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Mike Haynes’ Cancer Victory

In football, you have to dig deep to beat the competition. You have to muster up that last little bit of strength, to push past your opponent, and ignore the aches of exhaustion that come with taking hard hits, tackling opponents and running up and down the field.

Veteran NFL star Mike Haynes has participated in hundreds of sports battles in the form of games, but eight years ago, the retired cornerback and 2008 Hall of Fame recipient faced his biggest challenge — off the field.

“In the Summer of 2008, I was asked to have a prostate cancer screening test done,” Haynes recalls. “I was working for the NFL at the time and was asked to help get guys to a health screening that the Urology Care Foundation was offering.”

As a result of that screening, Haynes discovered he had prostate cancer.

“They found cancer in 9 out of the 12 places they checked on my prostate,” says Haynes. “Fortunately, I was with my wife when I found out I had prostate cancer. I was numb and I couldn’t believe that this was happening to me.”

In this exclusive interview, Mike Haynes talks about the importance of Black men staying on top of their health, and shares the story of how he became victorious over the life-threatening illness.

JET: A Hall of Fame induction is a pretty big deal for obvious reasons, but it turns out that your monumental moment actually saved your life.

Mike Haynes: It was during that screening [at the Hall of Fame] when I learned more about the prostate, including what it did, where it was located and such risk for prostate cancer. The great thing about the process was my cancer was found early, so based on conversations with my urologist and my family, I had time to make the best decision about my treatment plan.

JET: I think a large part of people, particularly Black men, not taking their health seriously is a lack of info. Can you give us some facts about prostate cancer? Just how deadly is it?

Mike Haynes: 1 in 5 African-American men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer and that risk increases to 1 in 3 if you have a father, brother, uncle, or grandfather who was diagnosed. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men in the United States, and is a leading cause of cancer death in men. More men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer than women with breast cancer, but many men don’t know where the prostate is or what it does — that needs to change. Men need to take a more active role in their health. There is a 100% cure rate of this disease if caught early.

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JET: How did the diagnosis change your life?

Mike Haynes: My diagnosis made me realize there were/are most likely a lot of other guys out there just like me. And I don’t want them to find out the way I did. I want men to know their prostate cancer risks and to talk to their doctor about whether prostate cancer testing is right for them. About a year after my diagnosis, the NFL and the Urology Care Foundation teamed up to start the Know Your Stats About Prostate Cancer campaign; and when the Urology Care Foundation asked me to be the spokesperson, I was more than happy to help. Since then, a number of other Hall of Fame and NFL players helped me raise awareness about this disease: Harry Carson, the great Deacon Jones, Fred Biletnikoff, Marcus Allen, Ronnie Lott, Tony Dorsett, James Lofton — even Commissioner Goodell has been a part of our public service announcement (just to name a few).

JET: How can we get more Black men to actually place their health at the forefront of their lives?

Mike Haynes: I think men just don’t like to talk about their health, but that’s what we need to change. Many women talk about their health. They share stories about pregnancy, menopause, breast cancer and other health conditions or life-changing events. Men typically don’t do that. I’m not certain if it is a pride thing, but that is why I enjoy being a spokesperson for the Know Your Stats About Prostate Cancer campaign. I want to change the “head in the sand mindset” some men have and encourage them to talk to their doctor about their risks for prostate cancer. I also want more prostate cancer survivors like myself to talk about their journey and the importance of knowing your stats, talking to your doctor and early detection.

For more on Mike Haynes and the “Know Your Stats About Prostate Cancer” campaign, visit www.urologyhealth.org/knowyourstats.