I know, we all have our prostate cancer story where we are told how lucky we are that we have prostate cancer. The conversation goes on something like, “Oh you are so lucky, you have the GOOD cancer, you should be so thankful.” Then it is often followed up by something like, “My (father) (brother) (uncle) (cousin) (friend) had prostate cancer fifteen years ago and he is fine. No big deal, you are so lucky. You would never know that he HAD cancer.”
My wife recently shared a story with me. She attended a fund raising function for a breast cancer survivor support organization. Seated next to her was a practicing breast cancer oncologist. In their conversation, my wife mentioned that her husband had advanced prostate cancer. When the doctor asked how old I was she was shocked that I was in my 50s. She told my wife that she thought that only men over 75 years get prostate cancer and that because of their age they die from something else.
This weekend I was walking my dog on a country road in the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts. I met a neighbor who I haven’t seen in over two years. As we are talking she notice the rubber bracelets I was wearing (for awareness of my four primary cancers – thyroid, melanoma, renal and recurrent prostate cancers). She asked what they were for and when I said prostate, before I could finish the list she interrupted me and said, “Oh good, prostate cancer is nothing to worry about.” I then went on and added that actually I had metastatic prostate cancer and that this year we will be losing 32,000 men to the disease. She was embarrassed and quickly changed the subject.
I don’t blame this neighbor; she was only reflecting the public image that exists about prostate cancer. I do blame us, men, for not being honest with ourselves about our medical problems. I blame the media for not being balanced and not adequately explaining the reality of prostate cancer, it is the second largest cancer killer of men in the United States. I blame the politicians for allowing medical decisions to become politicized.
As far as the breast oncologist, shame on her. Was she asleep in class? I don’t think I can say anything more about her.
Well, I don’t feel lucky and I don’t think that I have a good caner. There isn’t any cancer that is a good cancer. You can bank on that from a four cancer survivor. There is NO GOOD cancer.
Joel T Nowak, MA, MSW