TAMPA, Fla. — Prostate cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer among men. It doesn’t have to be deadly, but it often is when gone untreated. One famous musician is looking to change that by combining his rock and roll past with an educational campaign.
According to the CDC, one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. Now there’s a push to make more men aware of the dangers of prostate cancer and the importance of regular screenings, especially if prostate cancer runs in your family, you’re African American, or over the age of 50.
“I’m a prostate cancer survivor, my brother is a prostate cancer survivor, our father died of prostate cancer. So, it’s obviously something that is very near and dear to our hearts,” said Jay Jay French, the founder and lead guitarist of the hard rock band Twisted Sister.
While he can still rock with the best of them, Jay Jay’s focusing his energy now on a national education campaign called, “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” playing off Twisted Sister's most famous song.
The campaign raises awareness about the importance of screening and early detection of prostate cancer. This is important to him because he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018.
“I certainly didn’t want to hear it, but I knew if it happened what I was going to do and how I was going to deal with it because I prepped myself for it.”
Jay Jay said it was hard talking about his diagnosis in the beginning.
“I didn’t want to talk about it for the first year. Honestly, I just was like, maybe people will think less of me or something and then after about a year, I said ‘this is stupid.’ I said, ‘if you don’t like me, you’re not going to not like me because I have prostate cancer,” French said.
French is not alone when it comes to talking about his health in public, especially among men.
“We don’t feel like we have a problem until we really have a problem,” said Dr. Julio Pow-Sang, a prostate cancer specialist with Moffitt Cancer Center.
Dr. Pow-Sang said men are less likely than women to talk about their health. He also said African American men, especially, need to take prostate cancer screenings seriously.
“There’s a disparity with African Americans having twice the rate of cancer and being more likely to die because of cancer,” Dr. Pow-Sang said.
Many in the medical field believe that Black men are more likely to die from prostate cancer due to factors such as lack of health care, which results in fewer screenings, and distrust of the medical community.
Ron Rook was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018 and he turned that negative into a positive by starting a prostate cancer support group in the Tampa Bay area with people who went through treatment with him.
“You have a bonding when you go into that stress for nine weeks and you don’t know what’s going to happen to you. So, you kind of open up to each other and you tell them things you would never tell anybody,” said Rook.
There are about 12 people in the group and they try to meet every three months.
“We go to a restaurant one time, the next time we go to somebody’s house,” Rook said.
They had to stop meeting during the pandemic. But Ron said they plan on meeting up soon to continue their life-long friendship forged over them all beating prostate cancer together.
As for Jay Jay, music will always be his first love, but he also has a passion for getting the word out about prostate cancer in order to save as many people’s lives as possible.
“And if I could be a spokesperson and say ‘Guys, get on with it! Learn about it. Advocate for yourself. Talk about it.’ Then, I’ve done my job.”
More information about prostate cancer and how you can go about getting a screening