When I was in sixth grade I learned that my grandfather had prostate cancer. I was told that if he had to get cancer, that one was the best one because it was treatable. Thankfully he was cancer-free for many years. The summer before I graduated from college we were given the bad news, his cancer had returned and this time it was in the bones. Sadly, he died less than two months later.
When I was asked to interview NFL Hall of Famers Mike Haynes and Deacon Jones about prostate cancer, I jumped at the chance. Not only are they tremendous athletes that I’ve always looked up to, but they’re incredible people who are helping to bring more awareness to a disease that my family and I (and millions of families around the world) despise.
NFL Hall of Famers Mike Haynes and Deacon Jones “Secretary of Defense” joined journalist and blogger, Candace Rose Anderson of the website Candie Anderson for an interview to discuss the impact prostate cancer has had on their lives and how the AUA Foundation & NFL’s Know Your Stats campaign is bringing awareness to prostate cancer.
Candace: I actually lost my grandfather to prostate cancer, it’ll be five years next Wednesday (today) so this is an important cause to me as well.
Mike Haynes: “Well, great. I’m sorry that you lost him, but I’m sure you understand what we’re up against.”
Mike Haynes On How His Prostate Cancer Was Detected
Candace: Oh absolutely. Mike, I’ll start with you. You have an amazing story on how your prostate cancer was detected; do you mind telling us a little bit about it?
Mike Haynes: “Well, for me in 2008 at the Pro Hall of Fame. If you’ve never there you’ve got to go. It’s a place where your can learn all about the great sport of football and the great players that played the game. There the NFL (National Football League) and the American Urological Association Foundation were kicking off a free screening campaign that they were starting for retired players.
At the time I was an Executive at the NFL, so they had asked me to go down to do a public service announcement and while there I ended up doing the screening like everybody else. So everyone there going through the screening was interviewed by the doctor and he asked me some questions that I’m embarrassed that I didn’t know the answer to. He asked what was my baseline PSA (prostate specific antigen.) I had never heard of PSA, I didn’t even understand the concept of having a baseline PSA and then when he gave me the stats that one in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime and more than half the men that get it are going to be African American; and more than half the men that die from it are going to be African American, I was alarmed. I said ‘how can so many men get this disease and I’m an African American man, and I’ve never heard of that.’ He said he didn’t know the answer to that.
It scared me enough that when I got back home I called my primary care doctor, he looked at my chart, saw that I indeed had a spike over the last two years; recommended a biopsy for me and the biopsy showed that I had cancer in 9 of the 12 places that they checked on my prostate. So for me my journey starts there with that and with the help of my wife and family I’ve been able to get through all of this, but it started for me right there.”
Deacon Jones On How He Got Involved In Know Your Stats
Candace: Deacon, can you tell us about your role in the initiative and how you got involved in the Know Your Stats About Prostate Cancer campaign?
DJ: “Well, you know my problem goes back 18 years and I’ve been a survivor for 18 years. When I first detected there was not anything out there; nothing I can point to that anybody out there who was around during that period of time would acknowledge, help them with discovering prostate cancer because there was nothing. My father, in 1972 died with it. I had a problem with that because I was trying to forget that, my father was very important to me and so while trying to forget that scene, I forgot the one thing that I’m sure my father would have wanted me to remember and that was prostate cancer because there was no cure, there was no detection mechanism when he went down with it. So, I got mine 18 years ago because Rosey Grier called me up and he asked me if I was taking the PSA (that’s when it first came out) and I said ‘well, what is the PSA’ like anybody would, I guess. And so by putting that into my physical every year, the second year I caught it and I went out then and found myself the best surgeon I could and I got the operation and that was all that was open, and I was lucky enough to bounce just right. I got the operation, it all healed; I wore the bag that Mike referred to for awhile and I didn’t leave home. I guess six to eight weeks I kept it on at that time and I didn’t leave the house because I was in there (praying) doing this, because I knew I had it and did we get that early enough and it took a little time to find that out. So we’ve come a long way in this thing and I’m just so happy that I can get the opportunity to come out here and spread the word and help spread the word with Mike.”
