19 November 2008

If You Won't Talk About Your Prostate, I Will

There. That should have gotten the attention of the the segment of the human race—Okay, the small segment of the human race—with a Y chromosome that reads this blog. This post is not just for the guys. The women who read the blog have fathers, brothers, husbands, boyfriends, etc. and I expect them not to be ashamed to bring up the subject with the men who are important to them.

By now you've realized that this post has nothing to do with surfing. It has everything to do with the reason why I hardly blog these days, why I can't sleep, why my attention span is that of a four year old, and why I feel compelled to share what I know.

Soul Brother #1 has prostate cancer. There it is. Out there for the world to see. Normally, I'd keep his business his business. However, he's been telling male friends and acquaintances. He doesn't say much. It goes something like this: "Yeah, man, I found out I got prostate cancer. You should get checked." That's about as far as he will go in the discussion. Not mad at him. I'm a bit shocked that he's even been willing to say that much. While he's tried to emotionally process this diagnosis, I've learned everything I can about prostate cancer. He still can't deal with the reality of it. This is a statement of fact, not a statement of judgment on my part.

Let me back up a bit. Rewind to July of this year. Soul Brother #1 takes a bad spill while on his bike (thanks to the asshole drivers here in L.A.) and tears the rotator cuff in his right shoulder. Since he did the exact same damage to his left shoulder the previous summer, we knew the drill. Orthopedist for diagnosis, general practitioner for pre-op physical. We'd done all of this a year earlier. We knew what to expect . . . or so we thought. The timeline is a bit of a blur after this what with the surgery, reduced hours from my job, layoff from his job and the death of the dog. In the midst of all of the drama that has become our lives, we got a call from the general practitioner. The blood tests showed a prostate something or other that was high and he wanted to do the blood test again. (I can now tell you that it's the PSA number that was high. PSA for prostate specific-antigen.) The second test showed an even higher number than the first. The next step was a visit to the urologist to schedule a biopsy of the prostate. A few days after the biopsy, I get a call on my cell phone—not a good sign!—from the urologist's office; they wanted SB #1 to come in for an appointment. All it took was them ushering us into the doctor's office, as opposed to an exam room. We both knew, without speaking to each other, what he was going to say. And he came right out and said it. Boom! I think all SB #1 heard was "cancer" and "aggressive". He was scared to death. Mind you, this is a brother from the projects. No one else would have known he was scared. I've had close to 20 years to know what's going on in that brother's head. He was devastated . . . and so was I, but I kept listening because I knew he couldn't.

Yes, Soul Brother #1 has prostate cancer. Surgery is on Monday. (Thanksgiving is cancelled.) The doctor will robotically remove the prostate in the hopes of catching and removing the cancer before it spreads.

Why am I spilling our family's personal misfortunes? Well, it's like this. Men aren't women. We share. We get the word out. We're not embarrassed to tell it and claim it. Men are not us. Men don't want to go to the doctor. They really don't want to talk about or deal with anything that might affect their nether regions. Men don't process potentially emotional subjects well. They're men. They're not wired for that. I get that. At the same time, it's important that someone get the word out. There are websites, message boards and forums related to prostate cancer, yes. Still, there needs to be a wider dialogue on the subject. See, this is why you need women in your lives. We will say what you men can't say to each other.

Now look, this is important. I wouldn't be talking about this if it weren't, right? Here are some facts:

· 1 in 6 men will get prostate cancer.

· Every 19 minutes a man dies of prostate cancer.

· In men whose cancer has escaped the prostate only 31% live 5 years.

· Prostate cancer is second leading killer in men behind lung cancer.

· If you have a brother or a father with prostate cancer it is 100% more likely you will have
it at some point in your life.

· Aside from skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in America.

· 219,000 will be diagnosed this year in The United States alone.

· Approximately 25% of diagnoses occur under the age of 65.

· Prostate cancer often does not cause symptoms for many years. By the time
symptoms occur, the disease is usually well beyond the prostate.

· Prostate cancer, when caught in the early stages is 98% curable

Dudes, Bros, Homies, Whoever—you've got to stay on top of this. If you're 45 or older, you need to start having the blood tests that screen for what might be prostate cancer. Did you hear me? A simple blood test. You can easily live with that. We women get poked, prodded and flattened—do not tell me you don't know what we go through with pap smears and mammograms!—to test for cancer. You men are lucky enough to have a blood test. Excuse my language but prostate cancer doesn't fuck around. You can't surf if you're dead!

