I just returned from an incredible few days in Peoria, Illinois. I went there with my two sisters for a Dan Fogelberg Memorial Dedication weekend celebration (see earlier post – Three Sisters and an Unbroken Promise). I have always liked Dan Fogelberg’s music, but I have a sister who has been a die-hard fan of his since she was 14 years old. For those of you who don’t know, Dan Fogelberg was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2004 and succumbed to that cancer on December 16, 2007 at the age of 56. That seems so young. The weekend was a tremendously bittersweet one for his fans and family. Happy in that we celebrated his life and legacy in the music he wrote and sang. Sad because cancer took yet another young, talented and gifted person who still had so much to offer to the world. Saturday night we attended a fabulous Dan Fogelberg tribute concert that reaffirmed for me just how talented this musical artist was. We also attended a post concert party. As my sisters and I were sitting at our table at the party, a gentleman came by and handed us some flyers and informed us he was giving us some information on prostate cancer. It was a flyer from Us Too– a Prostate Cancer Education and Support Network for Prostate cancer survivors and their spouses. If you visit the Dan Fogelberg website at http://danfogelberg.com/ you will see a personal letter from Dan Fogelberg to his fans, dated August 13, 2005, expressing his gratitude for the thousands and thousands of people who had sent him good wishes, prayers, and stories telling him how his music had touched and enriched their lives. And you will also find a little sermon addressed “To each and every man”, encouraging them to get screened for prostate cancer. I think Dan Fogelberg’s ultimate wish was to spread the word about prostate cancer so other men wouldn’t have to suffer like he did. I came home from that trip feeling so strongly that Dan Fogelberg’s message needed to be heard. As a veterinarian who has seen canine prostate cancer, I know how ugly a disease it can be. I made darn sure I read that flyer I received and I learned some facts. I packed it away in my suitcase when I returned to the hotel, determined I would show it to my husband when I got home. I also visited the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) website and educated myself on prostate cancer. Here is a little summary of what I learned.
Prostate Cancer Facts
- most often diagnosed cancer in men (and more common than breast cancer in women)
- 2nd highest death rate for cancer in men (lung cancer is higher)
- African-Americans have higher incidence and higher death rates than white males
- A man with a father or brother who develops prostate cancer is twice as likely to develop the disease
- Risk of occurrence increases with age
- GOOD NEWS: Early stage prostate cancer is treatable & its 10-year survival rate is 91%
- BAD NEWS: Early stage prostate cancer usually has no symptoms
- Get Tested Starting at age 45 (age 40 if you have any of the above risk factors) get an annual prostate check-up (PSA blood test and digital exam) by your family doctor
- Treatment options vary and are age and situation dependent, and include: surgery, external beam radiation, internal (seed) radiation, cryosurgery, chemotherapy, and hormonal treatment
Symptoms of prostate cancer – not every man will have symptoms. Often, prostate cancer is detected by a doctor during a routine exam. Other men will experience symptoms which are:
- urinating more frequently, especially at night
- difficulty starting urination or holding urine
- weak or interrupted urine flow
- painful or burning urination
- difficulty in attaining an erection
- painful ejaculation
- blood in urine or semen
- frequent pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, or upper thighs
PSA stands for prostate-specific antigen which is a substance produced by the prostate that may be found in an increased amount in the blood of men who have prostate cancer, benign prostatic hyperplasia (or hypertrophy) which is a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate, or inflammation/infection of the prostate. The PSA test is a simple blood test.
DRE stands for digital rectal examination. This is where a physician inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum and examines the prostate for any irregularities in size, shape, and texture. Most men squirm at the thought of having this test done, but it only lasts a few seconds, is only minimally uncomfortable, but can save your life!
Treatment options are age and situation dependent, and include: surgery, external beam radiation, internal (seed) radiation, cryosurgery, chemotherapy, and hormonal treatment.
I have always loved Dan Fogelberg’s song “Souvenirs.” Whenever I go on a trip, whether big or small, I usually get a souvenir of some sort to remember that trip by. Sometimes it’s just a magnet or something small, but it is always meaningful and pertains to something I did on that trip. Sunday morning when we were getting ready to leave Peoria, it dawned on me that I hadn’t bought a souvenir. The people of Peoria were all so nice, friendly and welcoming, the Fogelberg family had gained my respect in how loving and open they had been to all the DanFans, and my sisters and I had had a wonderful trip. Then I remembered the flyer in my suitcase on prostate cancer. I knew that was my souvenir… And how appropriate.
I hope if you are a male and reading this, you will take Dan Fogelberg’s sermon to heart and get checked regularly for prostate cancer. And if you are a female and reading this, I hope you will share the information on prostate cancer with the males in your life. Let’s keep Dan’s sermon alive and spread the word.
Love when you can
Cry when you have to
Be who you must
That’s a part of the plan
Await your arrival with simple survival
And one day we’ll all understand
One day we’ll all understand
One day we’ll all understand
~Dan Fogelberg- “Part of the Plan”