How a Comedian Goes About Changing the Prostate Cancer Conversation
Advocacy After a delayed diagnosis that should’ve been caught sooner, he had reason to be angry and grounds to sue. Instead, he’s decided not to take things so seriously.
Comedian Stevie D. admits he's an unlikely poster boy for prostate cancer.
"When people think of prostate cancer, they think of old guys," he says. "I'm physically fit and run a fitness business when I'm not performing comedy. I eat an organic diet. Nothing in my life ever suggested I'd have cancer."
The initial signs
So when the author of "The Trans Am Diaries: A Hillbilly's Road Trip from Stand Up Comedy to Cancer…and Back Again" started having troubling symptoms like pain and frequent trips to the bathroom, his first thought wasn't cancer.
"I was thinking, who knows, maybe from sitting in traffic all the time I did damage to my kidneys or prostate," Stevie recalls. "I decided, after my son was born, I'd be responsible and get a checkup."
The comic asked that his prostate be checked, and his doctor said it wasn't enlarged. Stevie D. went home — doctor’s orders. It was only when the comedian changed insurance carriers and went to a new doctor for a checkup that his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels were checked.
"My mother-in-law was the first one to say it could be prostate cancer," D. says. "Once I recovered from passing out, I said, “No, I exercise and eat properly; it can't be.’ But she gave me examples of friends of hers who did everything right and still got cancer. And then I got the diagnosis.”
'“I eat an organic diet. Nothing in my life ever suggested I'd have cancer."'
Stevie was told by a family member that he had grounds for a medical malpractice suit. But the comic, looking for any levity to be had in the situation, opted instead to see the benefit of not getting an early diagnosis:
"The silver lining is that in that two-year window: my daughter was born. And that wouldn't have been possible if I'd had surgery then … Grab the Kleenex."
These days Stevie has upgraded his credentials to also include ambassador for UsTOO International Prostate Cancer Education & Support Network. He began writing about his cancer experience while still in the hospital, and is now finishing up work on the follow-up to “The Trans Am Diaries.” Through it all, he continues to find the silver lining in his cancer.
"The grosser and more personal the detail, the more willing I am to talk about it,” Stevie admits. “If I can remove that stigma around prostate cancer, I'm happy. I've spoken at prostate cancer groups where men are breaking down because they feel their manhood is removed— and I want that to change."