Jim Sansone knows firsthand that prostate cancer affects the whole family. Nearly 25 years ago, he supported his father, URF board president Anthony Sansone, Sr., through prostate cancer treatment. His father remains healthy today, and now Jim serves on the URF board to honor Mr. Sansone - and to promote prostate cancer awareness.
Jim was in his late 20s when his father was diagnosed with cancer. Jim is from a close-knit family of eight children, all of whom were concerned about the diagnosis. "My dad and mom mean the world to us, so obviously we were scared and concerned," Jim said. Mr. Sansone sought treatment from Dr. Catalona, an expert in nerve-sparing radical prostatectomy. The surgery was successful and he remains healthy and energetic at almost age 90. Jim said, "We literally couldn't have had better results from my father's procedure."
Familial prostate cancer
In 2015, the Nordic Twin Study of Cancer found that the heritability of prostate cancer was 58%, higher than was previously believed. These results suggest that genetics contribute more to the risk of developing prostate cancer than environmental factors.
Jim and his five brothers get screened for prostate cancer annually. He said, "We follow Dr. Catalona's guidance in getting the prostate exam and the PSA test. We do believe in what he recommends for men for prostate health."
Jim's father asked him to join the board of the URF nearly 20 years ago. "It was of course an honor," Jim said. "I'm pleased to be working with my dad in that capacity. I do whatever I can to promote prostate cancer awareness." As a board member, Jim helps lead the URF's efforts in prostate cancer research and public education, including QUEST.
On living a healthy life
Jim and his wife, Kathryn, both believe in the importance of healthy living, including eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and paying attention to your health. "You have to make a concerted effort to take care of yourself. You're the one that has to put the work in," Jim said. "It can be tough to do, but I've got great examples in my parents and my wife. They all could use a number of excuses, but they don't."
He explained that taking the time to stay healthy is the "furthest thing from being selfish." He's motivated to be healthy for his family. "You want to be around for them, and you want to be your best for them," he said. He saw this in his father. "It's had an impact because I have seen what the results are and how effective it's been with my own dad and mom."
Jim and Kathryn work out frequently. Kathryn cooks healthy family dinners most nights that include fresh fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. "But there's bread, too," he said. "We've got growing kids." They treat themselves everyone once in awhile, too. "Do we order out and have pizza sometimes? Yes, of course we do," he said.
Kathryn is a certified fitness trainer and built a lifestyle brand called ShapeUpMom. She is dedicated to living a healthy but realistic lifestyle and helps busy women nurture themselves and their families. She's written a successful book, Woman First, Family Always, and just launched GreekGirl Beauty Protein, an all-natural dietary supplement for women. Several years ago, Kathryn was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show while she was pregnant with their ninth child as an example of how it's possible to be a busy mom and still stay in shape.
Jim and Kathryn also encourage their children to be active through sports. "I think it teaches them teamwork, competitiveness, fair play, and it's good for their health," Jim said. All of their children have participated in sports through school - from grade school, high school and to the college level.
Jim and Kathryn have been married for 29 years. Their 10 children range in age from 10 to 28 years old. "Having a big family can be wonderful in so many ways. It's not as hard as some people think it is," Jim said. Family is central to their lives, from having dinners together to making memories on family trips. "I think it's very important to all be together," he said. Their older children visit home frequently. They enjoy being outdoors and fishing, skiing, hunting and working out. All of these can be done with the whole family. Their Catholic faith is also an important component of their lives.
Jim's parents, Anthony, Sr., and Mary Anne Sansone, have had a significant positive impact on Jim and Kathryn. "They're role models as parents, they're role models as husband and wife, and my father's a role model in business." Jim is trained as an attorney and is a principal at the Sansone Group in St. Louis, the commercial real estate firm his father founded in 1957. Three of his brothers are also principals at the company. Jim admires his father’s business ethics and will to succeed. He said, "My dad's always looking for ways for us to change and improve. He always says if you're not going forward, you're going backward."
Jim, Kathryn, and their children visit Jim's parents in Florida every Easter. They also spend a lot of time together when his parents are in St. Louis. Jim said, "My kids really look up to my mom and dad as inspirations and guides." He appreciates the support for his children. "They say it takes a village. We’re lucky that we have a little village," he said.
This August, Jim's parents are taking the entire extended family on a South African safari to celebrate Mr. Sansone's 90th birthday.
Supporting the community, supporting families
Jim is active in the St. Louis community and works with a number of charitable organizations. He serves on the Facilities and Grounds committee of St. Louis University High School and is a commissioner of the St. Louis Zoo. He recently chaired the zoo's largest fundraiser, a biennial black tie event that raised the most money to date. "St. Louis Zoo is a great institution and provides so many things for the community, including conservation and education," he said. "We like anything that supports families."