My young, vivacious friend Hannah Martine was diagnosed with breast cancer in August. She’s just 29. She’s geared up for the fight of her life, though, armed with an amazing attitude, chemotherapy, surgery next spring, radiation, and drug hormone therapy for the rest of her life. Martine excitedly messaged me that she was going to the WWE Monday Night Raw ’rassling matches at Valley View Casino Center. She went into the ring with WWE stars to be recognized as one of San Diego’s tough cookies who can’t be beaten.
Cool cat Steve West is a veteran DJ at FM 94.9. He got the news in July 2004 that he had aggressive, stage-3 prostate cancer. After surgery, radiation and two clinical trials he’s still monitoring the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels in his blood. West has a tradition of doing a 50-hour, on-air marathon broadcast during which he auctions off items to raise money for Movember. That’s the 12-year-old charity fundraising effort where guys grow mustaches during the month of November to draw awareness to prostate cancer and men’s mental and physical health issues.
The last few days of October are an interesting nexus for cancer awareness. It’s near the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and is the launching pad for Movember. Are the pink ribbons for women and the hairy, upper-lip ribbons for men so much wrapping on an empty box? The NFL gets flak for its style-over-substance effort to have players accessorize in pink cleats and gloves on the field, without anything backing it up, such as a directed campaign about early detection. ESPN has reported that only 8 percent of money spent on pink NFL merchandise actually goes toward cancer research.
You can argue that the NFL does keep awareness at the forefront. But shift ribbons for a moment and consider the effort my friend Chad Little puts into prostate cancer awareness. In 2006 his dad, Harry, was diagnosed with the disease. Today, Harry Little is 70, had his prostate removed and has gone through extensive radiation and hormone treatments. He’s stage 4, and the cancer has spread and metastasized.
Chad Little is one of San Diego’s leading volunteer salespersons waving the flag about prostate cancer. He tirelessly mans an informational booth at events for the group Pints for Prostates, which shrewdly uses beer to grab guys’ attention. And, he’s written to, cajoled and convinced nearly every city council in San Diego County to create one of those whereas-y proclamations declaring support of the fight against prostate cancer. (Notice I wrote “nearly” every city council. Wud up, Carlsbad?) Kudos to El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells. He granted that city’s proclamation at Little’s behest and also pledged to grow a moustache—his first-ever—this November in support of the Movember cause.
Every ’stache creates awareness. One in seven U.S. men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime and 233,000 men got that diagnosis in 2014, according to the Movember Foundation.
About 25,000 males will die each year from a disease that does not have to be fatal.
In 2015 there will be more than 230,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women in the U.S., according to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. More than 40,000 women in this country will die of breast cancer this year.
My friends West and Martine are both familiar with the statistics. Both say the same thing when talking about the benefit of organized, mass-awareness campaigns: They can promote early detection. Because it’s never too early to check in with a doctor. And it doesn’t matter what restroom you use. Or what month it is.