“I got to feeling down in the dumps for awhile,” LeBlanc admits.
Those feelings couldn’t have lasted long though, because while he still had the bandages around his torso where doctors were forced to remove one of his kidneys, LeBlanc, with the help of nursing student Jenny Vike, made a video for other cancer patients like himself in the hopes of lessening their worries.
“I can still do anything I want,” LeBlanc says while grooming a horse outside a barn in the video.
“Some things not as fast, but I’m happy to be doing them and I’m still on the right side of the dirt.”
LeBlanc’s fight with cancer came in July 2007 when doctors found a tumour in his bladder after LeBlanc complained of pain and of blood in his urine following a long ride on the range.
“That horse probably saved my life being so rough,” LeBlanc says of how he discovered the cancer.
LeBlance was devastated by the news.
“But the hardest part was telling my 17-year-old daughter I had cancer. Her friend’s father and a friend had just died from cancer. I figured that I better fight it.”
LeBlanc was immediately booked for surgery to remove the tumour from his bladder, and worried whether he could still rope and ride, as he had done all his life.
“I wanted to know whether I could be by myself after. I was really stressed out.”
In the end the doctors had to remove LeBlanc’s bladder, his prostate and a kidney over six months before he was in the clear.
But with a new lease on life, LeBlanc got used to his new external bladder bag and even figured out how to adapt it by fastening it to his leg so he can ride his horse, and compete in roping competitions in B.C. and Arizona, where he winters.
“You can lay down and die or you can live,” LeBlanc says of the adjustment.
As for why he made the video, LeBlanc says he just felt compelled to tell his story to other patients like himself who may end up in the same situation.
He’s hoping his example will ease the worries of others and encourage them to be themselves, just like him.
“I feel like I can whip the world.”
LeBlanc is heading down to Arizona soon with Darlene, his wife of 40 years, this week to escape the cold Canadian winter and to rope and ride. He will be back home in the spring, ready to get back on the open range.
If anyone would like to see LeBlanc’s video, they can check it out on Youtube by searching ‘life after bladder cancer.’