By Myron Thompson
Celebrate, remember, fight back, hope and cure are key words for all who have been touched with the dreaded word “cancer”. For men, the words “You have prostate cancer” strikes fear or great concern to those given the diagnosis. Today, such devastating news means it is time to seek a cure, fight back as a warrior, and reach out for support in the new journey awaiting.
The Tacoma Prostate Cancer Support Group provides a community of caring individuals who willingly give support and education to the recently diagnosed person and those with an on-going battle with the disease. Information, books, and pamphlets on prostate cancer are available for free at the twice monthly meetings held in Tacoma.
Jack Hudspeth, support group facilitator, says that one extremely important aspect of the disease is to get tested early with a PSA test. Hudspeth said of the PSA test, “It’s the gold standard of prostate tests today”. He further adds, “While new tests are coming, this is the best we have today”.
Hudspeth is very adamant that the simple PSA blood test saved his life as it has with countless other men. He was diagnosed in 1997 with a rising PSA level. Further tests revealed he had aggressive prostate cancer, and without treatment he was headed for an early demise. He is now in his 70’s and walking laps at the 2012 Tacoma Relay for Life and participating in the annual Sound to Narrows walk. In October this charter member of the Tacoma Prostate Cancer Support Group hiked Mt. Si to raise money for prostate cancer awareness.
Tom Kirk, CEO of the UsTOO International Prostate Cancer Education and Support Network, mentioned at a recent Town Hall Meeting in Tacoma that men in their 40’s are being diagnosed prostate cancer. Many of these men whose cancer is caught too late will lose their lives. With early detection, most of these men would survive. Mr. Kirk addressed the recent US Task Force Report on Prostate Cancer Screening whose recommendation is to eliminate the PSA test for most men saying it is not needed. This same group recommended doing away with early mammograms for women. Now the PSA test for men is under fire from the same group.
Willie Stewart, also a facilitator, is a former teacher and administrator with the Tacoma Public Schools. He was instrumental in starting the Tacoma Prostate Cancer Support Group then known as Man To Man in 1990. Stewart remembers vividly the day he was exercising at the YMCA when he was urged to get a new test called the PSA. He decided to get tested which led to a diagnosis of prostate cancer. Early detection and surgery saved his life. As a man of African-American heritage, Stewart understands that men of his race are more prone to get prostate cancer than other races. Stewart prides himself in attending community health fairs to get his message heard.
Bob Freeborn is a current facilitator and chairperson of the Tacoma Prostate Cancer Support Group Steering Committee. He along with Jack Hudspeth and Willie Stewart invite noted health professionals from the greater Puget Sound Region to speak on the many aspects of prostate cancer and the resources available in the area.
The public is invited to the support group meetings held on the second Thursday and fourth Tuesday of each month. The Thursday meeting is a round table discussion addressing the newly diagnosed and/or those whose PSA is rising. The Tuesday meeting brings in experts to present their views and knowledge of prostate cancer and related health topics. Meetings are held at the University Place Presbyterian Church located at 8101 27th St. West, and start promptly at 6:00 PM. The next meeting will be held on Tuesday, November 27, 2012. The group does not meet in December. Men and women are encouraged to attend. There is no charge.
For further information go to www.tpcsg.info., or call Bob Freeborn at (253) 566-1651.
The unanimous cry goes out from TPCSG members, “Get the PSA test and become informed! It can help save your life.”