More than a decade ago, Peter Green was at home on the computer when he attempted to move the mouse, but nothing happened. “The messages I was sending from my brain to my hand were being met with no response from my hand,” says Green of Westport, Connecticut, who was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2005.
This prompted him to visit his doctor, which eventually led to the diagnosis that November. He then started chemotherapy in December that lasted eight months and afterward underwent 25 days of full brain radiation.
Had he not been more proactive, Green’s outcome could have been much worse. This is why it’s important for men to stay up on their health for preventive screenings, exercise and depression, while also encouraging friends and relatives to do the same.
Talk among yourselves
Guys can empower their male buddies and family members by sharing their personal health experiences, says Dr. Edward M. Soffen, a radiation oncologist in Princeton, New Jersey.
“Speaking about sensitive issues such as prostate and testicular cancer, depression and substance abuse can be difficult; and it’s certainly not uncommon among men,” he says. “Support groups and other resources exist to help men who may feel reluctant to discuss their health concerns navigate through these vulnerable situations in a trusting, compassionate and judge-free zone.”
Fostering an open environment in which men can exchange information, connect and form meaningful bonds helps create commonality, Soffen says.
“Everyone is fighting the same battle, and each member can reap the benefits of a strong support system, which may include feeling less isolated, improving one’s ability to cope with treatment and regaining a sense of empowerment,” Soffen says. “Men shouldn’t feel hesitant but instead empowered about exchanging health information in group settings — it may lead to discovering treatment options that weren’t previously considered and even rewarding, new friendships.”
Work out the worries
It’s important for guys to own their health and take preventive measures, such as routine exercising and making adjustments that promote a healthy lifestyle.
“Men can form communities that promote these health behaviors, such as a weekly jogging club or by developing a community garden,” he says.
Green’s cancer has been in remission for 13 years, and he is now founder of a company that helps people going through cancer treatment and life-after treatment. He says his chemo treatments along with a regular exercise routine helped him beat the cancer.
“My exercise program ... kept me physically strong, allowing me to endure my treatment better, and it gave me confidence,” Green says.
Al Morales, founder of the Yorkville Sports Association in Yorktown, New York, says it’s also easier to encourage annual exams and other important screenings with some firsthand experience.
“It all starts with you getting used to taking care of yourself,” Morales says. “One of the many questions you’re asked when you go in for your annual exam has to do with your family medical history. That’s a good reminder to look out for signs or indicators if there is history of certain conditions within your family.”
Green says don’t ignore the signs. It can be scary when something feels wrong, he says, but the sooner it’s addressed, the faster it can be treated.
“With cancer, it is critical to catch it as early as you can,” he says. “No one knows their body better than yourself, so don’t procrastinate. Face whatever fear you might be feeling because not facing it could lead to something much worse.”