Prostate Cancer Survivor
At 55, U.S. Navy veteran Mike Crosby learned he had prostate cancer. The experience opened his eyes to an extraordinary lack of resources and awareness about this often-underestimated disease. His mission: to educate, promote preventive screenings and provide support.
A Simple Lesson That Could Save A Life
As a U.S. Navy veteran, I received most of my health care through the Veterans Health Administration (VA). But when I received a prostate cancer diagnosis in 2015, I discovered that men’s health, specifically prostate cancer, wasn’t a priority for the organization. They offered no resources and had no sense of urgency. Knowing I had to be responsible for my own health, I sought a second opinion elsewhere.
Fortunately, I have relatives in the medical field, and I received excellent advice that led to first-rate care. I had a non-surgical, non-invasive treatment in the form of a radiotherapy device that delivered extremely high doses of radiation in a very accurate way. After only five treatments, each just 30 minutes, I was declared cancer-free. I had very few side effects, and I was pleased with that treatment decision.
I was lucky to have the resources I did, but not all men are, and that resonated with me deeply. I felt obligated to improve the care and resources available for veterans, so two friends and I started the Veterans Prostate Cancer Awareness nonprofit organization.
One goal is to educate. Probably one of the biggest misconceptions is that it’s not worth worrying about, that something else will kill you before prostate cancer does. Although that may be true in some instances, it’s not a free pass. Timing is everything. Early-stage prostate cancer has many more treatment options and a more optimistic outlook than a late-stage diagnosis. The obvious solution is to get screened with regular PSA checkups and a digital rectal exam (DRE). One simple checkup could be a lifesaver, but men are notorious for not being that interested in their own health care, especially when it comes to something invasive like a DRE. Women, on the other hand, begin invasive medical appointments early in life, and they often take on the responsibility of coordinating the medical appointments for the family. So, we also appeal to women to encourage their husbands, partners, family members and friends to get screened.
We also emphasize that prostate cancer is a relationship disease. It was never just my diagnosis. It affected my wife because she is my caregiver. Some men have a hard time talking about private things, whether they’re related to bodily functions or sex. And when something is off in those areas, it’s even more uncomfortable, so it’s important to be open about it. If you aren’t, it can be a real relationship killer.
I learned I carry the BRCA2 gene, which could, in turn, increase my daughter’s risk for many types of cancer. When I shared my genetic testing results, she said, “Give me the knowledge, Dad, and we’ll figure it out.” And though we aren’t blood relatives, my stepsons took the proactive approach and scheduled PSA tests.
Three years after my original diagnosis, I had a recurrence. Covered under the VA Mission Act, I had the same treatment. I’m currently in the “watch and wait” phase with quarterly PSA exams, watching the numbers reduce to zero.
We recently expanded our reach by joining forces with ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer. We are essentially the new “Veteran’s Division” within the organization. Our goals are still the same, we just have more resources behind us. I couldn’t be happier. We are joining the 47 ZERO community walk/run events across the United States and more to raise awareness and help veterans – and all men – become educated about prostate cancer.
To all the men reading this, it’s time to advocate for your own health. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for your kids or your grandkids.