Life after Prostate Cancer:

Jim McNally: A Life Abroad

Categories: Summer/Fall 2015
Jim McNally spent the majority of his career living abroad. Now in retirement - and fully recovered from prostate cancer - he is enjoying all that Europe has to offer.
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Jim McNally (left) and his twin brother, John.

Jim McNally spent the majority of his career living abroad. Now in retirement – and fully recovered from prostate cancer – he is enjoying all that Europe has to offer.

Forty-five years ago, Jim McNally was a young man who requested a transfer abroad from his company. He wanted a career in international business, and felt that remaining in the United States would hinder his opportunities. He said, “The only way for an American to fully learn how to do international business well is to be out of the United States.”

Jim loves to travel, and his decision served him well. His career abroad gave him the opportunity to see new places and experience different cultures. He worked for several international companies and traveled throughout the world. He also obtained his master’s degree from the University of London.

At age 65, Jim decided to retire as executive vice president for Solae (a wholly owned subsidiary of the Dupont Company) and remain in Europe. He and his wife currently split their time between London and Portugal.

Facing prostate cancer in the family

In late 1998, both Jim and his identical twin brother, John, were diagnosed with prostate cancer. At the time of their diagnoses, Jim lived in Brussels and John lived in the Washington, D.C. area.

Jim’s internist in Brussels kept a close watch on his PSA. For 2 years, the PSA had been rising slightly, eventually going as high as 2.5. Jim saw a top urologist in Brussels, who performed an ultrasound of the prostate. At that time, the urologist did not see any issues. But a repeat ultrasound the next year prompted the urologist to suggest Jim have a biopsy. The urologist felt the biopsy indicated that Jim had prostate cancer.

Jim was unfamiliar with the disease. He immediately began reading about prostate cancer to educate himself about his options. He went to St. Louis, where his company was based, and his company doctor referred him to Dr. Catalona. A repeat biopsy confirmed prostate cancer. Jim decided to have Dr. Catalona perform his radical prostatectomy in April of 1999. The cancer was contained within the prostate, and today, Jim’s prostate cancer is still gone.

At the same time, John was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. He underwent radiation treatment, which initially lowered his PSA. “They were hopeful it had taken care of the cancer,” Jim said. But within 2 years John’s PSA began to climb again. Hormonal treatment was only temporarily successful. John enrolled in a National Cancer Institute program that was trying to develop tailored treatments for individual patients, but sadly he passed away from prostate cancer shortly afterward.

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Jim and Barbara McNally enjoy traveling throughout the world. They’ve visited Tahiti (left) and India (right).

On early detection

Jim’s cancer was caught early because his physician was monitoring his PSA test results and velocity. He encourages other men to get screened for prostate cancer. “Get a PSA test – or any one of the new tests,” he said, “regardless of what this committee [the USPSTF] has said.”

Healthy lifestyle choices

Jim thinks that his healthy lifestyle affected his degree of cancer. “I tend to think it contributed to my having much less cancer,” he said. He exercised by playing tennis and squash, as well as running every morning. His diet consisted mostly of fish, poultry and vegetables. He seldom ate red meat.

His experience with prostate cancer only strengthened his resolve to be healthy. “You become more aware that life is short,” he said. “You never think that you’re going to die, or that you’re going to die when you’re younger. It enhanced my belief in trying to live a healthier life.”

Living by the sea

In 1985 Jim lived in Belgium. He fell ill with appendicitis and checked into the local hospital for a routine appendectomy. Unfortunately, the operation led to an infection of the peritoneum. He had to have another surgery to address the infection, after which he had a lengthy recovery.

The experience impacted him deeply. “I had a lot of time to think about the kinds of things you like to do. As a result, I decided I wanted a place by the sea,” Jim said.

This was before the advent of the Internet, yet Jim was determined to find a home by the sea. He researched potential locations and ultimately selected Portugal, which was known for its beautiful beaches. Jim and his son took a 2-week trip to the Algarve and discovered a small Portuguese town called Praia de Luz, which translates to Beach of the Light. The town is right on the sea. He bought an apartment there, then eventually a house.

Family life

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Jim McNally’s grandchildren.

Today, Jim enjoys spending time with his children, grandchildren and his wife, Barbara. Jim’s daughter and son both live in England, along with his five grandchildren ranging in ages from 9 to 20 years old. Barbara also has three grandchildren ages 19 through 24. “We get to see family frequently,” Jim said, including taking his younger grandchildren on annual trips to Legoland near London.

He and Barbara have been married for 8 years, although they’ve known each other since they were teenagers in Philadelphia. While he was in high Jim McNally’s grandchildren. school, Jim worked at a flower shop owned by Barbara’s parents. Although he and Barbara each went their separate ways after high school, their paths serendipitously crossed again several years ago. Jim traveled back to Philadelphia to visit his mother. He wanted to bring her flowers, and on a whim he stopped at the flower shop where he had worked as a teenager. There, he saw Barbara for the first time in many years. “We chatted, and then the next time I came over [to the U.S.] we went out for dinner. We started dating, and then eventually we got married,” he said.

Travel is still one of Jim’s hobbies, as well as charitable work. Spending time by the sea also remains a priority. He and Barbara spend about 4 months per year enjoying the warmer weather at their properties in Portugal.

Jim McNally is a URF board member. He and Barbara frequently travel from London or Portugal to attend URF board meetings in the U.S.

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