Taking a (Golf) Swing at Cancer

by | May 2022


Edina resident writes a book about his experience battling cancer.

The best compliment an author can hope to receive is when readers say they couldn’t put a book down.

“I had people tell me that they had planned to read the forward and then pick it up later,” says Edina’s Doug deGrood, author of The Right Side of the Fairway: What Golf Can Teach Us About Living with Cancer. “Instead, they said they’d lose track of time and finish the whole book.”

As it happens, the time it takes to read deGrood’s 114-page book is roughly equivalent to the time it takes to play nine holes of golf.

“As a copywriter, I’m a writer by trade,” deGrood says. “I process my thoughts by pouring them into my laptop.” And in 2015, deGrood had a lot to process. After being diagnosed with bladder cancer, he underwent Balcillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) therapy. “Typically, BCG treatment has a 70 percent response rate. Unfortunately, I was part of that 30 percent,” deGrood says.

“I still wasn’t worried,” he says. “When I was at Stage 2, I thought they’d remove the bladder and that would be that.” Bladder removal surgery was followed by neobladder reconstruction (new bladder). However, while the cancer weakened, it didn’t go away.

“I needed something to occupy myself, and the writing was cathartic,” deGrood says. “After looking it over, I thought I had something useful. I even thought it could help someone.”

He showed the manuscript to a handful of people, and they encouraged him to finish it. “I knew it couldn’t just be another cancer memoir,” deGrood says. “I’m a marketer, and I needed a hook.” So, he intertwined his cancer journey with his love of golf.

“There were lot of parallels between golf and what I was dealing with,” deGrood says. You can see those parallels being drawn, even in the chapter titles. One is titled, That’s the Way the Ol‘ Ball Bounces. Another reads, When in Doubt, Loosen Your Grip Pressure. A third simply states: Rain Makes the Grass Grow.

“Loosening your grip pressure is a fundamental of life and good golf,” deGrood says. “Don’t take things too seriously, and don’t hold the grip too tight. Learn to let go.”

Rain is also a fundamental of life and golf. “If you’re a golfer, there’s nothing worse than having a round rained out,” he says. “On the other hand, rains make the grass grow. Wisdom can come from suffering, and the rains in my life have made me a wiser person.”

DeGrood’s book came out in the worst of times for a first-time author: January 2020. As a result, there were no tours and no signings. “You couldn’t do much of anything,” deGrood says. Though you could read—and people have certainly enjoyed reading his book, if the notes he gets from readers are any indication.

And these notes—personal responses to deGrood’s story and wisdom—are why he wrote the book in the first place. “The first time we met, my publisher asked me about my objective,” deGrood says. “Was it to get on Oprah? Was it to become a New York Times bestseller? I looked at him and said that if one stranger had read my book and then reached out to me after reading it, I would consider that, in itself, a home run.”



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