Don Narcisse has heard his share of pep talks before.
The one the former Saskatchewan Roughriders receiver got Sunday from one of his sisters may have taken the cake.
On Wednesday — a few hours after revealing on social media that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer — Narcisse talked about the conversation he had with his sister, Pamela Forsander.
“My older sister had pancreatic cancer,” Narcisse began, referring to the diagnosis his sister received 17 years ago. “On Sunday, she came into the house and gave me a motivational speech that was out of this world. (Pancreatic) is one of the deadliest cancers you can have and she really lifted me up.
“She told me, ‘You do a lot for a lot of people. You’re on Facebook and you’re sharing stories. The one thing I want to make sure that you do is use your platform to help everybody else out. Don’t keep this a secret. Let people know what’s going on in your life because they’re going to be able to help you out. You’re also going to be able to inspire a whole bunch of men who haven’t been to the doctor to get checked.’
“Ever since I sent that (social-media) post, I’ve talked to a bunch of guys about going to get checked for their prostate and colon. As we get older, we all need to.”
Narcisse, 52, had a blood test done about six months ago when he was at home in Houston. He noted Wednesday that the test showed the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level in his blood was a little high, so his doctor suggested Narcisse have a follow-up blood test when he was home for Christmas.
That second test showed the PSA level had increased again, so further testing was done. On Friday, Narcisse was told he has Stage 1 prostate cancer.
“When I heard the words, I got really scared,” Narcisse admitted. “I didn’t really know what was going on. When they told me, I was like, ‘Oh God.’ I had my kids with me, so I just broke down crying.
“You never want to hear the word ‘cancer,’ no matter what it is. I was just overwhelmed.”
Narcisse planned to leave Houston and return to Regina, but his family had other plans. An intervention of sorts occurred Sunday.
“I had sent a text out to my brothers and sisters to let them know that I was leaving on Monday and I would take care of (the cancer) when I got back, like in six more months,” Narcisse said. “On Sunday, all my brothers and sisters showed up at the house and said, ‘We don’t think you’re going anywhere. You’re going to get that taken care of.’ ’’
Forsander brought along books and other materials for Narcisse to read “to get my mind right.” Then she offered her own thoughts to her brother.
“She told me, ‘The reason why people die from cancer is because they fear cancer,’ ” Narcisse said. “She said, ‘The only one who can control this is God. This is not your body, it’s God’s body and He’s going to get it right for you. You’ve always got to stay positive.’
“Just hearing that from her — she went through some real stuff, man — I was like, ‘Wow.’ ”
Narcisse is planning to discuss his options with doctors, but he expects to undergo radiation treatment — not chemotherapy or surgery. He also isn’t interested in active surveillance.
“I would rather get it out of the way where I won’t have it on my mind every day,” said Narcisse, who will have the treatments in Houston before returning to Regina in the coming months. “Sometimes you’ll focus on some of the things that you’re not supposed to be focusing on. I don’t want to be focusing on, ‘It’s going to grow,’ or, ‘It’s going to get worse.’
“Right now, I’ve just been sitting back looking at all the positive messages that people have been sending me. I’m trying to stay positive, man; that’s about it.”
Narcisse was a fan favourite during his tenure with the Roughriders.
Despite a relative lack of size and speed, the product of Texas Southern University stuck with Saskatchewan in 1987 — and he remained with the team for 13 seasons.
Narcisse exceeded 1,000 yards receiving in eight seasons and caught at least one pass in every one of the 216 regular-season games he played in his Roughriders career. He retired as the CFL’s leader in career receptions (919, a total that now puts him seventh on the all-time list) and had 12,366 receiving yards and 75 touchdown catches.
He was named a West Division all-star four times and a CFL all-star four times, was enshrined in the Roughriders’ Plaza of Honour in 2003 and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
Narcisse overcame asthma and a heart murmur to become a CFL star. Now, he faces another, more serious health issue.
“I’m glad they caught it at an early stage,” Narcisse said. “All I’m doing is just sitting back and waiting (for treatments to begin). Right now, I’m very positive.”