What if Soul Brother #1 hadn't injured his shoulder? Getting him to go to the doctor is like pulling teeth! If he hadn't gone in for the pre-op physical, that cancer would be deciding where it wanted to go next. For reasons not entirely clear to me, it is especially aggressive in black men. There's no telling how quickly the cancer might have spread had it not been caught now. Mind you, he had a pre-op physical with the same doctor last year when he hurt his other shoulder. His PSA was normal then. So in the span of a year, that cancer took hold in a way that made the doctors sit up and take notice.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to get thee to a doctery (?) and tell him/her/them that you want your PSA numbers checked. That's it. No one has to come at you with a gloved hand and a tube of KY jelly. All it takes is a blood test. If you're reading this and you're female, it's on you to broach the subject with the men in your life. If you can't talk about it, print something off the internet and leave it where that certain man will see it. Do whatever it takes to make him take his health seriously.

The doctors believe they've caught Soul Brother #1's cancer early. If that's the case, that will be the beginning of the good news this family needs. In other news, I think we have a puppy (although the rescue organization person hasn't said whether or not we'll be allowed to keep him—that's another story for another time). I actually got him to help with Soul Brother #1's recovery. He (the man) won't be able to obsess about his situation if he's got something else (the dog) to concentrate on. This is our little secret, people. He doesn't know that this was my primary reason for finding another dog so quickly. If you tell him I said it, I'll deny it and then drop in on you every time I see you in the lineup!

Thank you for listening. I know someone out there heard me.


At 11/20/08, 1:05 AM, Anonymous PG said...

Loud and Clear.

Thanks for the candor, and best of luck to SB1.


At 11/20/08, 8:46 AM, Blogger Patch said...


So sorry to hear 'bout this Sis. Hope it all works out.

At 11/20/08, 10:40 AM, Blogger dgm said...

It's funny cuz I've lately been thinking I need to encourage my man to get checked for this. Like many of his chromosomal makeup, he is not great about getting regular checkups, probably because by all appearances he looks healthy and tight, and it's hard to admit that your health is not entirely within your control.

Thanks for sharing and getting the message out.

Yay for the new puppy!

At 11/20/08, 11:56 AM, Blogger Christian said...

Thanks for sharing. I'll make sure that when I have blood tests for my surgeries, they check for PSA.

Stay strong.

At 11/20/08, 12:44 PM, Blogger Whiffleboy said...

Thanks for carrying the torch on our behalf, Sis.

At 11/20/08, 12:50 PM, Blogger gracefullee said...

Sending all good vibes your family's way.

And the offer of dinner is still up. I'm thinking of other good, healthy dishes to go along with the ginger black mushroom soup.

At 11/20/08, 1:58 PM, Blogger HeadHighGlassy said...

Thanks, sis. I hope doctors across the land witness a spike in their appointments in the months to come. Best wishes for you and SB#1, and good call on the puppy.

At 11/21/08, 8:58 AM, Blogger nm said...

Wow....thank you. Even though women "share"...that couldn't have been easy to put out there. Best of luck to soul bro #1...and you.

You mention 100% probability w/in families. My dad has been having his psa's tested annually for several years...as his dad had prostate cancer. He convinced his younger bro (my boss) to be tested....they found cancer. This past August my dad had his prostate removed...so far all is good.

You can be sure I'll be broaching the subject (again!) with the cuteboy.

At 11/21/08, 10:15 PM, Blogger Surfsister said...

Thanks to all of you who read this post. I struggled with the idea of putting it all out there. It took me awhile before I decided this was too important a topic to keep to myself (or my spouse's self).

At 11/24/08, 10:24 AM, Blogger Kono said...

you did the right thing by posting sis, i'm only 38 and though i don't exactly enjoy dr. coldfinger i get my physical every year and blood work done, then i head over to the dermatologist to have them look at my moles, guy's tend to avoid the doc's and though it's not the best way to spend an afternoon it's a necessary evil. here's hoping everything works out and Soul Brother #1 is alright. and here's a tip for the men out there, it helps to ejaculate 3 times or more per week, it reduces the risk of prostate cancer, i believe it was Dr. Oz who pointed this out, so now everyone can help prevent/reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

At 12/2/08, 1:07 PM, Blogger tres_arboles said...

I'm glad I read the post above, before I read this. I can tell from your posts and comments to mine that you're good people. Since I'm not a particularly religious guy, I can only offer you my sincerest best wishes.



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