Why I talk about Prostate Cancer
People often ask me why I spend so much of my time involved in prostate cancer awareness. That question is both easy and difficult to answer.
I spent 20 years as a career army officer and one principle that was drilled into every single day, beginning with my time at the Virginia Military Institute, was the overarching responsibility of caring for the men under your command.
After my diagnosis and treatment, I began querying my friends and colleagues about testing for prostate cancer. Those discussions convinced me that many of the 34,000 men who die from prostate cancer each die give their lives to prostate cancer simply because they did not know they had the disease. And, even more tragic, they did not know the risk and how easy it is to detect prostate cancer when it still is treatable.
I believe that prostate cancer, or any cancer, simply isn’t real until someone is personally diagnosed with the disease. I call prostate cancer a silent killer because in the vast majority of cases it progresses to a metastatic state with few or no symptoms.
My goal is to make the prostate cancer visible; to make men aware of the risk and to provide a simple method for detecting prostate cancer in its earliest stages. My tool is ProstateTracker.org.
One of the prostate cancer sites that I frequently read and reference on our website, is You Are Not Alone Now – http://yananow.org
I came across the speech below that was given by a wonderful man named Harry Pinchot. I hope you will take a few minutes to read this speech. When you finish, I hope you will join me in my prostate cancer awareness crusade.
Warm regards, Robert Hess
ROSES FOR MY LADY
HARRY PINCHOT’S SPEECH
Harry Pinchot was diagnosed with prostate cancer and became an early mentor for men who followed him. He gave this speech or variants of it at many meetings
People often ask me why I can speak about various prostate cancer treatments, statistics, staging, drug side effects etc. without referring to notes but when I speak about the two subjects I wish to address this afternoon I use detailed notes. I do so because the subjects arouse, within me, such strong emotions that at times it is difficult for me to express my thoughts clearly. It is my hope that if you take home only one message from this symposium that it is one that I wish to convey this afternoon.
So I am asking you to please put down any thing you are reading and focus not on Harry, for I am only the messenger, but focus on the message I wish to convey to each and every one of you as individuals. If you open your minds and hearts it can change not only your life but the lives of those you hold most dear as well as the lives of many you have yet to meet.
In the fall of 1997 I attended the annual meeting of US TOO regional directors. At that meeting one of the speakers was April Becker. April’s words have had a profound and lasting effect on my thinking. When speaking to various support groups I have attempted to convey April’s very poignant insight, as I hope to do again this afternoon. It is a brief message but a message which bears repeating often and deserves serious contemplation by all prostate cancer survivors, regardless of age or severity of disease. Many of you have heard me say, at different meetings, that PC is a disease which afflicts not just the man with the prostate but also his partner.
We, that’s you and I, have come to expect our wives and partners to be there for us in our time of need, to care for us, to share our fears, to be concerned when treatment is not going well and to celebrate when our test results are good. We can talk for hours about PC with friends and acquaintances and expect our wives to not only listen ad nauseam but to also agree with us at all times. We often become fixated with our problems ..and …the fear of our own mortality, while at the same time becoming oblivious to the needs of our spouse. We must remember that she not only has to deal with our mood swings, declining health, unusual diets, anxiety over PSA test results, doctor visits, insurance and all the other issues relating to our disease that we deal with, but she must also face her own fears. These are real and pervasive fears which often are not fully shared with us. She must come to grips with the very real possibility of losing her spouse, her lover, her life partner, her best friend and often her primary source of income.
When we lay our heads upon our pillow for the last time and go gently into the night our problems are over. It is she who must pick up the pieces and move on in life’s journey without us. Recognize her fears and the load she must carry. Do not dismiss her concerns because you deem your concerns to be of greater significance. They are not! Ask not what she can do for you but rather think of how you can make her life, with you, a pleasant experience and not a burden. Ask yourself what you can do to make her life, now and after you are gone, a better life. Express your appreciation for all the things she does for you. For she changes the bed sheets, cooks your special meals, reminds you to take medications and fluffs the pillow of life for you, while she suppresses her fears, her failed dreams and disappointments, because she loves you. I would like each survivor and his partner to stand up now.
Every man, even those as dense as I am understands that roses are a symbol of love and affection. We have all given roses to our wives and daughters on special occasions when we wish to express our love and affection for them. Please take your partners right hand in yours and holding the rose you were given in your left hand, look directly into her eyes and repeat after me. Please accept this rose as a symbol of my love for you. and as an expression of my appreciation and recognition., of all that you have done for me. For being my partner, for being there at my darkest moments, for sharing both my victories and my disappointments, for caring for and caring about me as we travel down the road of life together.
