I first met Craig almost two years ago, shortly after I was first diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic cancer and started blogging about my own journey. While we’ve only met once in person at an Us Too meeting in Chicago, we have grown in the bonds of the prostate cancer brotherhood, becoming strong supporters for each other. In fact, a few months back, he and I made a promise to meet up in a few years, once we both hit the five year survival mark, to celebrate our victory over a glass of wine with our loving wives and caretakers.
I am honored that he asked me to write the foreword to his book.
The female breast has long been revered in our culture—whether viewed in the context of art, the loving act of motherhood or a catalyst for sexual attraction. On the other hand, the poor male prostate lies where few want to go and its important reproductive function is largely under-appreciated. As a result, prostate cancer has sat—quite literally–in the shadows.
The psychographics of being male are also a contributor to the problem. As a result, awareness and funding for this disease, which affects more than 16 million men worldwide lags considerably behind that of breast cancer, despite the fact that–in incidence and mortality–these two cancers are on relatively equal footing. One out of eight American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime while one out of six American men will hear the dreaded words: you have prostate cancer.
This year, nearly 242,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and more than 28,000 will die from it—that’s one death every 18.6 minutes.
Many will point out that the breast cancer movement has had a 10 to 15 year jump on prostate cancer. But the fact remains, our sisters in cancer have done a better job mobilizing and talking about a cancer that greatly affects them. We men tend to avoid talking about our health issue for fear of appearing weak or needy. Worse yet, when it comes to diseases “below the belt,” many men fear that those they open up to will assume that some of the possible side effects of treating prostate cancer will undoubtedly have rendered them, in some form or another, less of a man.
The biggest tragedy in this reality is that empathy levels are also lagging. Once diagnosed, many men and their partners or caretakers lack a readily available support system. Often, they embark on their journey with prostate cancer alone, opening the door to feelings of isolation. Worse yet, there are still many men who consciously choose the path of silence and self-exile. It comes as no surprise to me that in my own course of treatment my urologist, surgeon, radiologist and oncologist have all peppered their medical interrogations looking for signs of depression. It’s a major concern in prostate cancer patients.
I am pleased to observe that as baby boomers age, the shadows are lifting. As a group, boomers are more active consumers of their healthcare, actively researching their conditions and making informed decision with their physicians. The days of one’s uncle telling one to not talk about such things or fathers refusing to share their family history with their sons are fading. A new male is emerging. Members of the prostate cancer population are talking more than ever about their concerns and experiences, and Craig is in the vanguard.
With 27 known genotypes or varieties of prostate cancer—some non-life-threatening and others highly aggressive–each diagnosed patient is unique with highly differing prognoses. Yet the fears ignited in us by hearing the “C” word are the same.
Craig’s sharing of his experiences with prostate cancer is an honest depiction of personal emotions including fear, frustration, hope and the joy of measuring each triumph in his journey.
Before reading the manuscript for this book, I had no idea that my 37 sessions of Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy represented the equivalent of more than 48,000 chest x-rays. But I shouldn’t have been surprised. Craig is the same guy who one Saturday morning over coffee and emails helped me figure out how many men on hormone therapy all hot flashing in unison it might take to power a small town. His engineering background and patient perspective enable him to breakdown clinical issues and jargon into easily understandable terms, providing much needed reassurance to patients.
I am grateful to Craig for publishing his story. It is an important read for every patient and their caretakers that will encourage discussion and provide company to families on similar journeys.
An embrace from a fellow member of this fraternal order is like no other. Unspoken, and in a way no other exchange can, it says: I wish you peace. I wish you strength. I wish you life. I extend these same wishes to every reader of this book.
Los Angeles, June 2012
Dan is a prostate cancer patient and advocate. He blogs regularly about his journey and a wide range of prostate cancer issues at www.mynewyorkminute.org.
He is also senior vice president of communications at the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF)—the world’s largest private funder of advanced research for prostate cancer cures. Despite having annual prostate cancer screenings for 10 years running, he was diagnosed at age 51 with aggressive prostate cancer just two years after joining PCF. Following a radical prostatectomy, his cancer was upgraded to Stage 4 metastatic disease. He has undergone adjuvant radiation therapy and two years of hormone therapy. Like Craig, he knows well the challenges of running the gauntlet of prostate cancer treatment and is still able to intervene with strong doses of humor as needed.