I had been getting PSA tests from the time they had PSA tests, as part of my annual physical. It had been normal. Then for about a period of two years before I was diagnosed, it started to move up and then one physical I went in and it was over four. But at my age, you say, that’s about normal, beyond three, that’s normal. I started that same year doing a screening program in my church. It was at that screening program that I did it again, three months later, and it had gone to five point seven.
At that part, they looked at the velocity and stuff like that, and said, “We’d better go and do a biopsy.” And they did a biopsy and they found the cancer. That was it.
That was 2004 and I’m seventy-seven now.
I had surgery and had my prostate taken out. That’s from a period of August, I had my physical. November when I had the second test, the second PSA. Then the biopsy in February. Then I had the surgery in May of 2005. Today, everything is fine.
I get a PSA test at least twice a year, at my screening as well as my physical, my annual physical.
Men just don’t … First of all, they’re ignorant of the disease. In many cases, they’re just ignorant of the disease. But even when they find out about the disease, and I understand the side-effects. Most black men don’t want anything to deal with anything that’s going to affect their sexual prowess. They just ignore it.
Men generally don’t go to doctors, period. They don’t like the finger test, first of all. That is detestable. They definitely don’t like that. And just they don’t want to find out! It’s almost like, “I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to hear bad news.”
I have men … I do testing of, and I do a good deal, a lot of education on it. And as men get more educated, I find they become more responsive. Especially as they begin to learn that life goes on. Life goes on. And life can, and a sexual life can go on. If they learn this, and get to appreciate this, and begin to appreciate the finality of death, as an alternative, they tend to come around. But it takes awhile.
And I’ve been doing these free screenings in my church for eleven years, and for eleven years and we still tend to get the same men coming out, every year. All the same and it becomes their annual PSA physical. We got a few new people coming in, but we just can’t, no matter how much we promote it, we still can’t get over two hundred or so men, coming into this event every year. I’m not sure what it takes. I go around to different churches, talking it up at different churches, you still can’t get these men to come in.
These men want to live. These men do not want to die from this disease. It’s as simple as that. And this old issue of sexual side-effects does not affect them. These are men that are concerned about their health. That’s as simple as that. There’s no other explanation to it.
A man would hear about this … I’ve had men even at my church, and I’ve been doing this all these years, who hear me up there talking about it for weeks before the event, talking about the disease, talking about the side-effects, talking about the disparity and deaths on it, and they still won’t do it. And we’ve had a few of those men die of prostate cancer.
If you catch it early enough, this is a disease you can live with for a long time. I’ve been promoting active surveillance, as an option. Which is an option I’d probably taken, if I had been a little smarter, as smart as I am today, back then. With the low level of the cancer I had, I wouldn’t have done that. And I’ve been talking up. You do not have to have … Big thing, if you catch this thing early enough, you know, catch it early enough, it’s something you can live with. And men, they tend to respond to that.
It is a topic that a lot of African American men don’t even want to hear.
I talk to a lot of women. We talk about simply losing a family member. What is the impact on them of losing a family member, somebody they love. And let them understand the risk. If women understand the risk, and hear the high probability they have a man in their family here that has a one in four chance of getting this disease, and if they don’t do anything about it, if they don’t do anything about them getting the disease, they have almost a two and a half time of dying from it. All right?
Once they understand that, once these women understand that, to them it’s worth a blood test. I offer these, by the way, I’ve been for a long time we do at our screenings we do both the DRE and the blood test. For a long time, the men coming in would do both of them. They would do both of them. But for the last, I would say, about for the last five years, I’ve been giving the men an option. Now, if you have an option just to do the PSA, and not, you know … The PSA was minimal. They have to do PSA. If they don’t want to do the DRE, you can opt out of the DRE. But it’s interesting. Once you hear about African American men don’t like DRE, I have only a handful of men get out of the DRE.
I think you have to go to the men. You have to find ways to go, you just can’t have a meeting, you know, I got a meeting on this Saturday, or this Wednesday, and you come. If you don’t go to them, like this thing I just did, we went to a men’s group at a church. We went to the men’s group and we made a presentation where the men are. You know, the men come out. They may come out for other things, but here also they get this. But I find that most support groups get to their meetings, they might send out a few fliers, but most the fliers go to their members, anyway, to people who come.
They don’t get general distribution, so you’re not getting to the men that aught to be trying to influence. Now that may be just the support groups I’m dealing with, and maybe other support groups are a little more effective in that. But I’m just talking of the ones I’m dealing with. And the ones I’m dealing and talking about are ones that are focused in the African American community.
If they’re young men, on-line might be effective. The men we’re talking about, they don’t … You’re talking about seniors. These guys over fifty years old. Most of these guys are not on-line. Now, I stay on-line. I’m seventy-seven years old, and I feel I probably spend more time on this computer than anybody. But most of these men don’t deal with it. They don’t deal with social media. They don’t deal with email, a lot. Most of these men don’t even have email.
I try to collect all of this stuff from these men. They come in, have them put down their addresses and phone numbers and emails. It’s amazing. They say, “I don’t have email.” Very few emails. I got a list, by the way, of over fifteen hundred names of men that have, over the years that we have collected their names, some way. They may not have come, but we collected their names. I sent out over fifteen hundred letters inviting these men, inviting men to come to this thing, and somehow collecting all of this information, most of these men don’t have emails. Something they don’t have.
The generation we’re talking about now, this may be different in other generations now, but the generation we’re talking about are not men that are going to be exposed to on-line information.
The state prostate cancer organization hasn’t done anything for African Americans. Other than stuff on the websites. You get a lot of stuff on our websites, that talks about the higher risk the African American men and promoting screening at a lower age, at thirty-five. And all of these things. You get all that stuff on the website. But we don’t have any real promotions from them, statewide, focus on the African American community.
I’m trying to get my organization … They haven’t said “no.”, but I think it’s an issue of trying to figure out a consensus of how to organize it, and all that, because California is a big state.
We aught to be doing, throughout the year, is screening regionally. They aught to be promoting screenings regionally, in the state of California. You can break this whole state up into about four different regions. This state organization aught to be promoting it. I’m already getting them to agree to be a co-sponsor on mine, here, if you’re right in the Los Angeles area. We’re just going to start working some grants here, in the future, to try to make that happen. And start promoting these screenings, at least on the website, as events on the website, that nobody looks at, by the way, promoting them on the website.
But you’ve got to be able to get the, also solicit all these support groups, which we try to integrate across the state. Get all these support groups promoting it. Not in their meetings, but actually promoting it throughout the community. That’s going to be the key. Trying to get the support groups doing what we think they aught to be doing, not just sitting in their meetings once a month. But getting out and getting information out and promoting stuff out into different organizations in the community.
And to different media in your community. The key is that not only do you get the state organizations, coupled with local organizations, community based organizations like mine, but also getting the support groups in these different areas involved as well. Integrating business, and all that. I mean, that’s no small task, but it’s something you’ve got to do.
Anyway, all right. Here’s the thing. One of the things we’re trying to do is like make the disparity issues something that everybody knows about to the extent that they know about breast cancer. Much like you said. We’re not getting the football. We’re not getting NBA. We’ve had meetings with them, and the bottom line with them is there’s nothing in it for them, for them to be promoting prostate cancer.