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WCCO Interviews Best-Selling Author Who Battled Cancer

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Writing a bestselling novel is tough enough, so just imagine doing it under deadline while battling cancer.

WCCO's Frank Vascellaro had the opportunity to talk to Vince Flynn, who just finished his thirteenth novel while being treated for prostate cancer.

Flynn is tough and disciplined. The former college football player was raised in a family with a firm belief that hard work yields results.

It has. He's written 13 novels with 11 of them making it to the bestseller list.

The latest is "Kill Shot", just released this month and already at Number 1-(2) on the New York Times list.

"It was probably -- without a doubt -- the most difficult of the 13 that I've had to write," said Flynn.

Difficult, indeed, because Flynn was battling stage 3 metastatic prostate cancer while he wrote the book.

In fact, when WCCO first profiled him a few years ago, it's possible the disease was gaining a foothold inside him.

"I was in pain writing the last 2 books, but I didn't know how serious it was," said Flynn.

He went to doctors who thought he may have had a bacterial infection in his prostate, or it could just be a hazard of sitting and writing for up to 10 hours a day. But by November of 2010, Vince couldn't sit for even an hour or two.

"I couldn't sit down and focus it was just too painful," said Flynn. "I didn't have the energy and I wasn't sleeping well."

After getting the proper diagnosis he began aggressive, cutting-edge treatments and set out to finish his novel.

"To a large degree I bought into this idea that if I'm gonna beat cancer I have to keep my life as normal as possible I have to get back to work you can't go to bed and let the day go by," said Flynn.

Standing Up To Cancer

Flynn was just 44-years-old at the time he received the stunning diagnosis: stage 3 metastatic prostate cancer.

"This is not your garden variety prostate cancer," Flynn said. "This is the aggressive kind that takes guys down."

Flynn said that when he was first diagnosed, he wasn't sure he'd make it to Christmas.

Like researching a novel, Flynn dug for information on doctors and discovered those using cutting-edge medicine.

The first step was hormone therapy, which comes with major side effects. The hormones make you gain weight, suffer hot flashes and cause irritability.

"You practically lose your mind," Flynn said. "Things can set you off. Now...with a lot of focus and prayer, I have been able to get a hold of it and not lose my temper the way I was losing my temper a year and-a-half ago. It was bad for couple of months."

But he persevered because of his roots.

Growing up in a large and boisterous Irish Catholic family, having a stern father and an education from St. Thomas Academy High School gave him the will to keep fighting.

"If I didn't have the strong faith that my parents gave to me and the schools that I went to and these coaches that were on us to always be striving to get better and to play with class and to never quit, I think there is a darn good chance...I would have just folded," Flynn said.

During his struggle, Flynn also changed his diet.

He says he ate "tons of vegetables, fruit and yogurt." He also ate organic meat, but no red meat. No steak.

When asked when he last had a steak, Flynn replied: "Over a year ago."

Exercise accompanied his diet. Flynn does a cardio workout six days a week and lifts weights three days a week. It might not have been such a struggle if the cancer was discovered sooner.

"They think that I had the disease probably two-three years before I was diagnosed," he said.

Flynn's Advice

Flynn tells all his friends, even those in high places, to get tested for prostate cancer.

"If the disease is in your family history, you'd better go in at 40 and get a baseline PSA. And you're going to have to argue with your insurance company and maybe even with your doctor. You just have to demand it and keep going after it until someone gives you that diagnosis."

His other message for men with prostate cancer is: stay positive. Never surrender, Flynn says, and find the professionals that can help you beat the disease.

Flynn dedicated "Kill Shot" to the doctors aggressively treating prostate cancer – a disease that just a few years ago was death sentence.

"We've got the disease on the run right now," Flynn said. "Three news drugs were approved last year, five more were approved this year. My outlook is good."

Flynn says his doctor thinks he'll live to be an old guy.

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