About a year and a half ago, my Doctor noticed that my PSA was rising and he said, “Look, I’m not liking this, but let’s kind of do another 3 months, we’ll take another sample and see where it goes,” and then after that 3-month sample, he said “Look, I’m still not liking this. I don’t want to do a biopsy, but we need to do one.” I said, “Doc, listen, whatever is necessary, let’s get it done.”
After the first one, things were normal and then, another 6 months later, another blood sample. The PSA was over 5. I said, “Alright, we need to go in.” I had the 12 shocks, like wow, and I said, “Well, you know what, god bless women.” Then, we’ll never know what we are going to be subjected to, but also I think for me, particularly as an African American male, it was important to make sure that you get checked out.
I had some idea about the disparity thing in prostate cancer and because I was in a circle of men, we played basketball on weekends and we talk about all kinds of things. It was more about the camaraderie than us playing.
I mean yes, it was about staying in shape and all of that, but also to talk about our health and how we were doing and some of the things that we needed to be smart enough and we had a couple of doctors who played with us and in fact, one of those doctors was involved with the Ralph Lauren Center in Harlem, a good friend of ours and we always talked about the things that we need to do to be heart healthy and just making sure that we were being careful and knowing your numbers, knowing your blood sugar, knowing your cholesterol, knowing your triglycerides.
It’s an education. You have to be informed and it was certainly something that for me, was important and when I was diagnosed in 2013, November, like wow and I got to the urologist’s office and he was more upset than I was. He said, “Mr. Clyde, I have to tell you this.” He showed me the sonogram piece. He showed me where it was. It looked like to be a pinprick, but he said, “Alright, here’s where your prostate is, here were the quadrants that we took it from,” and he showed me where the spot was.
The Gleason number was 6 and then, we started talking about the levels of treatment. He gave me some literature. We even got emerged into that and recommended an oncologist and I went to the Advanced Urology Center in Plainview, where a Dr. Obedian is one of three professionals, but Dr. Obedian was one who talked to me.
When I received the news, I wasn’t crestfallen. I don’t think I was shocked. I said “Okay, here I am, 50-something male, would ever be prone to prostate cancer?” and I think, that for me was, I had to kind of process that out loud. Now, my dear friend and mentor who gave me this email to reach out to this organization had come through prostate cancer also and in fact, I think, you’re going to be in touch with him later on today and he talked about his and certainly prepared me for it and that was certainly a great help. It was a great help.
The irony is, my daughter attend St. John’s University. She happened to come home that weekend. She was living on campus, so I told her, “Listen. Dad’s got to get to a urologist, he’s got an appointment. We’ll follow up. You take the car. You do what you got to do and then, when I’m ready you pick me up.” She was the first one I told. I also have a son who’s older. I got to tell him later and then, my former spouse said … whom we share these young adults with, I got to share it with her.
It was the immediate inner family circle that needed to know and I have two younger brothers and my dad is still alive. He’s soon to be 85. He has an enlarged prostate, but he has no symptoms and no other issues, but I called my brother’s wife and I said, “Listen, this is what’s happening. You need to get checked out. It’s now part of the family tree.”
I had radiation. We talked about all the options. You either do the watch and waiting, would you do CyberKnife. Dr. Obedian was not a proponent of CyberKnife, kind of a new technique. He said, “Well, there’s still some issues for me as a professional, I’m not quite down with, but this is what we do and here is the prescription that I think that you can have.”
He didn’t say that you have to do one or the other. It certainly was my choice. It was my decision and given the options, the radiation treatment was the best option for me.
I am now 57. I’ll be 58 in August, so I was 56 when I found out.
I have to say I was able to share it with a small circle of folks and not many people here at university knew that I had a trusted circle that I went to. My secretary is a cancer survivor. As soon as I got back from the urologist that day, we sat down together for about a good half hour kind of processing I was feeling and what that was and certainly, her support, I can’t say enough about that. I can’t say enough and then, as I began to outreach to those who I needed them to know.
I didn’t want to broadcast it, partly because it was a private matter for me and the matter in which I needed to go about the treatment was something I certainly needed to face and for those in my circle of friends who I needed to get to, they understood and they said, “William, whatever it is that we can do to help you along the way, we’re there,” and it was really just a matter of phone call.