Each of us has planned and dreamed of traveling with our brides through well earned care free “Golden Years.” We often feel that fate has singled us out and dealt us a losing hand of PC, from the bottom of the deck. At the Grants Pass symposium I talked about the benefits of having PC as opposed to getting hit by the proverbial bus that most who fear cancer often talk of. Most of us will die of something other than getting hit by that bus and that something just might be PC. PC gives us the opportunity to make amends with family and friends, to complete life long goals and to acknowledge to our family, our God, and to ourselves that we are indeed mortal. It grants us the time to express our love and admiration to our children and our love affection and appreciation to our wife and partner. It also affords us all the opportunity to let down our guard and become friends with. and share experiences with, kind and caring men, men whom we would never have allowed into our lives had it not been for PC and organizations like support groups and Internet discussion groups.
Most of us are going through or have gone through, what our society calls a “mid-life crisis.” We look back and say to ourselves where did the time go and had I known then what I know now, I woulda, I shoulda and I could have done things differently. I submit that we must not look back but rather we must look forward and ask ourselves, What legacy will.. I.. leave? What contribution can I make to society? What will I be remembered for 20 years from today? Indeed! Will my grand children remember my deeds, 25 years from now? We, as part of western society, tend to judge a man by what kind of provider he is for his wife and family and by his financial success.
Often a reduced value is placed on our lives because we are no longer active members of the work force. I believe acceptance of this thinking, is one of the reasons we are so dammed complacent about poor medical care and the lack of research dollars for prostate cancer and why many men rely on their wife to speak for them. We must resist judging ourselves by the standards others use to judge us, and judge ourselves by a new set of standards for our life after diagnosis. I submit that a man’s life should not be defined by his job or occupation but by his deeds. When talking about a man we should not speak of his occupation or income but rather speak of his deeds and personal accomplishments.
After diagnosis we must set a different standard and ask ourselves what kind of MAN am I ? For we are much more than providers, we are Husbands, Lovers, Best friends, Fathers, Sons and Brothers and we must live and act as more than wounded providers. We must live as men.
Gentlemen, I suggest to you that PC has given each of you an opportunity for a unique insight and the ability to make your mark, your contribution so that the next generation, your sons and grandsons will not have to endure PC. I implore you to put forth the effort to be part of the solution, not an arm chair quarterback. To put more into the well than you withdraw! To seize the once in a life time opportunity PC has given you to help your fellow man. On behalf of men and their families who depend on those of you who are active in the operation of a support group or activist organization. I challenge you to put aside your ego and differences of opinion. to work for the benefit of your fellow man. Do not worry about who gets credit for what is accomplished but work to see that more is accomplished, to see that every man has the benefit of your knowledge and talent.
Each of us has our own perspective on life since diagnosis and how to use the time we have been granted. I have chosen to spend my time and effort educating my fellow PC brother. You may choose a path different from me, but once again I implore you to put forth the effort to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. To put more into the well than you withdraw! In my opinion, it is unlikely that there will be advancements in the treatment of PC unless we the patients cause them to happen. Many of you have unique talents which can be marshaled for the greater good of all. I am often amazed by the sophistication and intellect of men I see at various meetings. Many of these men, particularly those in southern California have contributed to the design of incredible aircraft and electronic devices. Without the contributions of some in this theater, I dare say, we would never have been able to land on the moon or explore space.
Many others here today have contributed to the development of computers and all kinds of advances in technology. I challenge you to rise up out of your recliners, shut off your televisions and not just ask what can I do, but demand that you be allowed to contribute to the demise of this disease. Others, who like myself, do not have the education or scientific qualifications can also help their brothers by rallying a call for political action to fund research so that your sons and your grandsons will not be destine to suffer with PC. We must wage a war against cancer, just as in WWII, Korea or Vietnam. We have lost far too many Husbands, Fathers, Brothers and Sons.
In the USA (alone) almost thirty thousand men die of Prostate Cancer, each and every year. That’s one death every 17 minutes. We must lead the charge and defeat the enemy. Do not sit back and mourn the loss of your youth, but rather stand tall and make use of the time that has been granted to you, so that 10 or 20 years from now your family will look upon your portrait on the mantel and glow with pride as they tell future generations about how in-spite of being diagnosed with cancer you contributed your sweat, and your energy for the greater good of all. Your contribution made a difference in the lives of your brothers in-arms. Your efforts helped to defeat the enemy of PC. Your grandsons were spared this scourge because you made a difference. I pray that each of you will rise to the occasion, and that when you lay your head on your pillow for the last time you can say, I am ready now. I made a difference. I made my mark. I am proud of what I did with the time granted me.
Harry passed on in January 2008, finally losing his long battle.
How You Can Help Defeat Prostate Cancer
If you are a man 35 or older, please begin to test annually for prostate cancer (that PSA test) and personally track the change in numbers from one year to the next.
If you are a daughter, wife, or significant other, badger the man in your life until he takes that PSA test. Then make sure he tracks the results.
You can create a free online PSA tracking account at ProstateTracker.org.