By Ken Griffey, Sr. // MLB All-Star
Ken Griffey Sr. is a three-time baseball all-star, a prostate cancer survivor, and a spokesperson for Bayer’s Men Who Speak Up program, which encourages men with advanced prostate cancer to know the symptoms of progressing disease and offers resources to help them feel more comfortable speaking up about it. Mr. Griffey, who is conducting a nationwide Men Who Speak Up tour with his son, Hall-of-Famer Ken Griffey Jr., will be a guest speaker at the 2016 Prostate Cancer Conference on September 10.
PROSTATE CANCER is an issue that’s close to my heart. As someone who has lost four uncles to the disease, I learned the importance of advocating for my own health early on. My mother drilled into me and my brothers that prostate cancer was something we needed to be aware of, given our family history.
That’s why I always asked for a prostate exam at each annual physical, even when it wasn’t required. In 2006, I was thrown a curveball during a routine screening: My doctor told me I had prostate cancer. I had difficulty processing my own diagnosis. I didn’t know what to do with the information, let alone talk about it. It took a great deal of encouragement from family for me to open up about how I was feeling. Especially in the first year after my diagnosis, there were moments I didn’t think things would improve. But fortunately, I responded well to treatment and felt better over time.
I’m lucky that my doctor caught and treated my prostate cancer early, but I know that not all men have the same experience. There are times when prostate cancer advances and becomes life threatening. Prostate cancer is not just the second most common cancer diagnosed; it’s also the second leading cause of cancer-related death among American men. That’s why it’s critical for men to speak up if they experience any symptoms or physical changes, as they could be signs the disease is progressing.
One of the biggest lessons I learned after my diagnosis is that health issues, especially those that are cancer-related or linked to sexual health, can be very uncomfortable for men to talk about. When it comes to prostate cancer, it’s hard for men to admit they have this kind of a problem. I have seen this firsthand; only after my prostate cancer was publicly announced did I learn that three of my golfing buddies also had prostate cancer. They hadn’t felt comfortable sharing the information until it had made headlines with me. But the reality is that no one should be scared to speak up about their health.
Prostate cancer has touched so many around me: my uncles, my golf buddies, and — just recently — my younger brother. Because of that, I joined Bayer’s Men Who Speak Up campaign to help men be empowered to talk about their advanced prostate cancer symptoms. Through my partnership with Bayer, I learned a lot about the disease that I had never really thought about before, such as how it can progress, and what symptoms are associated with that progression. Some of those symptoms, such as fatigue, difficulty walking or sleeping, unexplained pain, or difficulty doing normal activities, often don’t emerge until the disease has advanced. What’s more, the cause of these symptoms is not always obvious. Doctors can help men recognize the symptoms of advanced prostate cancer and manage their disease — but only if men are willing to speak up about them.
Men Who Speak Up is a program dedicated to men with advanced prostate cancer and their loved ones. What appeals to me about Men Who Speak Up are the tools and resources that have been created to help men who have progressed to this stage. The symptoms tracker and the discussion guide in particular can make it much easier to prepare for doctor appointments. I don’t think anyone going through this would disagree that it can sometimes be difficult to gather your thoughts before an appointment. There’s a lot going through your mind, and a lot to cover in a relatively short period of time.
I’m proud to share my personal story with men around the country, and I encourage them to do the same. For more information on Men Who Speak Up, visit www.MenWhoSpeakUp.com.