Twice As Many is something that can only enhance and help the African American community and prostate cancer, because it’s needed around the country. It’s all working towards helping African American men to understand and deal with prostate cancer.
A program I run, 50 Hoops, started in 1998…. this is our 18th year, and it’s actually a prostate cancer basketball tournament and health fair. We start out with a cancer breakfast in the morning, then we go to the basketball tournament after that. Right now we have men and women from the Senior Olympics participating. They come from around the country. We have screenings, prostate cancer screenings, et cetera. We’ve had a lot of men come back and say, “Thank you for putting on the tournament.” A lot of these men come every year just to get screened, because we do the free screening, of course.
The basketball tournament is one thing, but the whole concept is to educate men about cancer. We have doctors speaking during halftime, the quarters and at the breakfast. It’s all about educating the men, and they really do appreciate what we’re doing. We’ve probably been in about, I’d say, 20 or 30 cities around the U.S. in the past 18 years, but we do one in Dallas here every year. We’ve been doing it for the last 18 years, so this is home base for us. It’s all about educating men with prostate cancer.
Myself, I am a 20 year prostate cancer survivor, and I’m here today for one reason. That is because my wife and I were sitting around one day and watching TV, and she said, “You need to go down and get tested.” I went down one time, had one PSA test, one rectal exam. Boom, there it was. I found out I had prostate cancer. Had no idea, no clue, but fortunately … had I waited just a little bit longer, I wouldn’t be here today.
My doctor said … we actually were scheduled to do a program in South Africa several months after that with Nelson Mandela, so my doctor said, “You guys go ahead and do your program in South Africa,” which we did, a very successful program. Got a chance to meet Nelson Mandela. Came back, had my surgery, been doing great ever since. My doctor said with my background in professional basketball, my wife’s background in the corporate world, he said, “You guys need to do something locally for African American men and prostate cancer.”
That’s when we formed 50 Hoops in 1998. Been doing it ever since, and I’ve been a wonderful survivor. Haven’t had any problems at all since my surgery, and this is why I’m so hyped up and geared to telling men, educating men about what they need to do. They need to get the early screening. Early detection can save your life. I’m a living witness that it does work, so men, get off that macho stuff. Get tested at least once a year and live a good life, and they appreciate that.
More men are seeing more ads about prostate cancer. They know they can get free screening. They know that it does work. They know that it does save lives. A lot of the stuff, the “macho” stuff, it’s because a lot of men in different cities that I’ve went around to, they’ve never had a screening, never had a PSA test. They were actually afraid.
I talked to one guy, who was the CEO of a company, 55 years old, never had a prostate cancer screening. Here we come, into the city. I grab this guy by the arm and say, “Look, you need to go get tested. You need to get screened.” I had to literally drag him to the table. He finally got it done. He still calls me today and says, “Ed, I thank you for doing what you did. You saved my life.”
Before I got my screening … in fact, after I got my prostate cancer screening … my brother found out he had it. He didn’t know he had it. My brother in law found out the same thing, my barber. A lot of guys didn’t know they had it, but because of me getting on them, they went down and got tested and screened and they’re still alive today. I think most men realize now.
The difference now between now and years ago, as I said, it’s more out there in the open. A lot of guys now are hearing about it from their friends. They see their friends and their relatives getting tested, getting screened, they’re still alive. Of course, they all don’t make it, because I’ve got several friends that waited too late, and of course they’re not here, unfortunately.
My thing is to let these guys know, “Hey, you need to get out there and get tested and screened,” and they … that’s the biggest difference I’ve seen now and in the past. I don’t have to browbeat these guys as much as I did in the early days. That’s one of the main things I see nowadays. They’re more receptive to it. They’re doing it on their own. They don’t need to be guided by the hand like a little kid on a leash, to say, “Hey, go get screened and tested.” They’re doing it on their own, because they know the results are there if they get screened and tested early. They know that nowadays.
I tell a man straight out. I say, “Either you want to be macho or you want to be dead.” I mean, it sounds difficult, it sounds tough, but I let them know. “If you’re worried about getting tested and having prostate cancer and dying,” I say, “Well, if you don’t get tested in the early stages, you might not even be here to worry about it in six months. The choice is yours. You go down and get something. You go down and get tested, which may take you a half an hour, 20 minutes, once a year, or you be macho and say, `Hey, I’m not going to do this,’ and you may not be around to worry about it, so the choice is yours.”
I give them a choice. I don’t try to involve me. I just tell the straight out truth, it’s up to you, and more and more guys are listening to what I’m saying, and they go and get … I had cancer for almost six months. I didn’t know I had it, Darryl. I didn’t have any signs, symptoms, because in the early stages, you don’t hardly get too many symptoms. I didn’t know I had it, but now, the guys are more aware and, hey, they’re following suit.
Every person is different. Every man is different. This guy may have a PSA of 2.8 and have prostate cancer, and the other guy may not. This is why it’s so important to go down and get screened and tested at least once a year, especially if it runs in your family. Heredity is one of the main causes of prostate cancer.
