'I always thought it happened to someone else'
First in a Series
on the Relay For Life
Steve Hamilton has been involved in the Relay for Life before, but he always held a "detached view."
"I thought I had no reason to worry about cancer," he said.
This year will be different, though, after Hamilton was diagnosed with prostate cancer in April.
Still, compared with other cancer survivors, he feels lucky. The cancer was detected early and was still localized - treatment was relatively easy. He was diagnosed in the first part of April of 2002, had his surgery at the beginning of May, and had returned to work by mid-June.
"Early detection in my opinion is so important - it's key to a successful outcome," Hamilton said.
Hamilton never thought he was someone who could develop cancer - there is no family history and he exercised regularly, running or biking three or four times a week.
"I always thought it was something that happened to someone else," he said.
He had a PSA blood test a couple of years ago that tested high. He went back again this year, and tested even higher. While a PSA test cannot diagnose cancer, it is an indicator of whether cancer is there - the higher the PSA level, the more likely there is prostate cancer.
After his PSA test, Hamilton had a biopsy which tested positive for cancer.
Many people are shocked when they are diagnosed, but Hamilton felt he wasn't.
"I think I took it in stride," he said, noting that his biopsy results showed the cancer was still in a very early stage, and very treatable.
Hamilton urges men in their 40s and early 50s to have a PSA test. If he can't convince them, he hopes their wives can.
"I can't say this enough," he said. "Early detection is key."
The test is only a few minutes, and not as invasive or painful as some would have it, he said.
"There's no excuses for not having this done," he said.
But it can be a sensitive topic for men, and that much harder to get them into the doctor's office when so many consider themselves "bulletproof," Hamilton said.
According to the American Cancer Society, most prostate cancers grow slowly. It is the most common type of cancer for American men, and is the second leading cause of cancer death (lung cancer is first), according to the ACS web site, www.cancer.org.
If found early, prostate cancer survival rate is nearly 100 percent.
Hamilton feels his experience with cancer did not turn into an ordeal because it was detected early. "You use to think with cancer, you're a goner - it doesn't have to be that way anymore," he said.