When Men With A Family History Of Prostate Cancer Should Get Screened
Candace: Mike, you mentioned the importance of early detection how it can save lives; at what age should men with a family history or those who are more susceptible to getting prostate cancer start getting screened?
Mike Haynes: “Well, that’s probably a better question for a doctor but what we’re recommending is guys start to talk to their doctor and get screened at age 40. If it runs in your family obviously you’re at higher risk but I think if you mention that to your doctor in your 20’s or 30’s that they’ll help you make that decision at the right time. But most importantly you got to know that it runs in your family, so we’re encouraging men to find out. I’ve actually talked to fathers and sons that have prostate cancer and the younger son doesn’t know much about it; he’s getting screened on a regular basis because it runs in the family but he doesn’t know what the prostate does. He doesn’t know about all the different treatment options that are out there, so we’re trying to change that and try to make this a part of the conversation for men, so it’s not so uncomfortable to talk about.”
Mike and Deacon Talk Treatment Options
Candace: This question is for both of you. You’ve not only inspired fans all over the world with your brilliant Hall of Fame careers but you’re continuing to inspire countless others with this great cause. How did you come to a decision about treatment and what advice do you have for men who’ve recently been diagnosed?
Mike Haynes: “Well, we don’t have enough time to really talk about all of that.”
Candace: I wish we did!
Deacon Jones: “That’s going to be your doctor.”
Mike Haynes: “Most of those are for your doctor, and for me I chose robotic-assisted surgery; it was robotic surgery. We both had radical prostatectomies. Deacon had it because it was the thing to do at his time, now there’s way more options. Way more options. But after consultation with my wife and my doctor we decided on robotic surgery for me. But I don’t want; I’m not saying every man run out and get that surgery, I just want to encourage you to put it on your list because I had a great result. I had a great result and I think that it was a good outcome because I was the perfect candidate for that type of surgery, so have that conversation with your doctor.”
Deacon Jones Talks AUA Foundation and NFL
Candace: Deacon, what’s the connection between the AUA foundation and the NFL?
Deacon Jones: “We fit together because of situations like Mike and I. We’re out here and we’re from the same organization called football. We know we’ve got a lot of fans, we know we’ve got a lot of people who know us and especially with the Hall of Fame; things that have been bestowed upon us, so therefore we can get an audience. We can talk to people who may not necessarily talk to other people. I mean because this thing here; a lot of guys don’t like talking about it. A lot of guys don’t quite understand that before I would confront death, I would talk about this. This wouldn’t cause me no problems and it didn’t. And I got back before we had all this modern information but when it said prostate cancer it alerted everything I have because I knew my father had died with that and that I did not want. So, I mean it’s just what alerts you. I mean you can sit here and play the game if you want but it’s not recommended. I think that everybody should go and get a test; go to their physician. And I know life is a little tough now and you may not; some people may not be able to go to their physician but find a way to get it done and you got to do that.”
Mike Haynes: “And the National Football League is just doing an awful lot more for the retired players, that’s really it. Not only do they do prostate cancer screenings, they do screenings for heart disease and they find the right people to partner with and for prostate cancer, the right partner is the American Urological Association. And their foundation really works with us, real closely to get the right message out and to make sure our guys are doing the right thing because when Deacon Jones says ‘men get off your couch and go get screened,’ there’s men all over this country that are going to go do it. I cannot tell you and I’m sure he can do the same thing of how many people have told me that if not for me; a lot of these guys have been Raider fans or Patriot fans, if not for me and hearing my voice and guys like Deacon talking about this, they wouldn’t have done it. I’ve had wives who’ve said ‘ you guys allowed me to finally get my husband to go in.’ When I can say Deacon Jones went in and he’s a tough guy, they’ll go in and so we’re using our platform as Hall of Famers, as football players to reach out to football fans and fortunately there’s a lot of football fans across this country.”
Candace: Where can we go for more information about the campaign?
Mike Haynes: “The best place to go is KnowYourStats.org and you can learn everything about our campaign, the hospitals that are partnering with us around the country and what’s going on in communities where you’re located.”
Candace: Well, thank you so much. You’re both such an inspiration and I just love that you’re partnering up for this wonderful cause.
Mike Haynes: “Thank you. Thanks for having us on.”
Deacon Jones: “Thank you.”