Dan Zenka, senior vice president of communications at the Prostate Cancer Foundation was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in 2010. He started
My New York Minute, within days of his original diagnosis to share information and patient perspectives and, most importantly, to encourage men to talk about prostate
I was well aware of the irony of my situation as soon as my urologist uttered the words “you have prostate cancer.” As he started dutifully to pencil out
treatment options, I stopped him and asked him to call in his surgeon. As he responded with a puzzled look, I said “Let me tell you where I work... I
understand all the numbers you shared. I understand the potential aggressiveness of my cancer.”
That discussion took place almost exactly two years after I had started heading up the communications efforts at the Prostate Cancer Foundation. In what my
wife calls my New York Minute, everything changed. I was faced with a prostate that had cancer in 50 percent of the gland. My Gleason Score was a
7 (4+3), more aggressive than a (3+4). Most of my biopsy core samples were 65 to 95 percent cancerous. At 51, I knew this could be bad news if I didn’t
choose a more aggressive plan of action. It all started with my annual PSA screening. While not incredibly high, my numbers had
accelerated, moving from 3.1 to 5.8—nearly doubling in a year’s time. My cancer was off and running and I wanted to catch it.
While still in the exam room, I was overcome with the realization that the communicator had become the subject. Having spent two years encouraging men and
their families to make prostate cancer something to talk about, I felt a clear moral responsibility to teach by example and use the opportunity to open up
The next day, as I broke the news to my staff, I closed by asking how soon we could get a blog up and running. With various incredulous looks, they said
two days at the most. We were up and running.
Nearly three years later, I’m still blogging, now as a Stage 4 patient with metastatic advance disease. My New York Minute (MNYM) has 60,000+ reads a year—twice as much as last year. Every time I hear from a
reader who thanks me for openly sharing my journey and insights, I end up thanking them and reminding them it’s a two way street. I get as much therapeutic
value out of the blog as some of my readers. Blogging and interacting with patients and caregivers from around the world has given purpose to my disease.
Getting men to talk about this disease has always been an uphill battle. They tend to neglect health issues, much less talk about them. When disease hits
them below the belt, it’s often the final guarantee that their lips are sealed.
My experience with the blog, social media, and chat rooms that deal with prostate cancer has convinced me that when provided with an opportunity to avoid
the old eyeball-to-eyeball support group circle and open up mostly anonymously on line, men will. In fact, it’s amazing how much, and in what detail they
are willing to talk. New media has created a new breed of men with new levels of openness. That’s a good thing for all of us on this cancer journey.