Thursday, October 2, 2014

Joan London, Angelina Jolie and Me.

Joan London after chemotherapy
While it has been in the "TV News" for weeks and there is even a bald photo of Joan London on the cover of PEOPLE magazine, I was finally struck yesterday at how well women have been able to make breast cancer known. The pink ribbons, the walk-a-thons, public notices, baring all to a public they don't know is awe inspiring until its not. Where are the men with prostrate cancer? Don't get me wrong, cancer of any type is horrifying. Too many dear friends have passed and that memory lingers still. I cried all the way home when two urologists found my lump. It didn't get better from that point and I am struggling still with some of the after affects.

The dirty secret is that men and women are diagnosed with prostrate and breast cancer at the same rates each and every year. Men have a slightly higher survival rate and it's said most men over 80 may have the cancer but it wasn't a factor in their death. When you get the diagnosis earlier, depending on the stage and Gleason score, there is watchful waiting for men. However, in England they made a rather grim discovery that what the biopsy showed and what the reality was can be very different. Once they had the actual cancer it was often worse than originally diagnosed.

That was why I got angry with AARP with their irresponsible article about how the DRE (digital rectal exam) and PSA tests weren't that important. John Hopkins encourages every man from 50 on to get both tests EVERY year, from 40 if someone in your family was diagnosed. For some reason African-American men have the highest rates and lowest diagnosis rates. I never got a satisfactory answer from AARP and have let my membership lapse.

London is definitely not out of the woods yet. I can feel for her children and their fear and most likely terror at the thought of losing their mother. Having a father that died at 40 when I was 16 and a sister who turned 7 the day after he died I live with the memory still. Then and now there seems to be no reason or understanding. All we can do is trust in God.

Jolie had mastectomies because it was discovered she had the markers for breast cancer. While it had not shown itself yet, she opted to have them both removed to remove any possibility it would occur.

Every man AND woman can get cancer but men, for whatever reason, stay mum and quiet as mummies when the subject comes up. A blabbermouth by nature I spilled the beans at my monthly poker night. I explained what was happening and that I still hadn't decided what I would do. They all looked at me, sat still as stones and then the game resumed. End of story. It was later that I found out another member of the group was even further in his prostrate cancer than me and the only hope for him with a Stage 4 diagnosis, Gleason 10 and PSA in the hundreds was an experimental chemo being developed at City of Hope, one of the first places to try it. He sat stone silent while I talked and he has never told me any part of his story since. For him, a friend told me, it has been almost a miracle. His PSA is 1.5 (they worry at 4.0 and above) and he looks and says he feels great. I told my urologist before they put me on those horrible hormones or radiate me, that will be my next course of treatment should it be necessary.

I think its time for men to give up the stiff upper lip and show some compassion for both themselves and their fellow men. We don't even have to write the playbook. Just look at and follow what the women have done. They seem to have no problem going public, why should we?

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