Hearing that a loved one has cancer is one of the most heart wrenching things I've experienced. As the feelings of bewilderment and helplessness wash over, the reality and fear that comes with this unexpected news settles in -- could I lose this person I hold so dear? Like countless others, I've lived this story too many times. My best friend had breast cancer. Her husband had prostate cancer. And then cancer hit even closer to home. When my husband was diagnosed with throat cancer before the age of fifty, I knew I couldn't allow myself to think I might lose him. I wasn't about to let this terrible disease take another person I loved. So instead, I took control by taking action.
We cannot let ourselves be paralyzed by fear. We all have to take action in the fight against cancer. Of the many types of cancer, prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among men in the United States. With one in six men diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime, the disease currently affects more than two million men in this country.
What's even more heartbreaking than these statistics is that most men don't understand the risks surrounding prostate cancer, and they aren't taking the steps to educate themselves. Why is that? We all know a lot of men refuse to see a doctor about anything short of an emergency. But beyond that 'tough guy stereotype,' when it comes to many different types of cancer -- from colon to breast -- people can be incredibly sensitive due to anxiety, stigma or sheer embarrassment. In turn, this can make people, men in particular, reluctant to call on friends and family for support or seek help from a medical professional. We have to change that! (Early detection can dramatically increase your odds of beating prostate cancer.)
Men and their loved ones must take stronger actions to educate themselves about this disease. It's critical to have an open discussion with your doctor regarding any symptoms or signs, and when appropriate, screenings. Nearly 240,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year alone -- that averages around one new case every two minutes. We all have two minutes to spare. Let's use this time wisely and encourage the men in our lives to proactively talk to their doctors about prostate cancer.
When cancer becomes personal, our priorities change, our perspective shifts and the world around us comes into focus. Things that once seemed important in life suddenly feel trivial and fade away -- we find a greater purpose in what matters the most. I became an advocate in the fight against cancer because I understand and relate to the devastation and sense of loss that comes with the disease. I feel for others who wake up to a new day with a challenge that wasn't there the night before and the emotional and physical pain they must learn to navigate. So, I joined the movement to end cancer once and for all.
Stand Up To Cancer has teamed up with The Safeway Foundation to increase awareness and funds for the fight against prostate cancer by designing a reusable shopping bag, embossed with the words, "It starts with a wish; it can end with a cure." This bag is available for purchase at all Safeway banner stores and online at http://www.safewayfoundation.org/. Proceeds will support accelerated prostate cancer research.
When I think about how lucky I am that my husband survived, it only reinforces my dedication to taking action against this disease. My wish for every man faced with a cancer diagnosis is to have the same success story.