I sat in the tiny examination room waiting for the doctor to arrive with the news. After what seemed like an eternity – it was actually about 10 minutes – he opened the door, entered the room, and sat down across from me. He looked in my eyes and uttered the words I’d hoped to hear.
I breathed a sigh of relief.
Last summer I had my annual physical, which includes a prostate exam. It’s not enjoyable, but it’s vital, as is an annual prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test, sometimes referred to as a tumor marker, which measures protein produced by cells of the prostate gland in the blood.
Two days after my physical, my doctor called to tell me that my PSA had elevated sharply. If your PSA rises, it’s a sign you may have prostate cancer. My doctor ordered me to see a urologist, who told me there was a 60 percent chance I could have prostate cancer. He conducted a biopsy a few weeks later to find out for sure.
With prostate cancer, your chances of getting it are greater if an immediate relative has been diagnosed with it. My older brother has been battling it for five years, so my odds are higher.
Cancer is the No. 2 killer of men. Prostate cancer is the third most common cause of death from cancer in men of all ages, and it’s the most common cause of death from cancer in men over age 75.
I’m not asking that you celebrate with me in the good news that I received. I realize that on the same day that I was cleared from having cancer there were plenty of men and women in this world who didn’t get such good news. Why them and not me? It’s a mystery.
I’m writing this column solely to remind you, especially those of you over the age of 40, to take the time to get an annual physical. I know your work takes up an inordinate amount of your time, but getting an annual physical is more important than anything you will do on your sports field today or this week.
Consider this: If you don’t get an annual physical, you won’t know if your PSA rose sharply, which means further testing won’t be done to determine if you have prostate cancer. On the other hand, prostate cancer is very treatable if caught early, and survival rates are high.
Before I reached 40 I rarely went to the doctor. After I turned 40 I changed my approach, and now I go every year.
I can’t stress enough the importance of going to the doctor for an annual checkup. You don’t hesitate to take your car in for regular servicing, so you shouldn’t hesitate to do the same for your body.
Unfortunately, that’s what happened to my brother. He didn’t go to the doctor as much as he should’ve for checkups and physicals. When he finally did because he wasn’t feeling well, they discovered he had prostate cancer that had spread to other areas of his body.
Amazingly, he has been living with the cancer for more than five years. He received treatment, some of it experimental, and he’s making the best of his situation.
My brother isn’t the only guy on the planet who doesn’t like going to the doctor. Men, especially, come up with any excuse they can to avoid the doctor’s office.
They’re too busy, they say. Or they don’t have a regular doctor so they don’t know who to go to.
Then there are guys who say, “I feel fine,” so they don’t think they need to go to the doctor. Or they’re nervous, which is clearly evident when they say, “I don’t like doctors.”
The sports field management industry is comprised mostly of men. I can see sports field managers making every excuse in the book not to go to the doctor, especially playing the I’m-too-busy card.
Please … take the time to go to the doctor annually. Don’t set yourself up for some bad news.
If you haven’t been in a few years, make an appointment today.