I've written about my own bout with prostate cancer. I was diagnosed in 2007 and had surgery in 2008. It was a scary time for me and for my family - but we're grateful that nearly three years later, I'm healthy and cancer free.
I wish I had known more about the disease sooner. Seriously. I think I would have been much more proactive about examinations and prostate health care, had I known for instance that my grandfather had prostate cancer.
Or what it meant for my father to be diagnosed with the disease ten years ago.
The doctor's discovered his cancer much later than mine was detected. It's been a disease and treatment that has caused a great deal of discomfort, uncertainty and, yes expense.
And its the disease from which he is dying.
My cancer was detected earlier and at a younger age than both my grandfather and my father. But until my own diagnosis, I didn't know that having instances in your family increased the probability of my getting the disease.
I didn't know that prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men, excluding skin cancer, or it the second leading cause of cancer death in men. I didn't know that all men are at risk for prostate cancer. Or that risk increases with age as well as family history And I didn't know that African-American men are more than twice as likely to have prostate cancer than white males, with nearly a two-fold higher mortality rate than white males.
One of the most disturbing things that I found out after my diagnosis is how many men have had the disease and have not told anyone about it. I understand now that there is fear and or shame associated with contracting the disease. And I also understand now that it is totally unnecessary. There are other men who need to know that this disease and the treatment options make possible now to have a great quality of life. But they won't know the importance of prostate health, care and cancer treatment, if those of us who have had the disease remain quiet about it.
Both my brother and I have talked about how helpless we feel as we watch this disease ravage our father's body. Although its too late for much more than prayer and the love and attention that the family can give, its not too late for those of you reading to encourage the men in your lives to fight past the self imposed fear and shame associated with this disease and discuss examination and, if necessary, treatment with their doctors.
It's important and the men in our lives are worth it.