Bronx Irish community stalwart Norbert Hennessy's cancer has returned but he plans to use his diagnose to raise funds and awareness among the community about "The Big C" and being vigilant about your health.
One never knows the curve balls life throws at you. I’m now battling a second round with prostate cancer.
I suppose I was one of the lucky ones first time round, as the result of early detection. Now the battle has risen again and I’d like to tell my story to help raise money for those wonderful doctors nurses and hospitals Sloan Kettering, in New York, who have taken care of me and who do such noble work (details below).
A couple of years ago I never dreamed that I would be writing about a subject, which is generally considered taboo. We avoid talking about cancer, “The Big C” because it speaks to one’s mortality.
When a person is rumored to have cancer, we view him, or her, differently. We avoid the topic or speak in whispered tones about it. We wish it would go away.
All that changed for me after a visit to a doctor because of a re-occurring old athletic injury, my back was giving me problems. As part of the procedure, blood was drawn for tests and a few days later the doctor called about elevated blood levels and asked about my family history with regard to cancer. Raised prostate blood levels are a key indicator.
Learned cancer has returned. This Tuesday Nov 12 next journey starts in eradicating this curse from my body.— Norbert Hennessy (@AmbitVoice) November 10, 2019
May Heavenly Powers guide the minds of the skilled surgeons at Sloan Kettering Hospital,
GOD IS GOOD.
That was my first visit to a doctor in years, typical Irish guy, not a damn care in the world, fit as a fiddle, gym a couple of times a week, the “occasional” beer (being a former barkeep at Jug O’ Punch and Hennessy Headquarters, in the Bronx, in my past life) and now what’s this guy talking about?
So that’s when my guard went up. I called my sister, Miriam, a nurse in Ireland, and asked what Mom (71) and Dad (77) died of, along with other blood relatives. It was then I learned there was cancer in my family.
Fast forward a couple of years, I experienced a TIA (minor stroke), no side effects, but was always conscious of doctor’s visits for my prostate PSA blood levels.
My regular doctor eventually recommended that I see an oncologist, had a biopsy done and was on what they call in the cancer world “watchful waiting”. Yes, indeed in the vernacular, that means, do I or don’t I, will I or won’t I have surgery, radiation or numerous other treatment options to eradicate the cancer.
I learned all about Gleason Score (look it up) and other terminology, foreign to this dude. Now, I began to realize “this is my life we are talking about”, and suddenly it dawned on me, that the doctor visits way back then probably saved my life.
On March 13, 2018, I had a Radical Prostatectomy performed at Sloan Kettering Memorial Cancer Hospital, in Manhattan, and was declared cancer-free on St. Patrick’s Day. I watched the parade and my emotions overcame me when commentator, Tommy Smyth, wished me a speedy recovery on national TV.
I always keep a positive mindset. I first started life in America working 500-feet underground helping dig #3 Water Tunnel, in New York, in 1972. I remember one of my mentors, Ronnie Kirkland, talking about “the power of the made-up mind,” I never forgot that.
With the proper attitude, nothing can stop you.
One in seven will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. In recent weeks, I have learned that my cancer has returned. Over the next few weeks, there will be further tests to see where it is.
I know cancer is a fearful word, but the unknown is far more fearful. I believe in the power of prayer and on social media, I asked when I was going through my operation.
The response was overwhelming but also of great significance was the number of friends throughout the world who contacted me privately telling me their cancer story. I would have spoken with them previously but their medical situation had never been raised. The silence about their cancer was deafening.
People ask more questions about purchasing a new car or hiring a contractor and don't hesitate to seek advice from neighbors and friends. With cancer, it is very unlikely that people share with friends their treatments or their experiences.
While everyone’s cancer profile is different and solutions need to be customized by medical professionals, the benefit of sharing treatment options and medical resources is huge. Cancer needs to come out of the closet and be discussed more openly. People are worried about being stigmatized and labeled believing it somehow diminishes them.
Since my friends are aware that my cancer has returned, I am constantly asked, “Norbert, how do you feel?” Of course, the answer is “I feel great.” I would never know that the cancer has returned only for I was being vigilant on having blood tests done. That is why it’s called the silent killer. It grows inside you and if you are not regularly tested you will not realize there is a problem until it’s too late.
I am not looking forward at age 69 to dealing with the “Big C” again but I know that armed with knowledge, competent doctors, and my very positive outlook I will beat it.
My family questioned my detailed discussions on my cancer on social media but I believe the only way to combat the fear and isolation that accompanies a cancer diagnosis is to shine the light on cancer and replace fear with a shared platform of knowledge and solution.
Read more: How U2 helped me beat my cancer
* With the help of the fundraising team at MSKCC, Norbert has spearheaded a drive for donations targeted to advance the research of prostate cancer treatment. When the next new breakthrough is announced, Norbert wants to know that he and those who have joined his fundraising drive contributed to the effort needed to reach that breakthrough. It would mean so much more to him if others would pledge their support as well. Every dollar counts, so he hopes the public will be as generous as they can.
Please contribute whatever you can by visiting http://mskcc.convio.net/goto/NorbertHennessy