Cancer not sidetracking Skarr from community, family activities
When his father died of heart disease at a young age, Mike Skarr carefully tracked his own cholesterol to try to avoid the same fate.
But as fate would have it, something else made him step up his vigilance -- prostate cancer.
"This was something I wasn't expecting," said Skarr, 73. "So this was a big surprise, a real wake up call."
Before this, little else seemed to surprise the very organized Skarr. In recent years, he has headed the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce and Choose DuPage, the local economic development firm. He then retired and started a consulting business called Not-for-Profit Strategies and Solutions LLC in Naperville. But retirement got busier last summer when he was invited back as interim president and CEO at Choose DuPage until John Carpenter was named to the post last September.
Skarr also continues to serve on the board of directors for the Wheaton Bank and Trust and other organizations. So it's not uncommon to find Skarr popping up at community events and shaking hands with people.
"He's a market leader and we're just happy he's on our team," said Bob Paszczak, chairman of the Wheaton Bank and Trust.
But a year ago, Skarr saw that his blood tests indicated some unusual patterns and doctors performed a biopsy on his prostate. The result was positive for cancer and the doctor wanted to monitor it for a while. Skarr moved ahead with a genetic test, which revealed the cancer was "66 percent aggressive," Skarr said.
That's when he explored his treatment options and turned to a facility in Warrenville, called the Northwestern Medicine Chicago Proton Center, which offers proton therapy to help treat cancer.
That was an interesting twist of fate, since Northwestern Medicine opened in 2010, when Skarr was the Choose DuPage president and CEO and he helped to get the facility to move to Warrenville.
"At the time, we were thrilled when they decided to come to DuPage," Skarr said of Northwestern Medicine. "But now, the key thing is, they're right in my backyard."
Earlier this year, Skarr began to take the proton therapy in the hopes of ridding his body of cancer. He made daily visits to the Northwestern Medicine for 44 days and finished in March. He said side effects were not as harsh as chemo or radiation and he considers himself lucky overall so far. It's given him an even deeper appreciation of his community and his family, he said.
He and his wife of 50 years, Mary Ann, have three sons and eight grandchildren. Skarr wants to spend more time with them, enjoy life, do some consulting work and be vigilant with follow-up tests every three months to check his prostate.
"I've got a pretty full schedule already," he said.
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