I first met Brad Sell in 1990 at a NEWA convention in Boston. He was a manufacturers rep then and was leading a workshop on how New England wholesalers could increase their counter sales.
The last time I saw Brad was in October at the NEX show in Chicago. He stopped by our booth, and we talked about the industry and his job as the executive of three regional wholesaler associations in the Northeast. In the course of our conversation, Brad told me that he is dying of prostate cancer.
He said it so matter-of-factly that I almost asked him if he was kidding. He's only 47, too young for prostate cancer. And as long as I've known Brad, I've enjoyed his quick laugh and sense of humor. Unfortunately, he wasn't joking this time.
Brad said the cancer had advanced into the bone and neither radiation nor chemotherapy can reverse it. Medication can slow some of the disease's effects, but not its inevitability. Doctors are measuring his life span in months, not years.
Although I had resisted the urge to ask if he was kidding, I did question why he was at NEX instead of some island getaway with his wife and sons. Brad seems to think that staying active and involved is good for him. Plus, it gives him the opportunity to urge others to ignore their age and family history of cancer, to get an annual physical and to insist on a cancer-screening test called a PSA.
While most doctors will check for prostate cancer with a test involving a rubber glove, they also should do a prostate-specific antigen blood test, Brad said. He is making awareness of the PSA his personal crusade because many doctors won't administer the blood test unless the patient insists. Also, many insurance plans won't cover the rather nominal cost of a PSA, he said, although they will pay for expensive therapy once the cancer is diagnosed.
Don't get the idea, though, that we were having a clinical discussion. I was stunned and saddened by his news. Brad is one of the good guys I've met in this industry. He's always been open, patient and gracious in dealing with me as well as the other editors on our staff. If you know Brad, you know what I mean. While we may talk too much about technology, consolidation and other changes in the business, we sometimes forget that people like Brad are still what make this industry special.
I experienced a feeling of helplessness as Brad started to leave the booth, and I told him that I wished there were something I could do to help. Brad stopped and said, "There is. Tell every guy you know to get a PSA."
So, if you don't do it for yourself, your co-workers or your loved ones, do it as a favor for Brad Sell.