One in seven men will get prostate cancer, but the odds are much higher for African-Americans. Not only are black men more likely to get it, they’re more likely to die from it. But it doesn’t have to happen.
“I never really paid attention to it, because like most men I figured it wouldn’t happen to me.”
Like many, Marcus Paige heard of prostate cancer but didn’t really give it a second thought until he found out he had it.
“Right then I lost it,” he said, “I was like, my whole life flashed in front of me. Self-pity started pouring out and I was like why. He was still talking but I wasn’t paying attention, cancer just shut down everything.”
There are no symptoms for prostate cancer. But there are risk factors. One: family history. Two: being African-American. Marcus falls into both of those categories. His father had prostate cancer.
“I was 40 when I was diagnosed.”
Erick was diagnosed at a young age. He and Marcus are brothers.
“When I found out that he had it, it shook me too because I knew there were two members in my immediate family that were diagnosed and I felt real uneasy myself,” Erick said.
“Prostate cancer is a very bigoted disease. We don’t know why, but black men die twice the rate of white men,” said Jim Williams.
Williams is a cancer survivor. He’s also the chairman of the Pennsylvania Prostate Cancer Coalition. He says black men need to pay better attention to their health.
“We don’t go to the doctor until we’re sick,” he said, “As you age waiting until there’s some signs might be too late.”
“I was the one that got on them. I said you guys need to get checked,” said Marcus.
Marcus and Erick’s brother Aaron followed that advice. He too was diagnosed with prostate cancer. But convincing others to get tested wasn’t as easy. There’s a perception it makes you less of a man.
“A real man does get checked, a real man does have his prostate checked, he doesn’t worry about the procedure or what you have to go through,” said Marcus, “If he cares about himself and he cares about his family he’ll get it done, that’s a real man.”
All three of the Paige men had surgery to remove their prostates. At times it was a struggle.
“I had a part of my body removed from me, men are like babies at times,” said Erick, “We want to portray a strong image, but inside we’re quaking and shaking.”
Erick says his family and faith pulled him through.
“I’m great now,” he said, “I get my checkups every year. I’m even past the 5 year point now.”
“I didn’t suffer any kind of letdown or depression or anything like that,” said Aaron, “I knew it was something that had to be done, I got it done. Hopefully I have no more cancer.”
Williams says until black men talk about this disease, they won’t be able to defeat it. He talks about it wherever he can, even at the barber shop.
“The audience is not happy about this,” said Williams, “They wanted to come and talk about all other things, the last thing they want to talk about is prostate cancer. But once the conversation starts it’s very very good.”
Marcus says it’s a conversation that will save your life.
“Basically what it all comes down to, self-awareness and not being afraid. Fear will put you in the ground.”
The Pennsylvania Prostate Cancer Coalition says spreading the word about prostate cancer is key.
For more information on prostate cancer awareness, go to paprostatecancer.org.