HOUS April 2011 : Page 68

HOUSTON CONFIDENTIAL HOME OF THE BRAVE Gabe Canales, joining the ranks of Lester Smith and Houston’s other crusaders for a cure, is fighting prostate cancer at the early age of 36. The Fighters Smith beat prostate cancer, and Canales is on his way. Nextmission: a cure. | By Chris Kelly | Photography by Julie Soefer&Shannon O’Hara | Working from Downtown offices appointed with European antiques, contemporary art and voluminous floor-to-ceiling drapes in an interior style that seems to connote a Venetian aristocrat more than the Texas oilman-turned-author that he is, Lester Smith is reviewing a video. It depicts a curious activity being undertaken in the name of cancer research. Te footage shows one of Smith’sWest Texas wells—pumping stalwartly amid a rough-hewn backdrop of cactus and tumbleweed—being painted a very feminine pink. It’s to become a symbol of his “Pink Well Challenge,” which will offer matching funds for grassroots organizations raising money to fight breast cancer and further genomic research. (Te latter can track cancer from an early stage and enhance survival rates.) Unexpected as “Pink” is, it’s par for the course for Smith, a prostate cancer survivor who has dedicated his life to finding clever ways to hopefully eradicate the disease and other forms 68 | | April 2011 of cancer. And he’s not alone, as Houston has no shortage of innovative soldiers in the battle, with newones oft emerging—like newlyminted activist Gabe Canales, engaged now in his own struggle with prostate cancer at the early age of 36, and traveling the country advocating for increased awareness and healthier, cancer-defying lifestyles. For those who know Lester Smith, it’s unsurprising that he’s on the avant-garde. He’s bold and he’s bald.He’s also a survivor of bladder cancer, and a two-time national amateur ballroom dance champ. Now the oilman/philanthropist, 70, has used his personal motto—“You gotta dance like no one’s watching”—as the title of his entertaining and inspirational new memoir. Te book about his life and musings, co-authored with TrishMorille, hit in February.Te profit from its sales are combined with matching dollars from the mogul’s Smith Foundation and donated to support cancer research. On the cover is a photo of Smith with eyes closed, lost in a euphoricmoment of interpretative dance. And inside is a wealth of hard-earned insights from a man who has stared death in the face more than once.Tis is a man who, over a span of 17 years, was in the operating room under general anesthesiamore than 40 times, surviving, among other things, an operation to create “a custom bladder made from my large intestine.” At other junctures, the dad and granddad threw himself into drilling wells, and learning to execute a perfect paso doble with his gorgeous wife Sue. “Don’t ever give up,” reads You Gotta Dance Like No One’sWatching. “Just keep trying. ... Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.” “Tat’s me,” says Smith. “I burn the candle at both ends.” On April 28, Smith will read an excerpt of his book atCelebration ofReading, the annual fundraising event benefitingTe Barbara Bush Foundation for literacy. Smith grew up in modest circumstances, the son of a wildcatter in Wharton. continued...

