Max Wade in 2016, before his recent prostate cancer diagnosis and need for a pacemaker. File photo.

Truer words may never have been spoken: “Men don’t like to go to the doctor.”

Max Wade, 46, wasn’t the first guy to say that, nor will he be the last. But this big, strong, former high school football star is glad he did, because if he hadn’t, he wouldn’t have discovered he had prostate cancer.

Wade underwent surgery for that Thursday at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque.

Prostate cancer doesn’t care who its victims are: Black or White, young or old, athlete or weakling.

According to mayoclinic.org, prostate cancer is one of the most common types of cancer.

Many prostate cancers grow slowly and are confined to the prostate gland, where they may not cause serious harm. But other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.

Prostate cancer detected early — when it’s still confined to the prostate gland — has the best chance for successful treatment.

Thus Wade is satisfied his case was detected early and his prognosis is great.

It’s not clear what causes prostate cancer, and Wade didn’t have any symptoms — in fact, prostate cancer’s victims are usually in their 50s.

But Wade decided to heed his late father’s advice.

“My dad had several cancers — skin, prostate and colon cancer. Colon cancer is what he physically passed away from,” Wade said. “When he was going through all that, he said, ‘Don’t wait till you’re 70 years old to start getting checked.’”

So Wade, then in his early 40s, got checked.

“My surgeon said, he asked me when I went in, ‘Why were you even getting checked with the PSA levels?’ I told him the story of my dad — so the bar is moving,” Wade said. “If I would have waited till I was 50, he said the outcome wouldn’t have been good at all.

“Most cancers are curable if you get checked,” he said.

Then, Wade said, “In late 2020, I guess, my doctor ran some PSA (prostate-specific antigen) levels on my blood and said they were high, but, ‘No reason to be concerned; we’ll check again in several months.’

“In my next tests, the PSA levels were higher,” Wade said, hearing from his doctor, “For a 46-year-old, your PSA levels are really high.”

“I did a biopsy and it showed I did have prostate cancer,” he said. “The ‘funny thing’ is, I was having trouble with my heart as well. I passed out several times and wasn’t feeling good.”

Wade had an operation in 2008 to repair a faulty heart valve, which he’d been born with.

So, he said, at the end of August 2021, “They rushed me to the hospital; they did emergency surgery to put a pacemaker in, so my prostate surgery was delayed so they could take care of my heart first.”

Wade still has a cheery disposition: “The timing of things worked out pretty well. I was in a bad state with my heart — for a good almost six months, I wasn’t able to do the physical work.”

Two weeks after getting the pacemaker, his energy was back to levels he hadn’t experienced in a long time.

He was restricted when it came to any lifting motion but was happy to “be back in time for Pumpkin Patch. …  The Pumpkin Patch went well,” he said of the popular fall annual event staged at City Center.

“It’s been kinda a tough deal for the whole family … me basically almost dying from my heart, then hearing I had cancer,” he said.

He has a wife, Michelle, and four children, three of whom are adults and the youngest of whom is a teenager.

“I have not had indicators (of cancer),” he said. “If I hadn’t had the blood test for my heart, I wouldn’t have known. I just wanted to be checked because I didn’t want to go through what my dad had gone through.

“Cancer is a scary word,” he said. “We feel like it’s gonna get taken care of.”

Wade said it was recommended that he not undergo chemotherapy and/or radiation as he recuperates “because I’m so young, or I could be worse off.”

Following his Dec. 2 surgery, he said, “I’ll have restrictions for two to four months. They’re going to cut through in five different places in my abdominal wall, and hernias are a very common problem after that … so I won’t get released for physical activity for four months.”

Wade’s message for men is simple: Don’t wait until it’s too late.

“I really think the bar needs to be changed to at least 40 (for a checkup),” he says. “I’ve been in contact with some other groups, and there are a lot of men in their 40s getting hit with prostate cancer; the doctors still think 50 is the age.”

He believes men should get a basic PSA test and a colonoscopy at 40 years old.

“It’s not a very dignifying thing for men to do, and that was the thing with my dad,” he said. “Men don’t like to go to the doctor, anyway, but with prostate cancer (detection), it’s a simple blood test. It’s not a silver bullet.”

During his ordeal, Wade has maintained a presence on social media, with updates on his health and feelings. He said the resultant feedback has been helpful — “I think it’s huge.”

If he helps even just one man get an early detection of prostate cancer, his story here will have been worth it.

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What doctors know about prostate cancer: (from cancer.org)

Most prostate cancers are found early, through screening. Early prostate cancer usually causes no symptoms. More advanced prostate cancers can sometimes cause symptoms, such as:

  • Problems urinating, including a slow or weak urinary stream or the need to urinate more often, especially at night;
  • Blood in the urine or semen;
  • Trouble getting an erection (erectile dysfunction or ED);
  • Pain in the hips, back (spine), chest (ribs), or other areas from cancer that has spread to bones; and/or
  • Weakness or numbness in the legs or feet, or even loss of bladder or bowel control from cancer pressing on the spinal cord.

Most of these problems are more likely to be caused by something other than prostate cancer. For example, trouble urinating is much more often caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a non-cancerous growth of the prostate. Still, it’s important to tell your health care provider if you have any of these symptoms so that the cause can be found and treated, if needed. Some men might need more tests to check for prostate cancer.

What else is known about prostate cancer victims? (from mayoclinic.org)

Older age. Your risk of prostate cancer increases as you age. It’s most common after age 50.

Race. For reasons not yet determined, Black people have a greater risk of prostate cancer than do people of other races. In Black people, prostate cancer is also more likely to be aggressive or advanced.

Family history. If a blood relative, such as a parent, sibling or child, has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, your risk may be increased. Also, if you have a family history of genes that increase the risk of breast cancer (BRCA1 or BRCA2) or a very strong family history of breast cancer, your risk of prostate cancer may be higher.

Obesity. People who are obese may have a higher risk of prostate cancer compared with people considered to have a healthy weight, although studies have had mixed results. In obese people, the cancer is more likely to be more aggressive and more likely to return after initial treatment.

 

 

About the author

Gary Herron | Observer staff writer