The doctor has to get across to them how important both the blood test and the digital rectal exam are. I think if the guy has a doctor they’re comfortable with and somebody they’ll listen to, I don’t think that’ll be an issue. Your doctor’s purpose is to get you involved and let you know what the blood test does, what the rectal does. He’s supposed to let them know that.
A lot of guys say, “I don’t want to lose my sex thing,” “But if you’re not here, it’s not going to make any difference, you see. You’ve got to realize that. If you’re not here, you can’t have sex anyway, so the choice is yours.” You’ve got to be frank with these guys, and they appreciate that. You can’t sugar coat it.
Talking about clinical trials and including African Americans: Unfortunately, a lot of the pharmaceutical companies don’t want to deal with African Americans, and they don’t want to fund it, they don’t want to participate. There was more maybe six, seven, eight years ago, but now it’s down to a few. I think they have their own people that they deal with, but I don’t know what the reasoning is.
Like I tell folks, they’re not participating the way they should for one reason and one reason only. That is because they don’t want to. That’s the only reason. If they really wanted to get involved … because we talked to companies before and they said, “We did all this for Indians, we did all this for Caucasians.” African Americans, they really don’t want to. We’ve talked to them in the past, and they have the same reason. They say, “Okay, we’ll get back with you and do this,” but they don’t respond. They don’t do anything.
They just don’t want to do it because it’s dealing with African Americans. That’s the bottom line. They’re not afraid of what they’re going to find out, they just don’t want to do it. They don’t want the numbers to go up. They want to keep the numbers down. They just want maybe 2 or 3 percent of African Americans in the trial, and that’s all they want.
They have all these meetings. We’ve mentioned the meetings. They talk all this stuff. They say, “We’re going to do this, we’re going to do that.” They get paid for all these meetings where they say, “We’re going to do something,” and then they put an ad here and there but they really don’t pursue it, because they don’t want to.
I’ve told them to their faces. They don’t want to do it. “No matter what you say, you say you’re going to come back and do this and that, but you don’t do it because you don’t want to.” They have the resources, they have the money, they just don’t want to do it. I mean, let’s face it.
It’s racism. That’s exactly what it is. I mean, you’ve got to call it straight out. That’s all it is. They pick and choose who they want to deal with, hey, and that’s the bottom line. You can’t make them come around if they don’t want to do it. One day they may wake up and say, “Hey, let’s do more and more and more,” but right now, they only do a limited amount because that’s all they want to do. You can’t say they don’t have the resources to do it, because they’ve got all the resources in the world, you know that. The big pharmaceutical companies, they’ve got all the money in the world, but they don’t want to do it.
Let’s call a spade a spade … it’s only a racial thing. That’s all it is. I mean, let’s be honest about it, you know? There’s no other way to put it. There’s no other way.
It’s like, you know, how do you put something in your body or do a treatment that you know hasn’t been tested on you, or on someone like you? It’s a hard thing to say, “Well, you know, it probably would work the same,” but how do you know that? There weren’t any black men in the trial. You don’t know.
African-American men are willing to accrue into clinical trials just like anyone else.
They are, because as we say when we have our programs, African Americans are more comfortable talking to African American doctors. We encourage them to see African American doctors because they trust them more and they feel more comfortable doing that, so that’s why we steer them towards African American doctors.
Men don’t really talk about Tuskegee. In fact, a lot of men don’t even know about it nowadays. A lot of those men are gone, and the younger people, they don’t really deal with Tuskegee. We have to deal with today, what’s going on today, so men are comfortable talking with people are their own race. It’s just a fact, you know. You wouldn’t send a Caucasian to a Hispanic doctor. They’re not comfortable with them. They want to talk to somebody their own way the majority of the time, so what’s the way life is. We get more results that way. Life is … people say life is unfair and difficult, but it’s not. Life is basic. You know, we just have to deal with what’s going on in life and realize, hey, if we’re in any position to make change, we have to move on that and make it happen.
African American men with prostate cancer, well, if you don’t get it checked out in the early stages, you’re not even going to get to the advanced stage, you see? You’ve got to take care of business in the early stages in order to get to that point. A lot of guys that get to the advanced stage, they don’t make it out of that. They don’t make it.
I know a guy, the first time he got a test, his PSA level was 425, the first time. This man was a CEO of a major, major company in Indiana, and he called me three weeks before he died and cried, because he said, “Ed,” he said, “I know I should have taken care of this.” He didn’t. He just didn’t do it, and he died three weeks later. He had the biggest funeral the state’s ever seen, because everybody knew him, but he didn’t take care of his health. He ignored it.
You can’t ignore that. You’ve got to take care of it. It’s not going to go away if you’ve got it, and the key is you don’t know if you have it unless you get it checked out. We’re going to keep doing this until we, you know, just can’t move. As long as we can move around, we’re going to keep doing this, because we’re educating men and we’re saving lives and that’s really what it’s all about, you see.
Guys in their 40’s are paying attention to prostate cancer, because a lot of those guys, their fathers and grandfathers are passing from it, or they have it, and they’re seeing what their fathers and grandfathers are going through and they don’t want to go through the same thing, so they are getting screened and tested early like they should. I’m seeing that a lot nowadays, quite a bit.
Learn more about Ed’s program, 50Hoops at www.50hoops.org