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'Don't think it can't happen to you because you're young or because you're in good shape. Yes, it does mostly happen to men 65 and over, but I ask men, 'Do you really want to take that chance?' - Stan "The Man" Musial

Hall of Famer goes to bat to educate others about the dangers of prostate cancer

By REBECCA COUDRET
Evansville Courier & Press staff writer
Monday, August 23, 2004

Stan Musial, the legendary St. Louis Cardinals' left-fielder with a .331 lifetime batting average, will be in Evansville Saturday to speak to men - and their wives, girlfriends and mothers - who really need to heed his message: "Early diagnosis of prostate cancer can save your life. It's that simple." he said in a call from his home in St. Louis. "We need to reach men, but we also need to make sure the women in their lives pay attention.

"The sooner you know, the better your chances are of beating it. And don't think age means your safe. Most men are over 65 when they're diagnosed, but the disease can hit men pretty young, too, especially if it's in your family,"

Musial, a self-deprecating, surprisingly humble, nearly 84 year old Hall of Famer, is a 15 year survivor of prostate cancer. "I was diagnosed in 1989, and I'm lucky to have had excellent treatment," he said. That said, he acknowledges that oncological research has 'done a lot since my time. One of the best things is they've really gotten the word out; people are so much more willing to talk about it.

"For a lot of years, it was a 'hidden disease.' Nobody wanted to talk about it much, so that meant fewer men were getting checked. I'm thankful that I can (talk with men) after all these years since my diagnosis and treatment.

"A lot of men waited too long to be tested, and they aren't here to enjoy their lives."
For young men, having prostate cancer in the family increases their risk of getting the disease. And the death rate is about twice as high for African-Americans as for Causcasian men. Genetics and race are two of the most important reasons early detection is essential, said Robin Lawrence- Broesch of the Evansville Cancer Center, which is sponsoring Musial's appearance here.

"When you're a young man, you want to just enjoy life and not think about things like prostate cancer," Musial said. "But we have to get the word out that to continue to enjoy life, to live longer, you have to be checked - regularly."

Musial, who retired from baseball in 1963, said he" could be somewhere every weekend of the year" because of his memorabilia business, but said he doesn't do that much anymore.

"I keep trying to retire, but they won't let me! But it's not easy to travel anymore. My wife has arthritis allover, and I don't like to be away from her for long - and it isn't easy for her to travel. So I don't do too many appearances anymore."

He does, however, try to travel to cities like Evansville for a reason he says is "far more important than remembering yesterday."

"If you want to have a long, long life and look back on countless 'yesterdays,' you have to do this," he said.

"It's important to know that there have been so many improvements since I (was diagnosed). Doctors are always coming up with new treatments."

Musial admits it was "kind of shocking - no, actually, it was really shocking - to find out I had cancer. I'd always been in good physical condition. Even lifter I quit playing ball, I stayed in good condition. So it wasn't something I expected to hear."

And that, he said, is an important message. "Don't think it can't happen to you because you're young or because you're in good shape. Yes, it does mostly happen to men 65 and over, but I ask men, 'Do you really want to take that chance?"'

Musial said it's vitally important to "find doctors you trust and then listen to what the doctors tell you. In my case, the doctors recommended surgery.

"Listen to them - before and after the surgery. I had the operation (to remove the tumor) and then I had radiation. "It wasn't always pleasant, but it was better than dying."

He said he thinks it's important for well-known individuals to speak out when they've been diagnosed. "Some of my good friends have been through this - Joe Torre, Bob Gibson, Yogi Berra. They've gone through it and have done very well.

"But you won't do well if you don't find out early. Cancer is an ugly thing, but you can defeat it if you find out about it before it advances. Nobody likes the thought of that exam, but if it saved my life, it can save yours.

"Isn't that all that counts?"




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