A painless opportunity for men to get a cancer test
September 6, 2007
If Jon Nowlin and Patrick Williams were salesmen, I’d probably own three of whatever it was they were selling. But as it is, they’re men whose lives have been changed by prostate cancer, and now I am suddenly signed up for two tests to ensure it doesn’t change my life, too. One of the tests is just a blood draw, but the other is the one best characterized in movies by a doctor snapping on a rubber glove before telling his patient, always in a menacing voice, to bend over.
Which, again, speaks to the remarkable sales ability of these two retired men.
At least all of this will be free, which is the reason Jon called me in the first place – he wants other men to get tested for prostate cancer. Now happens to be the perfect time, with the free screening at the Carson Tahoe Cancer Center scheduled the week of Sept. 17. If you want to make an appointment, or sign up someone you care about, call 445-7500. More than 300 men have signed up already, but there’s still plenty of room.
If you’re saying no big deal … it’s not going to happen to you, well, all I can do is make a feeble attempt at repeating what these two men shared with me.
Nowlin, 64, was diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer last year and is looking at his treatment options. He’s learned plenty about cancer since then. One out of six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and that means, statistically, someone on your block. Around 30,000 men die each year in the U.S. from prostate cancer, about one man every 18 minutes.
It happens most often in men over the age of 45, which I offered as my exit strategy for the scheduled appointments. But it wasn’t enough. Men younger than 45 should also be tested, especially those with a family history of cancer. In fact, if a close relative has prostate cancer, a man’s risk of the disease more than doubles.
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“I don’t think enough people are getting screened,” Nowlin said. “It’s important to get it early.”
That’s because in order to find prostate cancer in its most treatable form, it must be caught before symptoms appear.
Williams, 64, a volunteer at Carson Tahoe Cancer Center, was diagnosed at age 50, and now uses his time to help others who are going through the trauma of cancer diagnosis and treatment. And trauma is not too strong a word.
Williams is a Vietnam vet, a war in which he was surrounded by death. But, he said, it wasn’t until a doctor told him he had cancer that he really confronted his own mortality.
So, in light of that, I had to concede that the old glove test is a slightly better option that a slow, painful death.
“That’s not a big deal,” Nowlin said of the test. But if it shows something suspicious, then the stakes go up. It’s called a biopsy, and it involves putting needles in distinctly private and sensitive places.
On the other hand, as a glance at a list of prostate cancer survivors told me, if generals Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf can handle it, so can you.
The first time Breeze LaClare, a little girl from Carson City, appeared on the TV show “America’s got talent,” her nemesis proved to be a crotchety English judge named Piers Morgan.
This time, it was the spider mites in a bush outside the studio in Burbank, Calif.
Breeze did a cheerleading routine on the show in June that was soundly panned by Morgan. That led to a lively exchange capped by Breeze giving the judge a piece of her mind.
While she didn’t win the competition, that exchange won the hearts of a lot of viewers, which is why the producers wanted her back in August for the show’s finale.
That’s where the spider mites come into the picture. Breeze was bitten by the tiny insects, which infested the bushes outside the studio. The resulting rash was enough to send Breeze to the hospital for the remainder of the day.
Though she was released later in good health, studio officials, presumably attorneys, decided just before the show two days later that Breeze shouldn’t perform in case she went into shock. They planned to do an interview with her, but that didn’t materialize either.
So Breeze was able to watch the show in the audience, and a proud grandmother, Delma Bransom, sent an e-mail to all the family’s relatives and friends who were expecting Breeze to take the live show by storm.
“Through all that went wrong and all the frustration they at least got to relax by the pool a lot. Not sure but she wants to go back next time and has been invited by NBC so I will let you know,” she wrote.
• Barry Ginter is editor of the Appeal. You can reach him at 881-1221, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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