Houston Confidential

Chris Kelly

The Fighters<br /> <br /> Smith beat prostate cancer, and Canales is on his way. Next mission: a cure.<br /> <br /> Working from Downtown offices appointed with European antiques, contemporary art and voluminous floor-to-ceiling drapes in an interior style that seems to connote a Venetian aristocrat more than the Texas oilman-turned-author that he is, Lester Smith is reviewing a video. It depicts a curious activity being undertaken in the name of cancer research.<br /> <br /> The footage shows one of Smith’s West Texas wells—pumping stalwartly amid a rough-hewn backdrop of cactus and tumbleweed—being painted a very feminine pink. It’s to become a symbol of his “Pink Well Challenge,” which will offer matching funds for grassroots organizations raising money to fight breast cancer and further genomic research. (The latter can track cancer from an early stage and enhance survival rates.)<br /> <br /> Unexpected as “Pink” is, it’s par for the course for Smith, a prostate cancer survivor who has dedicated his life to finding clever ways to hopefully eradicate the disease and other forms of cancer. And he’s not alone, as Houston has no shortage of innovative soldiers in the battle, with new ones oft emerging—like newly minted activist Gabe Canales, engaged now in his own struggle with prostate cancer at the early age of 36, and traveling the country advocating for increased awareness and healthier, cancer-defying lifestyles.<br /> <br /> For those who know Lester Smith, it’s unsurprising that he’s on the avant-garde. He’s bold and he’s bald. He’s also a survivor of bladder cancer, and a two-time national amateur ballroom dance champ. Now the oilman/philanthropist, 70, has used his personal motto—“You gotta dance like no one’s watching”—as the title of his entertaining and inspirational new memoir.<br /> <br /> The book about his life and musings, coauthored with Trish Morille, hit in February. The profit from its sales are combined with matching dollars from the mogul’s Smith Foundation and donated to support cancer research.<br /> <br /> On the cover is a photo of Smith with eyes closed, lost in a euphoric moment of interpretative dance. And inside is a wealth of hard-earned insights from a man who has stared death in the face more than once. This is a man who, over a span of 17 years, was in the operating room under general anesthesia more than 40 times, surviving, among other things, an operation to create “a custom bladder made from my large intestine.”<br /> <br /> At other junctures, the dad and granddad threw himself into drilling wells, and learning to execute a perfect paso doble with his gorgeous wife Sue. “Don’t ever give up,” reads You Gotta Dance Like No One’s Watching. “Just keep trying. ... Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.”<br /> <br /> “That’s me,” says Smith. “I burn the candle at both ends.” On April 28, Smith will read an excerpt of his book at Celebration of Reading, the annual fundraising event benefiting The Barbara Bush Foundation for literacy.<br /> <br /> Smith grew up in modest circumstances, the son of a wildcatter in Wharton.<br /> <br /> When his dad died young, Smith inherited $500, and from that he went on to build an oil business, and to give back. His money and time have gone to everything from uncredited charitable projects to funding the dazzling Smith Gem Vault at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.<br /> <br /> His most recent hit was his and Sue’s “An Evening With Legend Robert Duvall” in February, which raised $9.1 million for Texas Children’s Cancer Center—including more of those generous matching funds. CBS anchor Bob Schie er, who emceed the event, praised the Smiths later on his Sunday morning program, Face The Nation.<br /> <br /> Far from laurels-resting, Smith is moving on to other innovative ideas to raise money for great causes. Like those pink oil wells in today’s video. As it ends, Smith reaches for a dapper wooden cane. “I threw out my back from dancing,” he explains. “But my doctor is going to get me back in shape. And I’ll be doing the cha-cha-cha in no time.”<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, young Gabe Canales is doing a di erent kind of dance—navigating a new world of power and in uence as he survives his own bout with prostate cancer and seeks to heighten awareness that all men are at risk.<br /> <br /> He’s talking about this during the lunch rush at Tony’s. Moguls seal deals over bottles of early 20th century Bordeaux nearby, as the society set plans galas over tuna tartare. And here, at a corner table, is a tall, handsome young man wearing a tailored navy blazer with jeans, adding some sex appeal to the posh scene.<br /> <br /> With his mane of dark hair and chiseled features, he could pass for a hunky actor. In fact, Canales owns and runs his own marketing firm. He’s a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of St. Thomas in liberal arts and then landed an internship with CNN in London.<br /> <br /> He was diagnosed a year ago, in the course of a routine physical; he had no symptoms, and there was no history of cancer in his family. His blood was tested for prostate cancer by accident. “Hearing the words, ‘You have cancer,’ sent me into disbelief, sadness, depression and many questions,” says the bachelor, without a trace of self-pity. “I thought it was an old man’s cancer.”<br /> <br /> Since then, he’s written two pieces about prostate cancer for The Huffington Post and has been interviewed on radio and TV. And he’s about to launch the Blue Cure Foundation to boost awareness of prostate cancer, especially among younger guys who mistakenly think they’re immune. “Men under 50 aren’t urged to have annual prostate exams,” he says, “and if it weren’t for the fact that I was mistakenly tested, I might not be here.” He’s also become dedicated to raising funds for research into the disease, which costs 32,000 U.S. men their lives each year.<br /> <br /> As he savors his Tony’s meal, Canales explains that diet is a key weapon in his ongoing battle with cancer. He decided against the traditional surgery to remove his prostate and is currently under a program of “active surveillance.”<br /> <br /> With advice from medical pros who believe that hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and fungicides in our food contribute to rising cancer rates, Canales radically changed his lifestyle and eats only organic. He also avoids walking barefoot across grass which might have traces of pesticides, and dry cleaners that use chemicals.<br /> <br /> The result is that Canales’ quarterly blood tests have shown fewer “prostate-specific antigens.” He still has cancer, but indicators are moving in the right direction. “I juice raw greens every day and drink them down,” Canales laughs. “I feel like I’m swallowing soil, but it’s working.”<br /> <br /> And he’s been hitting the road, too, attending summits across the country designed to address and end the disease. He’s rubbed elbows with others committed to the fight, including former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, a prostate cancer survivor who gave Canales his phone number and said to call him up when he’s in the Big Apple.<br /> <br /> As the lunch crowd at Tony’s thins, Canales sums up what he sees as his mission. “I want to be the Indiana Jones of cancer,” he says. “I want to go around the world and spread the word that men of all ages and ethnic groups are potential victims of prostate cancer. Get tested early. Be aware.”<br /> <br /> If he doesn’t do it, he seems to ask, who will? “At rst I thought, ‘Why me?’ Canales says. “And then I realized, ‘Why not me?’”

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