The small c: Stern & Imus

I just did an interview about my cancer with Steve Langford from Howard 100 News, who really is an intrepid reporter. I told him I could certainly not describe the full details of going through this with other media outlets (not that a single one of them would care) because it’s just too, well, explicit. So, of course, Steve then demanded those dirty details, starting with the harpoon shots into me that I blogged about yesterday (hint: it’s a rear-guard action). I still spared Steve the atmospherics of my MRI with a foot-long magnetic coil also shoved up there. Some things are too much even for Stern fans. And I’ll tell you the Viagra story later.

When Steve mentioned my blog post today on the air, he said, Howard expressed his concern and I’m grateful for that. Yesterday, I wrote about living the public life and no one has perfected that better than Howard. He – more than blogs – has taught me about transparency.

One of the things I am valuing most in the phenomenal response I’ve been getting since yesterday – besides, of course, the wonderful good wishes from so many of you – is the candor I get from folks who’ve had this experience. One friend sent me email with frank advice about sex; it takes guts to talk about that with others and so I’m grateful he was willing to. A few others have let me know how they pee (thanks, guys).

I told Langford that I wanted to get advice from Stern producer Gary Dell’Abate because, on the show, he very publicly went through the ordeal of having a stent stuck up his penis because of kidney stones. Because he’s already shared every detail on the radio, I figured he’d be straight with me. Get this: Gary called me to assure me that it was irritating but didn’t hurt; getting it taken out was incredibly strange, though. He didn’t hesitate to share with me because he already lives so much in public.

Living in public is good.

But there are exceptions. Don Imus may be one of them.

I had joked that one of the worst parts of getting prostate cancer is that I share an ailment with Don Imus when I’m a Stern fan.

But, hey, now that we’re brothers in malignancy, I at least wondered what treatment Imus had selected from the menu – radiation, radioactive seeds, surgery, robotic surgery, or just watching – so I searched online before Langford called (then maybe I could have him speculate on Imus’ impotence and incontinence rather than mine).

I was shocked to find that Imus is apparently talking about treating his cancer with peppers. Peppers. By this logic, people in Mexico, China, Thailand, and Hungary should never get cancer because they eat so many peppers. Yeah, science spends billions looking for the cure for cancer and I trust Imus to find it?

Indeed, a 2006 study found that an ingredient in certain peppers has been found to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells. But it has not been tested in humans. Lycopene, an ingredient in tomatoes, also helps reduce PSA. But I’m not going on the ketchup cure.

If Imus is seriously – and so publicly – spreading the notion that eating peppers will cure him, I fear it could jeopardize people who think that they can avoid diagnosis and treatment for a deadly – but curable – disease. Because he is on the radio, what he says gets used and spread (I hesitate to link to the guy promulgating this pepper thing but here it is).

I’m going to tell jokes about my cancer, as best I can, and share my experience when I think it might be of interest. I don’t intend to drown you in sorrow and seriousness. But take this advice seriously: Don’t take medical advice from a talk show host – or a blogger – just because they have a platform to spread it. The virtue of publicness has its limits.

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