Why I’m Speaking Up About Prostate Cancer
I Didn’t Know How to Tell My Family
Despite all of my preparations, I was still unprepared for that diagnosis. It took time for me to process what the doctor said, and what it might mean for my future. I knew I had to tell my family and have some serious conversations with my doctor, but I didn’t quite know how to go about any of it. I had always been very willing to speak up about prostate cancer — until I had it myself. For the first time, I couldn’t find my voice.
My family is my world, so the thought of telling them about my diagnosis was overwhelming. I didn’t want to scare them. It was so tough for me to tell my kids, including my son Ken Griffey Jr., that their mom ended up doing it for me.
Once we were open with each other, an amazing thing happened: We banded together and got through it as a family. Together, we became more educated about prostate cancer, and even my grandkids pitched in. Looking back, I can’t imagine going through this journey without them.
When It Comes to Sexual Health, Men Clam Up
One of the biggest lessons I learned after my diagnosis is that health issues, especially those that are cancer-related or linked to sexual health, can be very uncomfortable for men to talk about. When it comes to prostate cancer, it’s hard for men to admit they have this kind of a problem.
I have seen this firsthand: Only after my prostate cancer was publicly announced did I learn that three of my golfing buddies also had prostate cancer. They hadn’t felt comfortable sharing the information until it had made headlines with me. But the reality is that no one should be scared to speak up about their health.
I'm fortunate that my doctor caught my prostate cancer early, and that I responded well to treatment. But not every man will be so lucky, and there are times when prostate cancer advances and becomes life threatening. For these men, staying silent can cost them their lives.
Recognizing Advanced Symptoms
Prostate cancer has touched so many around me: my uncles, my golf buddies, and — just recently — my younger brother. Because of that, I joined Bayer’sMen Who Speak Upcampaign to help men be empowered to talk about their advanced prostate cancer symptoms.
Through my partnership with Bayer, I learned a lot of new things about the disease that I had never really thought about before, such as how it can progress, and what symptoms are associated with that progression. Some of those symptoms, such as fatigue, difficulty walking or sleeping, unexplained pain, or difficulty doing normal activities, often don’t emerge until the disease has advanced. What’s more, the cause of these symptoms is not always obvious.
Doctors can help men recognize the symptoms of advanced prostate cancer and manage their disease — but only if men are willing to speak up about them.
It’s My Turn to Help Others
My family had to really push me at first to share what I was going through back when I was first diagnosed. During Men’s Health Month (June) and beyond, I want to do the same for other men.
As part of theMen Who Speak Upcampaign, I’ve been touring the country to share my story and encourage men, especially those with advancing prostate cancer, to talk to their doctors if they notice any changes in how they’re feeling. Being open with loved ones and doctors can make a big difference in how the disease is managed.
I still have frequent checkups and keep close tabs on my body, flagging any symptoms for my doctor that I’m concerned about. It’s a part of my health routine that I’m committed to.
My message to all men is simple: Make your health a priority, and allow your loved ones to help. It made all the difference in my personal journey, and it can have a large impact on yours.
Ken Griffey Sr.is a three-time baseball all-star, a prostate cancer survivor, and a spokesperson for Bayer’s Men Who Speak Up program, which encourages men with advanced prostate cancer to know the symptoms of progressing disease and offers resources to help them feel more comfortable speaking up about it.
Photo provided by Bayer.
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