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By Chas Rodgers
| December 5, 2018
In April of 2013, on my 45th birthday, my life changed forever. I received a call from my new doctor after my routine annual physical asking me to come back to the office. I’ve been going to get my physicals for over 20 years. I often give the staff advise on workouts or fitness-related things. I’ve been a professional fitness coach, instructor, and trainer since my days with the U.S. Navy. Yet on this day, none of that—my fitness level, my faith, my history—seemed to matter. I cannot begin to describe what hearing the words “you have cancer” does to your spirit.
I was a fit father of three awesome kids, now 16, 14, and 12, blessed with a supportive mother for them, a great home, loyal friends, and all the trappings of a great American life. Then, I was informed I had prostate cancer—about which I knew very little. So, I cried. Then, I went to work researching, calling and getting opinions on the best way to go about treatment.
I found that as few as five years ago there was not as much information on prostate cancer as today, especially for young guys. Most people incorrectly think of this cancer as an older man’s disease, myself included. So I spoke with several cancer teams to learn everything: what a Gleason score was, what the prostate bed was, the DRE, and the radical prostatectomy. The challenge was learning what steps to take with this information and how I was going to live.
Over the past five years, I’ve seen and learned a great many things from my doctors and the researchers that I’ve met. This cancer is survivable; the treatments, procedures, and surgeries have improved in just the time I’ve been on this journey. I’ve traveled to Washington to advocate for funding and to continue to advance the cause of research for prostate cancer. The funding is lacking, and we have to stay on top of it so that more men can be informed and get help. I’ve gone through the tests, the surgeries, the radiation treatments, and the highs and lows that come with this journey. I’ve learned a great deal about what it takes to be a cancer survivor. In fact, I’m still learning every day.
Being of African American heritage, I’ve also learned that we as a people get this cancer at a higher rate—and it can be very aggressive. Many people I’ve spoken with live in fear of the diagnosis. If I can do anything to help those newly diagnosed, it would be to spread as much information as possible. Over the last few years I’ve done my fair share of advocating and it has been eye opening to share what I’ve learned and to connect with those going through a similar struggle. I’m still here today because I took action, asked questions, and came up with a plan.
I have been told I look good, and for that I’m grateful. It hides the fact that most nights I don’t sleep, that my manhood will never be the same ever again, that I still have days when I just sob on my own and don’t even want to move, my insides feeling like crap. Thank you for the hard work you and your team are doing in helping combat such a devastating disease. It gives me the strength to continue to fight and share my story with those who now need hope.
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Kaye’s letter: “It feels ironic that just as we were beginning to make plans for a family, I’m faced with incurable breast cancer.”