Investor goes public with cancer diagnosis

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Stein Erik Hagen, long ranked as one of Norway’s wealthiest men, has more important things on his mind these days than the value of his stock portfolio or other investments. Hagen, age 55, was told last month that he has prostate cancer, and he’s easing the shock of the diagnosis by using it to mount his own public awareness campaign.

Stein Erik Hagen, one of Norway's wealthiest men, is tackling a cancer diagnosis by talking about it. PHOTO: Views and News

“I got very anxious right away, but calmed down after the first diagnosis,” Hagen told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) last weekend. “I’m being open about it, to contribute to folks’ awareness of prostate cancer, and so that more people can detect the disease earlier and get a better and longer life.”

Hagen also believes that by being open about his own cancer, he can better hear other cancer patients’ experiences and listen to their advice. “It’s difficult to hear other people’s advice if you’re not open yourself,” Hagen told DN.

Hagen, chairman of the large Norwegian industrial concern Orkla and a major shareholder in real estate and retailing firms Steen & Strøm and Jernia, is best known for founding the discount grocery store chain Rimi in Norway. It was later sold to ICA of Sweden. His personal wealth has been estimated at NOK 24 billion (USD 4 billion) by Norwegian magazine Kapital.

Now he’s making the investment of his life, in his own health. The disease was discovered during a routine exam last month and he wants to urge other men to be tested for prostate cancer, and remove the stigmas around it. He knows that many men in his age group are vulnerable to the disease, and often choose to hide it after being diagnosed.

“The only way to remove stigmas is to speak openly and naturally about it,” Hagen told DN. “We all need to share our experiences, to gain a better common understanding.”

He said he feels completely healthy but has been putting in shorter days at the office and taking part in fewer social commitments. He’ll travel to Baltimore this month to undergo surgery at Johns Hopkins University Hospital, one of the leading hospitals in the field. He’s already gone through several exams and gathered the proverbial “second opinions” important in making his treatment choices.

Several other men are already hailing Hagen’s prostate cancer public awareness campaign, among them dentist Truls Hilland. At age 60, his prostate cancer wasn’t discovered early enough, it’s aggressive and has spread to his lymph nodes.

Asked what his own advice is to men diagnosed with prostate cancer, Hilland told DN: “Use time to get to know yourself, and adjust. Cut out things that wear you out. Use your time well. Stay active.” He said his best source of support has been his wife.

“I’m thinking positive and want to hear about those who are succeeding against cancer,” he said. “I don’t want to bury myself in the worst cases, or read statistics that are just depressing.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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