Prostate Cancer Puts A Scare Into Reynolds
Tampa Tribune Sports Section
Wednesday, September 4, 2002
By ROZEL A. LEE
BLAKE COACH GRATEFUL FOR EARLY DIAGNOSIS
Ricky Reynolds wasn't prepared for the news he received in June, even though he had been on the lookout for it for two years.
Thirty-seven. That's too young to have prostate cancer, or so he thought.
Now, he wants other men to know the belief that prostate cancer is an old-man's disease is a myth.
A life in football mandated the annual sports physical, especially since the former Buccaneers cornerback was about to take charge of the Blake High football team.
Two years ago, he requested as part of his physical a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test. Reynolds' father, Henry, had been diagnosed with the cancer at age 56. Both his grandfathers also had the disease.
And although medical guidelines recommend men be tested beginning at 40 or 45, Reynolds says his family history prompted him to seek the test at an earlier age.
His concern intensified when bone scans and other tests leading up to surgery indicated the cancer may have spread. But after surgery in St. Louis on Aug. 13, Reynolds' prognosis is excellent. The procedure successfully removed all the cancer, but he shudders to think what the outlook might have been if he had waited until the recommended age for testing.
Reynolds was the youngest patient for surgeon William Catalona, who helped develop the PSA test.
"When my father was diagnosed, he said at first you don't understand why these things happen; they happen for a reason,'' Reynolds said. "I call it a blessing. If he hadn't had it, I would have never been checked until I was 40, and who knows where the cancer would have spread by then.''
Fortunately for Reynolds, the father of three, the PSA test was available, because a physical exam failed to detect a problem.
"I was in shock,'' he said. "There was very little time to think about options.''
Almost immediately, Pamela Reynolds put her networking skills into action. Aboard a previously scheduled cruise, she spent vacation time on the Internet learning as much as she could about prostate cancer. Back home, she contacted her affiliates at the Boys and Girls Club, of which she is a board member. She contacted the NFL, and Ricky Reynolds' cousin, pro baseball player Greg Vaughn, made inquiries in Major League Baseball circles.
With each new finding, Pamela Reynolds shared information with her husband, whose stress level had reached headache proportions.
But their quick action resulted in dozens of phone messages when the Reynolds returned from their cruise. Referrals to some of the best doctors, advice for and against surgery, and contacts with a who's who list of former pro athletes and coaches who are prostate cancer survivors.
Among those contacted was Bob Samuels, chairman of the Florida Prostate Cancer Network. Reynolds had appeared in the past at Samuels' annual African-American Health Forum at Hillsborough Community College, where more than 3,000 males have been tested.
"There are no rules in this game,'' said Samuels, a former banker and prostate cancer survivor. "Everyone wants logic and there's no logic to cancer.''
Prostate cancer is found among African-American males at a disproportionate rate to white males and has double the mortality rate.
Samuels said he's glad to have a spokesman in Reynolds, now intent on getting the word out that it's never too early to be tested.
"So far it's been statistics,'' Samuels said. "We need more faces and voices.''
Reynolds' physical conditioning after 10 seasons as an NFL cornerback has aided his recovery. Now, he is walking 20 minutes a day. Tuesday, he returned to the Blake football practice field, but his experience has put sports in perspective, he said.
"Football is only a game,'' he said. "There are a lot of things more important.''