The stress and the challenges of being a university administrator and at that time, we were rewriting our proposal for funding for the program, so you can only imagine the everyday nuances and then, trying to get that done, but I said, I was not going to allow anything else to get in the way of my treatment.
I was still going to the gym playing basketball with the guys, and then, at some point, I let them all know. Alright, fellows, this is what I’m going through at the moment and many of the guys I’ve been playing with in my peer group, some younger, but we needed to let them know. I needed to share with them that “Hey, if you haven’t been checked out, and if you’re not going to a doctor that you’re not bending.
I think the camaraderie and the love and the support and they always say “It’s going to be okay.” I said, “Well, this is how my treatment has been going on,” and that whole notion of drinking the water and getting ready to go, that was another … I’m going to talk about that later, but, again, it was about my health and disposition, number one, number one, number one.
Being divorced, my son still alternates his time with me and his mom and with my daughter being on campus, and now she has an apartment with her roommate, so she’ll be going into her senior year, but they were around and they always knew what dad was doing.
I have to say that I was very cognizant of not allowing anything else to get in the way of being healthy. Listen, I didn’t change my nutrition. I still eat a lot of greens. I sautéed broccoli, I like cabbage and I’m not a fried food eater by nature. I love desserts though. I still like a bowl of ice cream. If you give me a piece of cake, I’ll have it. That part of me didn’t change.
I found myself saying … I think in my quieter moments, it’s like “Okay, what will be the next thing that’s going to happen?” and I think slightly in the back of my mind, alright, even as I’m going through this radiation, there’s always a chance that it could come back, so my sense was okay, let it run its course and continue to be diligent in asking the questions to the health professionals and not allowing … Sometimes, we overdo with the research and thinking that all the side effects, it’s going to be yours.
The challenge to me was to, especially early on, getting up two, maybe three times a night to get to the bathroom and that was a pain, I have to tell you. My sleep pattern was one that wasn’t as regular, but again, I didn’t come to work. Like overly tired. I needed to close the door to get a nap or anything like that, so being around students and the nature of the work that I do, that pretty much was an kill I would say, but no, I didn’t like overly immersed myself with statistics, studies because also with this treatment center, I’m also a part of the study with the University of Buffalo and a couple of other hospitals.
They surveyed me and I’ve been able to give them information, but I also said to the woman who was a part of the lead personnel studying it, I said “I don’t know how many men of color that you have doing this, so I think it’s important that this information is out there.” It is timely to talk about disease and not so much how to prevent it, but certainly how to deal with it and this idea of you being flustered and that you might be the only one that’s suffering is just a bunch of bull quite honestly. We need men talking about their health. It is an unselfish act. It really is. When I shared it with my brother … And then I have three other sisters younger and I let them know. I said, “Okay, this is what your brother’s got and here’s the treatment plan and should anything of any nature come up, I’ll let you know.”
It’s part of the family tree. My mother passed away 3 years ago. She developed uterine cancer. Now, who was to think my mother coming from the south would develop uterine cancer in her early 70s. I tried to wrap my hand around that. Now there is diabetes in our family. My father’s mother was an insulin diabetic. We have to talk about some of those things that impact us.
Sometimes, we can’t always blow it off to heredity, but we have to be cognizant that okay, that’s part of the condition that you may suffer from, so I had to have that conversation with my son. He eats healthfully, I mean cereal, banana, apple every day. He stands about 6’2”. He’s probably a buck 70 soaking wet, but he’s also aware now that his father had this condition.
Ironically and probably not coincidentally, my initial colonoscopy, he came with me and I explained to him what the procedure was. From that gastro, urological perspective, he has an awareness now that okay, when he gets to be a certain age, that these are things that he will need to take care of and be mindful of himself.
I think the first thing and regrettably the history in our country and particularly around the Tuskegee experiment and I think if you’re a student of history, that comes up, that comes up and I don’t suggest that that’s where I was with it. However, people … and I think men generally don’t necessarily see themselves going to the doctor and I think that goes across a lot of cultural ethnic lines.
