B y J o s h T i l l

you haven’t done any research or talked to

anyone. you’re just hit with the news that you

have cancer.”

That piece of news was sobering for Gregg.

“It was the most frightening news I’ve ever

had,” he says. “I’m an ex-police officer, so I’ve

been through some rough stuff. Nothing com-

pares to hearing that you have cancer, though.”

After his diagnosis, Mr. Gregg immediately

set out to gather as much information as he

could about his disease, exploring treatment

options to determine what would be best for

him. Unsatisfied with the initial treatment

suggested by his urologist, he was looking for

a second opinion when a close friend offered

him some advice. “he said, ‘you need to come

to UAB. It’s a world-class facility, and this is

where you need to be,’” Mr. Gregg says.

LAUghINg AND LIVINg Soon afterward, Mr. Gregg had an

appointment at the UAB Comprehensive

Cancer Center with a multidisciplinary team

of specialists headed by urologic oncologist

Donald Urban, M.D., and radiation oncolo-

gist John Fiveash, M.D. Knowing he had a

team of experts treating his cancer was com-

forting to Mr. Gregg.

“I loved the team approach,” he says. “We

were able to sit down and make the best

treatment decisions for me based on my cir-

cumstances and lifestyle. That was important

to me.”

Mr. Gregg soon began a four-month

course of radiation therapy, followed by a

procedure in which radioactive seeds were

implanted in the prostate to administer a

more gradual dose of radiation. Because

of the specific nature of his cancer—and

because he was in such good physical health

prior to being diagnosed—Mr. Gregg did not

have to undergo surgery or chemotherapy.

“I had a great response to the treatment,” he

says. “I’d come home from treatment and work

in the yard. I was already an active person, but

I actually increased my exercise level. I didn’t

want having cancer to change my lifestyle.”

Another way Mr. Gregg coped with his

cancer treatments was through humor. he

joked around with Dr. Fiveash and the

nurses in radiation oncology. On the last day

of his treatment, he emerged from the treat-

ment room wearing his patient gown and his

old graduation cap, from which he moved the

tassel to the other side of his head to show he

was finished with treatment.

“That was a big hit with the nurses,” Mr.

Gregg recalls, laughing. “But I used a lot of

humor because I didn’t want to think about

cancer all the time.”

In less than a year after his diagnosis,

Mr. Gregg was declared cancer-free and has

remained so ever since. “I owe it all to Dr.

Urban and Dr. Fiveash. UAB saved my life.”

LOOkINg AhEAD Mr. Gregg also credits the support he

received from his family in helping him beat

cancer. That includes his wife of 42 years,

Carol; son, Josh, and daughter, Meg. Today,

the family also includes two grandchildren:

one who is nine and another who just arrived

in February 2011.

he remains grateful to UAB and the

Cancer Center—so much so that he was one

of the first to sign up to participate in the

Cancer Center’s Sweet on a Cure fundraiser

when it launched in 2009 (see page 19).

Mr. Gregg encourages others facing cancer

to learn as much as they can, do research,

talk to their doctor and get a second opinion

if necessary. Knowing what to expect and

what challenges patients may face makes a

big difference, he says.

As he enters his 13th cancer-free year, Mr.

Gregg reflects on how cancer changed his

life: It put things in perspective for him and

in the end, made him a stronger person, he

says. Oddly, “it was a great life experience,”

he explains. “Life is full of tragedies, but you

make the best of it. It makes you stronger for

the next one.” B y J o s h T i l l

oNce a police officer, Now a baKer, DeNNis gregg is faMiliar with the bitter aND the sweet siDes of life.

but NothiNg prepareD hiM for the shocK of a caNcer DiagNosis.

DENNis gREgg

AROUND Birmingham, Dennis Gregg is

known as the “Baby Bite Man.” As co-owner

with wife Carol of Birmingham’s Pastry Art

Bake Shoppe, his famous Baby Bites—along

with his cakes, cupcakes and other confec-

tions—are a staple at social gatherings across

the city.

But there’s another title that Mr. Gregg is

proud to wear: prostate cancer survivor. “I’d

like to be the prostate cancer survivor poster

boy,” he says.

Mr. Gregg was just 50 years old in July

1998 when a routine exam during his annual

checkup revealed elevated levels of PSA

(prostate-specific antigen), a warning sign for

prostate cancer. his physician sent him to a

local urologist, and a biopsy confirmed the

worst: he had prostate cancer.

“The first thing I thought was that I was

going to die,” Mr. Gregg recalls. “I think

that’s what most people first think, because

survivor profile

sAVED My LIfE.”

“UAB

0

0

BUt yOU MAkE thE BEst Of It. It MAkEs yOU stRONgER fOR thE NEXt ONE.” – dennis gregg

“LIfE Is fULL Of tRAgEDIEs,

14 u A b C o m P r e H e N S I V e C A N C e r C e N T e r u A b C o m P r e H e N S I V e C A N C e r C e N T e r 15