A Veterans Day Message About Prostate Cancer
I have noticed over the years a bit of confusion exists over the meaning of and differences between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. While there is some overlap, Memorial Day is a time to remember those who gave their lives for our country, particularly in battle, or those who have passed from the wounds suffered in battle. Veterans Day, on the other hand, honors all of those who have served the country in war or peace — dead or alive. Today Veterans Day is largely intended to thank living veterans for their sacrifices.
By way of background, I was never involved with the military. I went to college and then it was off to graduate school, and as luck would have it I found a great job. So, there never was any real exposure to the military until I reached the age of 70 and was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
The connection between prostate cancer and Veterans Day
At first the military and prostate cancer may appear to be an odd connection. But it is exactly the kind of connection that happens in life when you willingly open yourself up to being aware of the many opportunities that present themselves to all of us daily but are often missed in our rush to look elsewhere. Out of the blue I had received an invitation to attend a prostate cancer support group. While I initially thought, "Who needs a support group, sure," I unexpectedly ran into an opportunity. At the meeting, a guy casually mentioned the volunteer work he was doing with the Department of Defense and about the government’s involvement in prostate cancer research.
Apparently, due to exposure to toxic products like Agent Orange and others, the military was concerned with the growing number of military men who were being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Deep down they suspected some connections were being missed. During our conversation, I learned that the Department of Defense was spending over $100 million a year in grants to fund breakthrough projects that could potentially help veterans with prostate cancer1. And the good news did not end there. He went on to explain that in time the research findings and experience gained from these efforts are released to the public – meaning anyone diagnosed with prostate cancer may eventually benefit from these research efforts.
Reviewing the latest potential treatment developments
Currently each year I go to the Washington DC area to meet with scientists, researchers, medical statisticians, and physicians to discuss the latest potential developments in treating advanced prostate cancer. Prior to our group meetings, I read through and study between 30 and 40 scientific proposals and prepare my notes to make recommendations on each proposal. Once we gather, we discuss the various merits and failings of each proposal and vote on the merits of each grant request. Our recommendations are then forwarded on for additional consideration and eventual funding. And in case you are wondering, yes, the volunteers are well-treated and do receive a stipend for our time, as well as full reimbursements for all travel-related expenses.
How can I get involved?
Here is the good news: the Department of Defense is always looking for people who would like to get involved in this project. If you have an interest and want to celebrate Veterans Day in some new ways a couple of days a year, feel free to contact me through ProstateCancer.net. Once we chat, I can give you the needed connections to take the next steps.
Have you made personal connections through your journey with prostate cancer?