Regular Maintenance Required

On a recent road trip in our new car, I was surprised to see a message pop up on the digital screen in the middle of the dashboard. Where this LCD panel would usually display maps or information about the radio station I was listening to, this note told me that my vehicle was due for maintenance. But that wasn’t all … this message went on to provide an electronic button that, if pushed, would connect me with the service department at my local dealership where I could schedule an appointment.

The array of digital gizmos in this new car is amazing to me, with many intended to do nothing more than help me keep things working safely and efficiently. The speedometer area of the dash is especially impressive for, upon starting the engine, I am presented with a digital image of my car that looks as if it is undergoing a CT scan from front to rear. Wow. Seeing all of this technology in action is cool, and it makes we wonder … how nice would it be if each of us had a similar collection of bodily sensors that would provide snapshots of our physical health at the start of each day?

Far-fetched, I know, and unlikely any time soon. But, as a survivor of prostate cancer I am, at the moment, especially sensitized to this issue. Full disclosure, I am coming up on my six-month checkup with my urologist which, of course, will include the ever-popular DRE.

For those unfamiliar with that combination of letters, they do not stand for “Drug Recognition Expert” or even the FAA code for “Drummond Island, Michigan.” Instead, they are medical shorthand for a process known as Digital Rectal Examination, a procedure likely as much fun for the physician as for the patient. Without going into too much detail I will only point out that, thankfully, my current physician has very slender fingers while his recently retired predecessor had digits like Shrek.

I am, of course, kidding.

It was my doctor’s insistence on an annual DRE and PSA blood test that in July, 2015, detected my prostate cancer, a finding for which I am eternally grateful. After the initial shock of the diagnosis, I connected with an outstanding team of physicians and technicians who, with great care, guided me through an eight-week regimen of radiation treatment … after which I was declared “cancer free.” That outcome, without question, is a testament to early detection, and to the remarkable medical practitioners in whose hands I placed my care. I owe each of them more than I can ever express.

According to the American Cancer Society, about one man in seven will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. About 60% of those diagnoses are men aged 65 or older; it is rare before age 40. And while prostate cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in American men (behind lung cancer and colorectal cancer), when detected early it is very treatable. Today, there are a number of very effective treatment options for prostate cancer, but the key is for men to stay vigilant and to insist on regular testing.

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month … a perfect time to join me (and my urologist) and Give The Finger to Prostate Cancer!

Interesting Coincidences

Over the past two weeks, two very interesting phone conversations with old friends (both male) has revealed – once again – something that, according to the statistics, should not be surprising.  Each of these conversations started with the caller telling me how much he has enjoyed reading my latest book Dear Hippie … We Met at Woodstock, but then going on to point out that in tracking down that publication, they learned that I had written an earlier one on the subject of Prostate Cancer.

My two friends then went on to tell me that they, too, had recently been diagnosed with Prostate Cancer, undergone treatment, and were now pleased to describe themselves as cancer-free.  Each described the journey they had taken, and the gratitude they felt toward the medical professionals who caught the disease in its early stages and then provided the treatment and care that has allowed them to continue on with their lives.  In listening to these fellow I was struck by how similar their experience was to my own, and I celebrated with each of them.

The buzz associated with my Woodstock book has been uplifting and exciting, but hearing stories like those shared by these two men reminded me that, according to the numbers, approximately 1 in 7 men will confront prostate cancer over the course of their lives.  It is fortunate that, when detected in its early stages, this type of cancer can be treated effectively, and a man can expect to live a full and satisfying life.

Thanks, Robert and John, for taking the time to share your stories with me … you made my day.  You also reminded me of the importance of keeping men vigilant about being tested regularly and, as the saying goes, giving “the finger” to Prostate Cancer.

Prostate Cancer Awareness

September is “Prostate Cancer Awareness” month but, as it comes to a close, it is important that every man remain vigilant and sensitized to this issue.  Men should pay attention to their prostate health year round because prostate cancer, when identified early enough, is very treatable … and, a bonus, staying tuned in to this is very easy to do.  I am coming up on the one-year anniversary of the start of my treatment for prostate cancer, and am ecstatic about being about to continue declaring myself cancer free.  I know that I run the risk of being declared a pain in the … well you know … because I keep harping on this, but the important point to remember is that this is a disease that can be treated very successfully.  There are number of treatment options available to men today, so there is no excuse for not staying informed … even though “Prostate Cancer Awareness” month is coming to a close.