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Timberwolves analyst Jim Petersen opens up about prostate cancer

Petersen, 61, had surgery to remove the cancer on Oct. 11.
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Beloved Minnesota Timberwolves analyst Jim Petersen has beaten prostate cancer. 

"I did have cancer. It's gone now. They took it out, so hopefully it stays away," Petersen said to Chad Hartman on WCCO Radio Monday afternoon, just hours after Petersen's health scare broke in a feature story by The Athletic's Jon Krawczynski. 

Petersen found out about his cancer after a close friend recommended he get his prostate-specific antigen (PSA test) levels checked, so Petersen went to Dr. Sheldon Burns, who has spent decades as the team doctor for the Minnesota Timberwolves and other local teams. 

"He connected me with a urologist in town," Petersen explained, "the PSA came back and I was absolutely floored when it came back elevated. I didn't really have any symptoms, I feel good, I work out all the time, I'm super healthy and I just was floored."

After a biopsy, Petersen thought he would have to wait a few months before doctors could remove the cancer, but a second opinion at the Mayo Clinic led to a faster timeline. 

"I thought about just keeping it to myself and then doing surgery at All-Star, just keeping it to myself, basically, because, you know, health concerns are boring. No one wants to sit here and talk about this stuff all the time," Peterson said. 

The doctor at Mayo Clinic gave him dates of Oct. 4 or Oct. 11 to do the surgery. 

"I needed more time to wrap my mind around doing surgery so I opted for the 11th because that still puts me in a window where I can still work the Toronto game," he said. "I didn't want to miss games, I didn't really want to make this a big deal. I was trying to get it done as early as possible because who wants cancer in their body?"

Less than a week after the surgery, Petersen credits his college and friend at Bally Sports North, Marney Gellner, for inspiring him to disclose his situation to the public. 

"Marney Gellner was very instructive for me. Marney's courage to come out and talk about what she went through," Petersen explained, noting that Gellner's breast cancer story was very much in the public eye. "She told me that it was a real kick in the crotch, and so that's what I kind of felt too when I got my diagnosis. It was a real kick in the crotch. I didn't expect it."

Jim Petersen

Petersen said he's learned of many men who have kept their own prostate cancer stories quiet, so he decided to change the narrative for the better of the whole. 

"I feel like it's really important for me to be able to speak out because I think men in general, they don't get physicals and they don't get tested. I'm telling you, if I hadn't had [my buddy] prod me to go and get tested, I think I might've waited longer. I wouldn't have got it done this year. Maybe. I don't think I would've," he said. 

He also wanted to go public to avoid questions about why he wouldn't be involved in the first two Timberwolves exhibition games televised by Bally Sports North. The Timberwolves play Maccabi Ra'anana at 7 p.m. Tuesday and then wrap up the preseason Thursday at 7 p.m. against the Bulls. Both games will be televised on BSN. 

"I'm trying to be an open book because I'm trying to help people."