A Fun Way to Pay It Forward and Help Stop Prostate Cancer
The backstory to the 2018 Tour de USA. September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and I’m spending 23 days and 6,147 miles driving across the western United States for prostate cancer awareness.
A simple PSA blood test lets men find their prostate cancer early. In early 2018 we were nominated for a California Innovation award for developing our ProstateTracker early detection system. This road trip’s mission is to get more men using the system and to raise funds to keep it operating. If your family or someone you know has been touched by prostate cancer, please share this fundraising effort with them. We don’t need big donations; we just need a lot of small ones.
The Tour de USA Backstory
As many of you know, on May 3, 2018, I will be a 15-year prostate cancer survivor. I was diagnosed at age 58 when all of my prostate cancer test indicators were in the “normal” range: PSA blood test at 3.4; negative physical exam; no particular symptoms other than an occasional nocturnal visit to the bathroom.
In fact, though, I already had Stage II prostate cancer. My PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test results had been steadily rising over the preceding five years but I didn’t know to be watching it and I had gone through a series of family doctors and they hadn’t noticed the rise. The physical tests of my prostate were negative – doctors could not feel any abnormalities. It turns out this was the case because my tumors were located on the top of the prostate, just under the urethra, where they could not be felt during a physical exam.
A very fortuitous case of prostatitis – an inflammation of the prostate – caused my PSA to spike and led to my diagnosis. As a result, I think of myself as an “accidental” cancer survivor.
2014 – ProstateTracker.org Arrives
After my diagnosis and treatment, I scoured my medical records for past PSA tests results, plotted them in an Excel spreadsheet, and applied a trend line. Et violá, I clearly could see my PSA gently rising five years before my diagnosis, with a sharp rise during the final 24 months. Had I been tracking my PSA test results each year, my upward trend would have been clearly visible and I wouldn’t have had to rely on pure chance to survive my prostate cancer.
My experience led me to create a simple Online tool that tracks PSA values and plots them on a graph with a trend line, making any rising trend clearly visible. The tool is free to everyone on the Internet at ProstateTracker.org.
We have several thousand men currently using the App, but we need millions using it.
Prostate Cancer Symptoms and Statistics
- Prostate cancer is a silent killer. It usually presents no symptoms until it is at an advanced stage, at which point treatment options are limited.
- Prostate cancer is very treatable, but only if it is found early. I am now in my 14th year of prostate cancer survivorship and I’m only here because of my accidental early diagnosis.
- Roughly 240,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year.
- Almost 28,000 men die each year of the disease.
- The value of the PSA test has been debated hotly over the past decade, despite the fact that prostate cancer deaths declined after its introduction. A 2017 study concluded that PSA screening is valuable and does save lives. Read a summary at the following link: New Study Offers Support for Prostate Testing.
- The Cancer Journeys Foundation ProstateTracker App is a simple and free tool that lets men personally track their prostate cancer risk.
How We Can Use the System that Eradicated Smallpox to Stop Prostate Cancer Deaths
The TED video by Dr. Larry Brilliant in the right sidebar describes how smallpox was eradicated. The cliff note is that smallpox was accomplished through early detection and immediate treatment.
Using ProstateTracker, we can do the same thing for prostate cancer. Well, we can’t eradicate it since we don’t know the causes, but we can ensure that every man (one-in-six will be diagnosed) finds his prostate cancer at the earliest stage when it is most treatable.
2018 – The Key to Prostate Cancer by Mark Scholz, MD
I’ve just finished reading this book – I actually read it twice – and now I’m not so certain I would have needed treatment until now. Medical science has advanced since my diagnosis and treatment in 2003. Dr. Scholz’s book covers prostate cancer from A to Z in plain language we can all understand. I recommend this book as the very first step for every man newly diagnosed with prostate cancer.
The 2018 Tour de USA for Prostate Cancer Mission
Our 2018 route is the western United States, from Los Angeles through Colorado to Lincoln, Nebraska, and back to Los Angeles through Montana, Iowa, Washington state, and Oregon.
How You Can Help
We are a small non-profit with no paid staff. Just myself, my board, and an intern when I can find someone between jobs. Here are some of the tasks we need accomplished . . .
- People driving with us. Join us for a section of the route in your state, tell your network about the event, and point them to our website and Facebook page.
- Arrange a media event in your locale – if we come through. Short TV interviews or radio spots are a great way to get the message out. We have a donated press release service that can support you. I tried to arrange these sessions on the fly when I rode across the US in 2010, and it was super hard without a local connect.
- Reach out to your local Mazda dealership and see if they would like to have the convoy visit their location [again, it the route comes through your town.] This is a great opportunity for dealerships to support cancer awareness. I will be driving my personal MX-5 Miata that I “stickered” up for our autocross awareness program, so it will make good viewing.
- Be a route coordinator for your state. We want to drive some of the most fun and interesting roads in each state to encourage people to drive with us. Think about driving to the top of Pikes Peak.
- Help us find marshaling areas along the route where 50-100 cars could meet.
This is a big undertaking and I can use any and all help.
Why the Tour de USA Rally Matters
Almost 28,000 American men die each year from prostate cancer. Imagine the impact on families if we can extend the lives of that cohort by 5, 10, or 20 years. I’m at 14 years and counting!
Our goal with the Tour de USA is to create an annual road rally that will prostate cancer and cancer survivors what the Rolling Thunder motorcycle ride to Washington, D.C. did for Vietnam POWs.
2018 is Year 1 of the Tour de USA and we are going for dual World Records: 1) longest charity road rally and 2) charity road rally with the most participants. I hope you will have time to be part of it in some way.
If you think you can help, please complete the contact form below. I commit to never sharing your email with any other organization. You won’t receive a stream of emails and you can opt out at any time. You can do the same if sign up to volunteer and something happens that you can’t.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post and for considering our volunteer offer.
Prostate Cancer Class of 2003
Connect with me on LinkedIn: RobertWarrenHess