As I talk to men and I still know guys who have not been to the doctor in how long, haven’t been to the dentist in how long, like dude, what’s up with that. First of all, your health begins in your mouth, so you have to kind of take of that. You got to know what’s going on with your ticker, you got to know what’s going with your systems. It’s important to kind of get the sense of that and unless you’re going to a professional or even if you want to do it holistically, I’m not arguing that. You have to do something about it. It’s a great question. I don’t know where the block or where the disconnect is with that.
When I was very married, I would listen, I went to the doctor, I went to the dentist. I didn’t have an issue with that. My partner did not have to kick me about going to any of that even before we were married, that was something I was doing. I would agree that I know a number of my colleagues here, female, who absolutely beat their spouses over the head about going to the doctor.
It’s funny to me and it’s serious because when you look at heart disease, all the silent killers, all the silent killers really, it can be prevented and looking at the news recently of the number of young black men, you had Heavy D, the rapper, you had a couple of comedians under 40, under 50 like going. Wait a minute, how does that happen? Jerome Kersey from the NBA recently. I mean Kareem Abdul-Jabbar just had quadruple bypass. My god. What does it mean?
I think much of it can be prevented and only should you reach a health professional. My younger brother for example, he just turned 52 and his wife calls me all the time, “You know, your brother didn’t …” I said, “Listen, I told him. If he doesn’t go to a doctor, bend over and get it checked, then shame on him. Shame on him. If he wants to live, if wants to be healthy.” I mean to not know is more dangerous than going to know. That’s more dangerous.
The Digital Rectal Exam. I think some of it is urban legend as well because I think when you talk about one’s sexuality, one’s sexuality is like okay, no, I don’t get penetrated. Now, if we were talking incarceration and jail culture, that’s another ball game. Oh god, that’s another kind of conversation all to itself. What I tell these young men when I enter my office and if they’re ever going to get huffy with [inaudible 00:27:07] yours is bigger than mine.
Thank you for chuckling at that. I say it right away, yours is bigger than mine, so what do we do now. I think again, coming out of this mythological and your power, your manhood is determined by that organ, like no, no, your mind controls that.
I started by saying having had the biopsy like whoa, like okay, you got to do this in order to really know that you have cancer, you have to do that. Any woman that has had a Pap smear, listen, if a man had to witness that, listen, for what a woman has to go through, you getting a finger stuck up to your butt is really minor. It truly is. It truly is.
Then go to the next level, much of the recent dialog about the PSA and whether it was a true indicator of whether prostate cancer exists, again, is under scrutiny. However, if you don’t know the number, then how are you going to know because you’re then not going to get on a table and get the biopsy, it’s just not going to happen.
My urologist, Dr. Schuman, I spoke about that I said, “Doc, look, I know why we did it,” and he said, “Look, I don’t necessarily like doing them as a matter of practice,” and he said “Only when necessary.”
For me, I would say only when necessary and I think it has to be in conjunction with looking at your PSA and having it monitored and then, a medical decision that say listen I’m not liking what I’m seeing and the only way that we can determine is by doing this. It’s also said that you don’t necessarily have to have a colonoscopy every year either, but you can have it and unless you are at a significant high risk, then you’re doing it every maybe 2 to 3 years as opposed to 3 to 5 or 5 to 10 whatever the notion is, then okay.
For me, I think my gut reaction to that would be biopsy when necessary and with a caveat that looking at my PSA and if there’s something that’s really inconsistent, although it’s been rising as it was for me, then that decision … and again, it was an easy decision and I said to Dr. Schuman, “Look, if that’s what we have to do, we’ll schedule it,” and I think 2 weeks later, I was back in his office doing the biopsy.
Just that whole notion with the radiation and having to consume so much water and then, being ready to get on the table. Okay, there were some days that I had to do a dance, then had to kind of really reach back and breathe a little easier or know that I had to be centered because if there was any backup that afternoon or when it was time for treatment, it’s like oh boy can I hold it, can I last until my called in.
I would say over the 45 days and will surely last. There were some days that we had some snow and they called in advance to say, “Listen, we will be open until X time, if you can get here, great. If not, we’ll move it to another day.” I know I had to go to a second treatment center. I said, “Listen, I’ve got his water ready and as long as I can get there, I don’t want to miss a day.”
