Arnold Palmer Talks Openly About Prostate Cancer

Golf legend Arnold Palmer met with Eisenhower Medical Center Foundation President Michael Landes to discuss Arnie's own experiences with prostate cancer, his personal relationship with President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and his longstanding ties to the desert - all of which motivated him to lend his name to the new Arnold Palmer Prostate Center at Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center.

Golf Legend Arnold Palmer Talks Openly About Prostate Cancer
Golf Legend Arnold Palmer Talks Openly About Prostate Cancer

Michael: You and I have talked about the fact that we are both survivors of prostate cancer..., yet I'm 47 and you were diagnosed in your late 60's. What kind of cancer are we dealing with here?

Arnie: Let me tell you that when I had my surgery at Mayo Clinic, the guy in the room next door was a minister, 29 years old, and he was having radical surgery for prostate cancer. So, don't let anybody ever tell you, "Oh, when you get to be 50 or 60, you need to start having a PSA (prostate specific antigen) test." A 29-year-old had prostate cancer, and he's living and healthy now because they discovered it early, and they could do something about it.

Michael: PSA is a simple, low cost blood test, but it wasn't really until people like Arnold Palmer, Michael Milken, and others began raising awareness, and funds, that a greater population of men felt compelled to get tested.

Arnie: I was operated on in January 1997...they didn't take my life, they took my prostate. For six weeks, I suffered with the recovery of radical surgery. But, my life hasn't changed, except for my wife dying, which was a tragic thing for me, because she was my life. To lose her, was a tragedy for me, much more than my prostate cancer. But the fact is, I was able to enjoy my life then, and I am still enjoying it. As my wife said before she passed away, "Arnold, get on with your life." So, when men are scared, "I don't want to go have a PSA because I'm scared what they're going to find," that is the most stupid, ridiculous statement I have ever heard in my life! And I tell men that. And I will tell them....

Michael: Well, at Eisenhower, we are going to be real advocates for this, I promise you that. We serve one of the fastest growing areas in California, so we can truly make a difference, and we're looking forward to it.

Arnie: The future for treating prostate cancer is so great. It's very optimistic. When it was discovered that I had it, they said, "We've got to give you a biopsy." In those days, and this is just eight years ago, they did six samples of your prostate. Today, it's very rare for them to do less than 12.

Michael: I had 12.

Arnie: Some hospitals and some urologists recommend 14. When I had them, it was painful as hell. But now, they have a way to do them, that you don't feel a thing. You are reasonably comfortable.

Michael: Well, it is a shock for men. But you've got to face it, and you've got to take action, unless you're older and your doctor is recommending "watchful waiting." One of the wonderful things is the range of latest therapies. At the Arnold Palmer Prostate Center, one of our centers of excellence is brachytherapy - better known as radiation seed implants.

Arnie: Which is good.

Michael: You have options.

Arnie: Your choice.

Michael: As far as prostate cancer, your news for the men out there is...

Arnie: Very good. Get PSAs. It's simple, and should be done by every man when he's in his 20's. But you're talking about health and living...give the doctors a shot. A lot of people worry about something, they'll fret and know that something is bothering them, but they personally do not want to admit it to themselves.

Michael: Denial. I'm fortunate that my allergist, Dr. Sam Weiss, suggested that I have a PSA test..., and just as fortunate to have a great urologist, Dr. Marvin Brooks, calmly take me through all the testing up through educating me about treatment options. But, I think most men deny they could ever have the disease.

Arnie: They're in denial. Their life would be far better if they just talked to their doctor about it - like taking a PSA, or having a colonoscopy, or having your heart checked. It's not a big deal, if you do it regularly. That's health and living.

Michael: The last question, Arnie, what is the good life to you?

Arnie: Being healthy. Period. You can have all the things in the world you want, but being healthy is the good life.

Michael: Words of wisdom to live by.

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