Jim Doilney’s ‘Riding the Scalpel’ available at Dolly’s and Amazon
by: Scott Iwasaki | The Park Record
Two days after Park City resident Jim Doilney was officially diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1999, he took off on a 1,100-mile bike trip.
“Sure, I’m not the smartest duck in the pond, even though I have a PhD in economics, but the bottom line of it was that I didn’t want cancer to stop me from living my life,” Doilney said.
The bike trip is among the adventures documented in his memoir, “Riding the Scalpel.”
The book is taken from Doilney’s journals that span from 1998 to the present day, and it includes not only the therapies, medication and procedures that helped him beat Gleason 9 prostate cancer, but also his excursions that include skiing down the Cotopaxi volcano in Ecuador, crossing Patagonia on a bike, climbing Russia’s highest mountain, running from bears in Alaska and finding out he actually swam in shark-infested waters in Africa.
“The backstory of the book is that I had prostate cancer, and I found a better way to deal with it than what 99.9% of the people who get prostate cancer do,” said Doilney, a former Park City Council member and founder of The Corner Store Pub and Grill at the base of Park City Mountain Resort. “The bottom line is I wrapped the book up in travel, combined with medical. So it’s 75% travel, with 25% medical.”
The purpose of the book is to give men who have prostate cancer an idea of what to expect, but to also inspire them to continue living life to the fullest, according to Doilney.
“I want to make a difference,” he said. “I’m 73 years old, and I want to vicariously empower people to travel, and help people who have prostate cancer understand what is going on.”
The cancer diagnosis helped Doilney discover spontaneity.
“Before all of this, my stock and trade will be to go somewhere without having a plan,” he said. “My life and work were all about planning, and I did this with no plans.”
While Doilney’s home life was about comfort and luxury, he wanted to experience weeks without luxury.
“I also wanted comfort that I could create my own way if I was lucky,” he said. “I did things like sleeping in a ditch and that gave me the freedom about not having to worry about where I was going to find the next bed. What this all really taught me was that going this different way wasn’t necessarily bad, and I found my experiences traveling like this were so much richer than when I traveled normally.”
One trip that is recapped in the book is Doilney’s month-long bike trip excursion in Australia.
“I flew to Australia and disembarked in Cairns, and had to buy some new innertubes because I wasn’t really prepared for what I was going to do,” he said. “The guys at the bike shop asked, ‘Where you going, mate?’ I said I was going to bike down to Sydney, and they all started laughing.”
Sydney is more than 1,460 miles from Cairns, and the bike shop employees told Doilney that no one rides from Cairns to Sydney due to strong headwinds.
“So, what was planned to be a two-week trip turned into a monthlong trip because I had to ride into the wind,” Doilney said with a laugh.
The book was co-written by Rick Barrow, a former journalist, political consultant and White House speechwriter who has been Doilney’s friend for more than 50 years.
“Rick is a brilliant writer,” Doilney said. “I knew in order for the book to succeed, it needed to be a real page turner, so I reached out to Rick, who agreed to help me write the book.”
Barrow pored through Doilney’s journals and added structure to the book.
“Every night I would lay in my tent or hostel bed and write what happened, and Rick would read these entries, Google my routes and remind me the names of the rivers I crossed and the towns I visited,” Doilney said. “He would find and procure the rights to photos of the places I stayed.”
While the book describes the joy and tribulations of such experiences, Doilney also gives insight on his 20-year medical journey.
“I made it my mission to talk to different doctors, because I wanted to find out all I could about different treatments,” he said. “My mission was to get enough information about prostate cancer and its treatment to be an influencer.