They had to back up treatment at the other facility there for me. I got on the table and we were good, but I tell you, there was a 15-minute window from the center to my home and I’m telling you, man, I men like just barely getting the door.
I have to say, I found that the way that they scheduled me, I had maybe … particularly of the first 10, I had two very early appointments in the morning. That certainly worked with my schedule here and I was able to not be the [inaudible 00:33:54] but most often, I had mid to late afternoon appointment, which still worked for me. I had no qualms about it. It really worked out fine. It really did.
Black men die at 2.4 times the rate that white men die from prostate cancer.
It’s really lack of treatment and I think early detection, early detection, early detection makes the difference. I said to my urologist … He explained to me that the whole idea of random sampling is really what it is and he said “Well, you would not have been in a random sample.” We talked about going to a mall or going to a spot and taking men who may have not ever been treated, may have never been seen, and we do the blood sample and then say, okay, here’s what you’re at risk for.
For me, being in his office every 6 months during the last 5 or 6 years or maybe more that when I started seeing him, it was about early detection and to your question, I believe that is what makes the difference because if you’re not being seen, then there’s no way that you have the heads up on treatment.
Since I had my treatment, I’ve run into another black male and there were two white males who I’ve known who has either worked here or had been affiliated with the university and we’ve shared stories about the treatment.
That’s a tough one and it’s a good question. Would it be perceived to be different? My gut to that, even as I’m processing this out loud with you would be no. That would be my gut because it’s not like colon cancer.
Whatever your vision of manhood and sexuality maybe at that time, drop your pants, bend over and you start there because you have to find out … even if it is not cancer, you may have an enlarged one and having an enlarged prostate has other implications, so you need to know what those are about.
The obvious irony or whatever, guys who are being treated for something else are more likely to see their doctor on cancer. That’s not a goal to get everybody sick, but it is something that gets people into an office.
This is about your health. Gentlemen, like really. Should you value that as you value your relationship, should you have children, and all of that.
One of important things for me to [inaudible 0:51:14] and having this extended conservations with my son, now, my dad did not have those kind of conversations with me. God bless my father, but a man of a different generation, different [ailment 0:51:30].
Now, I’m having these conversations my dad in another light. In my formative years and certainly as I became to be more of a man, we still didn’t have those conservations. We’ve kind of reversed the circle here, so that dad and I can now really talk about those kinds of things, but more importantly, that I’m having that conversation with my son right now and have that process of me helping to raise him and know what this is about.
The value of being healthy in light of the conversations around the value of a black life versus the value of a white life and then, you add to that the teenager prospect of like I see what’s going on in the world and the Ferguson stuff and all and you didn’t leave Ferguson or Florida to shine a light on that.
I’m probably going to die sooner rather than later than the white guys, so why do I give a crap about this and then, you throw in rap music like it or not, I think it was Monday or Tuesday, I’m walking along the sidewalk, yeah, I’m in Manhattan and it’s like this guy has his music up so loud coming out of his ear buds that I could hear it and it’s like I forgot the … Well, something to the effect like I don’t want to live long, I want to live well or something like that.
How does this myth/sort of story that young black men are sharing among themselves, whether they buy into it or not, that we’re dying faster than white guys.
Well, I think there are a number of issues and proponents now that’s out there. One, the prospect, well, does my education mean anything, looking at my neighborhood, what out there for me in the future, how successful can I be, do I want to not be a part of this so called systematic thing that’s happening.
Sociology get to do this study and I may have an answer and for those of us who are in the trenches of helping to educate and the like, we try to put the positive spin and say your life does matter, your brain matters, you can be brilliant, you can help change the world. It’s a matter of what sort of message is out there. Or there are some realities that says that unemployment among a group of teens or a particular group is still high. What are the chances of them becoming successful and whatever success is because that definition is certainly different for all of us.
We talked in counseling about cultural competence and my hope is that the profession continues to move in that direction because there’s one thing to have the baseline knowledge and that’s what doctors hang their head on and should they have the sensitivity and the level of cultural competence, that could be the difference and that could make the difference.