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Friday, Jul 25, 2014
Commentary

What men don’t talk about might kill them

Published:

“Knowledge is power.”

— Frequently attributed to Sir Francis Bacon

I have prostate cancer. Let’s talk about that.

No? Because the topic makes you uncomfortable? Squeamish? Embarrassed?

Tough!

Some men drone for hours about football or golf or cars but act as if discussing prostate cancer would result in their own disease diagnosis. They act like children who close their eyes and think that they’re hiding.

Unfortunately, men who refuse to acknowledge prostate cancer also frequently refuse to get tested. The screening for prostate cancer is a painless, early-warning system. Caught early, prostate cancer can be arrested. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), prostate cancer has a five-year survival rate of nearly 100 percent. Most men diagnosed with prostate cancer will not die from it.

However, caught late, prostate cancer is much more serious.

According to the ACS, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, following skin cancer.

One in six men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. The odds are worse for African-American and Hispanic men. For them, it’s one in three.

About 238,590 new cases of prostate cancer were diagnosed last year.

I was one of them.

I received my diagnosis on Nov. 1, the same day as my annual Richard’s Run for Life that has raised $1 million for cancer research. It’s ironic, isn’t it?

Despite my diagnosis, I feel blessed. I do. Please understand that I’m not naïve or unrealistic about my cancer. I am, though, positive and a man of great faith. I’m happy because I choose to be. Some men might ask, “Why me?” I say, “Why not me?”

My cancer is a non-aggressive form. I know I’m going to die of something, but prostate cancer isn’t it.

For many years, my family and I have supported cancer research, including the Advanced Prostate Cancer Collaboration at Moffitt Cancer Center.

Four years ago, I did the initial Gonzmart Family Foundation Father’s Day Walk to raise money for prostate cancer research and increase awareness of the disease. I have been praying for a prostate cancer survivor to be my spokesman for this year’s Father’s Day Family Walk/Jog, which will be staged near my new Ulele restaurant in Tampa Heights on June 15.

My prayers were answered. I can now speak about prostate cancer from personal experience. For additional support, my friend, four-time Boston Marathon and four-time New York Marathon champion Bill Rodgers, who is a prostate cancer survivor, is coming to Tampa to speak about this important issue.

Through this event, I hope to raise additional money for prostate cancer research.

Through my actions, I hope to raise awareness, not only for men to get screened routinely starting at age 50, but also that life continues.

Picking up the torch

“Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive, and risking to be alive and express what and who we really are.”

— Don Miguel Ruiz

I will begin my cancer treatment shortly after I run the Boston Marathon on Monday. Following my treatment, I will begin a series of other marathons, including New York, Chicago and Paris, probably six races each totaling 26.2 miles in one year.

I recently thought my marathon running days were over. I’m older, slower, and more prone to aches and pains.

Because of this diagnosis, I’m reenergized and rededicated to running. I will not let prostate cancer change the way I live my life. I seek no pity and expect everyone to treat me as if I did not have cancer. I want to show in word and deed that cancer does not have to be a death sentence.

Tampa’s Robert Samuels was a tireless advocate for prostate cancer awareness. He died in November 2012. I plan to pick up that torch and carry it brightly.

On June 26 in Little Rock, I will be the keynote speaker for the annual fundraiser of the Arkansas Prostate Cancer Foundation, the only statewide organization of its kind.

In the meantime, I want to borrow one of that organization’s great ideas and encourage area high schools, colleges and pro sports teams to recognize September as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

In October, the NFL goes pink for breast cancer awareness, something that started with just one team in 1999 but extended to all teams by 2009.

That effort was jump-started by the sorority Zeta Tau Alpha.

Considering how devastating prostate cancer can be on African-American and Hispanic men, perhaps Alpha Phi Alpha, Phi Ioto Alpha or Delta Sigma Theta can play a similar role with a blue ribbon campaign, such as the one in Arkansas.

Those blue ribbons just might prompt men to start talking about this disease, and if they talk about it, they might get tested. If they get tested, they just might save their lives.

Let’s talk, shall we?

“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

— Apple’s Steve Jobs

Richard Gonzmart is the fourth-generation co-owner of the Columbia Restaurant Group, which includes the seven Columbia restaurants and cafes in Florida, Cha Cha Coconuts and the new concept Ulele, opening this spring in Tampa Heights. For information about Richard’s Father’s Day Walk/Jog For Dads, visit www.RichardsRunForLife.org. For information about the Advanced Prostate Cancer Collaboration, go to www.moffitt.org.

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