By Lawrence Aylward / Editorial Director
I sat in the 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 for me. He looked in my eyes and uttered the words I had hoped to hear.
“No cancer,” he said.
I breathed a sigh of relief.
Last May 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, which measures protein produced by cells of the prostate gland in the blood and is sometimes referred to as a tumor marker.
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 an urologist, who told me there was a 60-40 chance I could have prostate cancer. He conducted a biopsy a few weeks later to find out for sure.
My odds for prostate cancer are higher because my older brother has been battling it for five years. With prostate cancer, your chances of getting it are greater if an immediate relative has been diagnosed with it.
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 is 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? I don’t know.
I’m writing this column solely to remind you — especially those of you over 40 or 50 — 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 golf course 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 might not 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 every year for a checkup. You don’t hesitate to take your car in for annual 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 right, it was discovered he had prostate cancer that had spread to other areas of his body.
Amazingly, he has been living with the cancer for five years. He’s getting treatment, some of it experimental, and making the best of his situation, but he knows what he’s up against.
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 that they can to avoid the doctor’s office.
They’re too busy, they say. Or they say they don’t have a doctor so they don’t know who to go to.
Then there are guys who say they don’t go to the doctor because “I feel fine.” Or they’re just nervous of doctors, something that’s clearly evident when they say, “I don’t like doctors.”
The golf course maintenance industry is comprised of 98 percent men. I can see golf course superintendents 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.
Superintendent’s Lawrence Aylward can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-723-2136.