I’ll never forget when my doctor started our conversation with “Man, you have a lot of cancer in there!”
I had considered myself healthy for a man over the age of 50. My diet was light on sugar and carbs, I had a regular exercise routine at the gym every week, I did not smoke, and my alcohol consumption was minimal—I thought I was on track to live to be 100! I even had my PSA (prostate specific antigen) tested every couple of years, but had been complacent and unworried about my own risk of cancer.
All of that complacency was shattered when I had the life-altering diagnosis of prostate cancer—a lot of prostate cancer. My life was suddenly consumed with appointments with urologists and radiologists; countless hours were spent on internet searches that yielded highly generic, and sometimes conflicting, information. I finally realized I needed to approach this as “my cancer.” I needed to make decisions based on my age, my lifestyle, my family, and, most importantly, the impact on my wife.
The good news is, prostate cancer is a treatable and manageable disease. Regardless of the stage of your disease, you have options for treatment. There are more than 2.9 million prostate cancer survivors in the U.S. The prognosis for survival is excellent, even if the cancer reoccurs. In my case, the cancer reoccurred three years after my prostatectomy (surgical removal of the prostate and surrounding affected tissues). Radiation treatments took care of the remaining metastatic disease and I am now almost at the coveted five-year survival rate with no signs of re-occurrence.
My message to men is that the opportunity for a long and productive life exists only when a man is proactive, prioritizes his health, and is vigilant on taking preventive measures.
June is Men’s Health Month, and Sunday, June 17 is Father’s Day. There is no better time of the year to focus on men’s health.
As a father and husband, let me suggest to spouses and family members that you skip buying dad another tie or grill mitt this Father’s Day. Instead, let him know you want him to be here for many more Father’s Days.
Here are 7 ways to give your dad the gift of health:
1) Ask dad to get the PSA test. The greatest risk factors for developing prostate cancer are increasing age, family history, ethnicity, and diet. If you can answer yes to any of these factors, get the test today. Don’t wait: I am older than 50, I have a family history of prostate cancer, or I am African-American.
2) Send dad a note, an e-card or a text encouraging him to schedule an annual check-up.
3) Commit to a healthier lifestyle. Keep each other accountable, and get the whole family involved.
4) Get your heart rates up. Take walks together; hike, play a friendly game of basketball, football or Frisbee; go golfing; or invite the grandkids to the park.
5) Eat dinner together. Find healthy alternatives at your favorite restaurants.
6) Give healthy gifts. If you do get dad a gift for Father’s Day, consider a game you can play together; a FitBit, health monitor, health app, or step counter; or a healthy treat or meal.
7) Support Men’s Health. Donate your time or money. Recently, I was elected to serve on the national board of directors for ZERO: The End of Prostate Cancer, the leading national nonprofit with the mission to end prostate cancer. I am joining with them to help end prostate cancer. Find a nonprofit that works for a men’s health cause you’re passionate about.
There is nothing wrong with growing mustaches and raising awareness of men’s health issues for Movember. We need that ― but we also need men to take action. I did, and it has saved my life thus far. One in every nine men will have to face prostate cancer in their lifetime. That can be changed. The best way for any man to say, “I love you,” to his family and loved ones is to do his best to ensure that he is here for many Father’s Days to come.