Mention the words “prostate cancer” on the driving range at any golf course and you instantly have a dozen new friends.
So prevalent is this disease in our aging male population that everybody seems to have a story. Either an uncle, brother, cousin, father, grandfather or they themselves have come face to face with prostate cancer and lived to tell about it.
And tell about it they do.
When I began writing about my diagnosis and subsequent journey through this world, I was stunned by the sheer number of e-mails, phone calls and letters that came flooding in.
Just when you think you’re alone, cancer has a way of introducing you to new and interesting people.
Never in my life have I had such intimate conversations with my fellow man about such delicate male dysfunctions. It’s amazing, humbling, educational, frightening and heartwarming to openly speak of things grown men usually won’t admit even exist.
That’s the beauty of society today.
Not only are we much more willing to talk about our frailties and afflictions, we are openly supportive of others who follow in our wake.
Join the club
It felt like my first AA meeting.
Only this time without the anonymity.
At Calhoun and Pitt streets in downtown Charleston, about 25 men and women gathered in the back room of a local church to talk about it, learn about it and maybe even do something about it.
In today’s world, if you don’t belong to a support group, you don’t have a problem.
This one is called “Us Too,” and it meets at 7 p.m. the first Tuesday of each month at Bethel United Methodist Church.
It’s made up of people struggling with this sneaky little disease called prostate cancer. Both kinds of people: men and the women who love them.
They usually arrive as couples because it’s that kind of malady.
There is the ubiquitous coffee pot, a plate of cookies, a pod of folding chairs, people milling around, a man fiddling with a projector and that instant sense of belonging that people try to purchase at the country club.
But money has no value here.
All you need to join this club is a diagnosis.
Paralysis by analysis
The secret weapon in fighting prostate cancer is knowledge. And because we live in a world of instant and abundant information, nothing is secret anymore.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to treating prostate cancer, so the process of selecting a treatment can be overwhelming at first.
Men who have run major corporations, managed huge projects, raised children and slain dragons can find themselves dumbstruck and unsure about what to do and when to do it.
Paralysis by analysis, we call it.
Talking helps. Other men who have had surgery or radiation or any of the myriad options are more than willing to tell you about the success and shortcomings they have experienced.
And if you want to know more, ask their wives.
Because prostate cancer is a two-part story.
Men might think it’s all about them, but it’s not.
Women ask better questions, have a better grip on reality and see further into the future than we do. They’re amazing when it comes to understanding our biology, physiology and psychology.
Trust their judgment.
Since joining this fraternity, I’ve learned the secret handshake of sincerity, bought into the brotherhood and been given the gift of gratitude.
The simple fact that so many men have fought prostate cancer and lived to tell about it is encouraging.
Most cancer clubs are decimated by attrition.
This one loses members to cure.
So we walked out of the fellowship hall that night feeling connected.
With information comes power.
With power comes hope.
With hope comes life.
Still, as I looked up into the clear night sky, watching the moon rise slowly over the city, the reporter in me couldn’t rationalize one stark reality: You only hear from the survivors.
For more information on Us Too, call 766-9360