The 70-year-old resident of Brookdale, Cumberland County, and the former MP for Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, is a double cancer survivor who believes he can make a difference as this year's honorary chairman for the Colchester County Relay For Life. The event will be held at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre on June 12 beginning at 7 p.m. until 7 a.m.
"I never miss an opportunity to raise money for cancer research. I talk about it wherever I go ... I encourage (people) to take an active role and I ask everyone I run into to participate" in the relay, Casey told the Truro Daily News.
"I want to see us improve results from previous years ... and I do tell my story. I have an obligation to tell my story."
Both Casey and his father were diagnosed with cancer at age 63. His father died the next year. Casey has been a survivor since 2006.
"Because of advancements in research and treatments and detection, I've survived ... I'm in good shape," said Casey. "My father didn't have a second chance. I've been given a second chance. I'm grateful for that and I don't want to waste it."
Casey's cancer screening test came about what he calls "accidentally." After a cabinet minister died from malignant melanoma, which is a skin cancer, the minister's wife set up a cancer screening clinic in memory of her husband.
"I went almost by accident" and more to support his colleague's family.
"I had no idea anything was wrong. There were no symptoms that I was aware of," recalled Casey, adding the doctor at the clinic immediately spotted signs of malignant melanoma and said it was "urgent" Casey go to the hospital the next day.
He ultimately underwent three operations for two different cancers because he was also diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which again, he had no symptoms.
Since his ordeal, Casey spreads the message of early detection and frequent testing with the hopes of helping to save lives.
"Early diagnosis is important. It saved my life ... I advise people to do what I didn't do; get tested early ... 65,000 people this year will die of cancer. We shouldn't accept it; we should fight it."
Casey is also active in Relay For Life events. He's participated in past Amherst and Sackville relays and is eager to participate in the Colchester County event next month.
"I challenge people to put in a team; it's not too late," he said of the Truro-based event that will include a survivors reception and walk, Zumba, a kids corner, access to RECC events and entertainment by Dave Gunning. A luminary ceremony will also take place using battery-operated luminaries, as dictated by the provincial fire marshal.
"We are making progress," said Casey regarding cancer research and improved treatments.
Casey will share his story and encouragement with Colchester County relay participants. He is also eager to spread the word that more federal research money is needed for this area.
"Atlantic Canada is short changed of federal research money" on a per capita/per person basis. Casey said "some of the highest rates" of malignant melanoma, prostate and breast cancer occur in this province.
"It's awful to me that Atlantic Canada is short changed ... I will do what I can," to change that, Casey said, adding he's also helped the Atlantic Cancer Research Institute raise money for research as well as been part of other research and awareness campaigns.
What: Colchester County Relay For Life is a community fundraising event, like others across Canada, in the fight against cancer. Last year almost 400 relays took place.
When: June 12 from 7 p.m. to July 13 at 7 a.m.
Where: Rath Community Eastlink Centre, Truro
To register and for specific relay details: Log onto www.relayforlife.ca or see Cindy Fagioli at MacQuarries Pharmasave Home Health Centre.
Registration incentives: The skybox will be turned into two tent sites - one for the top fundraising team, the second will be a draw from all teams; all teams registered by May 10 will have a chance to win a meet-and-greet with Dave Gunning; the team with top luminary sales will win a private session of massages for team members
Fundraising total: Last year the local event raised $90,000 for cancer research, programs and services.
Did you know?: More than 60 per cent of Canadians diagnosed with cancer will survive compared to about 25 per cent in the early 1940s, according to the Canadian Cancer Society, Nova Scotia branch. However, cancer is still the leading cause of death in Canada. Last year, Colchester County residents occupied a bed at The Lodge That Gives in Halifax 507 times.