Midstate survivors color quest for prostate awareness

lfabian@macon.comAugust 31, 2014 

When it comes to promoting early detection of deadly cancer, blue is the new pink.

A team of midstate men, continually huddling to find the best way to convince men to have prostate screenings, is ripping out a page from the ladies’ breast cancer playbook.

In honor of National Prostate Health Month, there will be lots of blue ribbons on high school football fields during the third week in September.

“To promote prostate cancer awareness, the week of Sept. 22-27 will be observed as ‘Blue Week’ throughout our member schools,” GHSA Executive Director Gary Phillips said in a news release announcing the campaign.

The Georgia Prostate Cancer Coalition ordered 35,000 blue decals for players’ helmets. Officials will use blue penalty flags, and coaches will wear blue wristbands.

“We’re going to have a little groundswell from all over the state that we wouldn’t have had otherwise,” said Bill Buckley, a survivor who dedicates much of his time to saving others.

No matter where he goes, he asks men if they know their score.

Those who recognize him from his days as assistant manager for the Macon Whoopees hockey team in the 1970s might think he’s talking about sports, but he is talking about the results of a prostate-specific antigen test.

“The theme of ‘know your score’ and high school football is perfect,” said Buckley, who owns a farm in Wilcox County.

When the former WMAZ-TV news anchor mentions PSA, some folks think he’s talking about public service announcements, not the screening test that can give men the warning they need to survive a disease that kills 30,000 men a year.

As guys get together, talk often turns to sports so it makes sense to start tackling lack of awareness in the stands.

“Guys are afraid,” Buckley said. “They don’t want to go to the doctor, and we’ve got to get over that.”

Each month, the Middle Georgia chapter of the state coalition gathers for lunch to plan its strategy.

The group includes Telegraph columnist Ed Grisamore, whose late father suffered from prostate cancer.

Grisamore suggested the blue campaign.

“It didn’t start in Atlanta,” Buckley said. “All this started in Macon, Georgia.”

The group’s goal is to provide information about screenings from the loudspeakers and pass out materials to get the conversation going.

“When I had my prostate cancer, there was no group out there to talk to,” Harry Taylor said when the coalition met at Molly’s on Cherry Street last month. “There’s a lot of information out there now that guys might not have been aware of.”

The “Men to Men” support group meets at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month at The Wellness Center of Central Georgia, said health educator Charles Krauss, who also battled the disease.

The committee also is promoting prostate screening at the Iron Men’s Health Fair, Sept. 20, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Promise Center on Anthony Road.

“We kind of put it in a neighborhood where we think people really need it,” said Jimmy Mills Jr., who is chairman of the event committee.

Mills discovered prostate cancer through a routine checkup in 2001.

“That’s why I got involved, because I felt the good Lord wanted me to help the community. We do whatever we need to do.”

Taylor believes getting women involved will light a fire under reluctant males.

Paul Cable, another local survivor, said after his diagnosis his friends’ wives started urging their husbands to be screened.

Buckley said he can envision the loudspeakers blasting prostate cancer information during Friday night football games Sept. 26 and having ladies nudge their guys.

“We are going to start promoting something called the ‘sharp elbow’ where the spouse comes into play,” Buckley said.

The group hopes schools with teachers or family members touched by prostate cancer will expand activities beyond the games.

The effort launched a little late to get colleges involved to reach national television audiences.

Buckley ordered 5,000 extra stickers in hopes of signing up Mercer University, the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern University.

“My vision of that big blue ribbon on the Georgia Jumbotron, I dream about things like that,” he said.

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