Three weeks ago, I interviewed Tony Hope, who shared with us his rather alarming discovery and diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes and how it has changed his life. This week, another courageous man from the community, Simon Samuel, has a story to share. I admit I am impressed with the openness and honestly in which these men have shared their stories with us, how their experiences have motivated them to become their own health advocates, doing whatever they can to help themselves and others.
This is Simon Samuel’s story about prostate cancer.
How did you first find out you had prostate cancer?
In December 2006, I went for my annual check up at my doctor’s office. He did the Digital Rectal Examination (manual finger test) and a PSA (prostate specific antigen) test. Two weeks later, I received a call from my doctor’s office requesting I come in to see my doctor. My doctor said he wanted me to do another PSA test and that he wanted another opinion. He sent me to see an urologist (medical specialist trained in conditions of the urinary tract and the male reproductive organs).
One month later, I did a series of tests with the urologist. First, an ultrasound, then a biopsy and, lastly, I had a cystoscopy (an internal visual examination of the urinary system). The urologist called me into his office two weeks later. The first question he asked me was, “Are you by yourself or do you have someone here with you?” I replied that I was alone. He told me to have a seat and without any hesitation he said the result came back positive, “you have PROSTATE CANCER”. He was very clear and direct.
What was your understanding of prostate cancer before the diagnosis?
I had no understanding of prostate cancer. I did not know what it was.
Was it something you knew you were at risk of developing?
I had no idea I was at risk. I never thought I would be diagnosed with prostate cancer. I never heard my father or any of my family died from prostate cancer or were diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Were you being regularly tested or screened for prostate cancer?
Yes, my doctor had been testing me from the age of 45, but I had no idea what he was testing me for and I never asked.
No one wants to be told they have cancer. How did it affect you mentally? Emotionally? Spiritually?
I was shocked, and fearful of death. I wondered how long did I have to live? Emotionally, I was sad and stressed. Spiritually, I was lost. I asked myself what did I do? And where did I go wrong?
Where did you go for support?
I could not have done it by myself. Thanks to my wife, Cheryl, and my son, Kaydee. They were my pillars. I had good family support and great friends who inspired me to be positive, along with the introduction to Dr. Winston Isaac during my recovery. That made a big difference. In conversation with Winston we spoke about a support group for Black men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer so that they can have someone to talk to. That is why we started The Walnut Foundation for men to talk to about men’s health issues.
How has your life changed?
I am more health conscious, stronger, but softer inside, more caring and giving to the Black community. I have this need to reach out to other men who may have prostate cancer and see how much help I can give.
Prostate cancer is considered to be more common among Black men than most other men. What do you think we can do better to help ensure fewer Black men have to live with the disease?
Education is the key. We have to keep talking about prostate cancer awareness. Men need to teach men how to take responsibility for their health. Teach them how to have a meaningful conversation with their doctor; asking questions and requesting screening for prostate cancer. Men need to be reminded that they should start the conversation with their doctors; that they should have the PSA test. Every man, after age 40, should know their PSA status.
What advice would you give to other Black men and their families regarding prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is not a death sentence. Early detection of Prostate cancer allows for early treatment and a cure. If your father, brother or uncle were diagnosed or died from prostate cancer, my advice to Black men is that you should talk to your doctor about your family history and ask him/her to do an annual screening, a rectal examination and a PSA test.
Men with prostate cancer should become involved in support groups to get more information and receive emotional support. Family members should be encouraging their men with prostate cancer to keep living. Men with prostate cancer should share their experience rather than hide it. A diagnosis of prostate cancer is not the end of the world.
Thank you so much Simon for sharing your story. I am sure it will help others. I would also like to thank Winston Isaac for his assistance.
Dr. Christopher J. Morgan is the director of Morgan Chiropractic & Wellness, an interdisciplinary health centre in Toronto, and the President of the Black Health Alliance, a network of community organizations, health professionals and community members working in partnership to advance the health and well-being of the Black community. He can be reached at 416-447-7600 or firstname.lastname@example.org