Cancer Led Me to Health Advocacy, from PSA Screenings to COVID-19 Vaccinations

As a survivor, I always urged people to get cancer screenings, and now I’ve found myself advocating for the COVID-19 booster shots, too.

I just emailed family and friends an informative article from the “New York Times” on the brand-new COVID-19 booster shot. I encouraged them all to join my wife and me at a local pharmacy dispensing these life-saving vaccinations.

Tagging along so far is an elderly neighbor who’s homebound with COPD. He took little convincing to agree to get the booster since he is physically frail and suffering from a medical condition that puts him at high risk of becoming severely ill from the coronavirus.

Harder to convince, however, is another elderly neighbor who listens all too often to the naysayers on conservative cable TV shows. This neighbor despises Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been demonized time and again by the anti-vaccine community.

READ MORE: I Use a Simple Button to Combat Anti-Maskers, Since Cancer Made Me Immunocompromised

Recently, this neighbor told me that his family physician strongly encourages him to get the new vaccine that goes head-to-head with the BA.5, the dominant sub-variant of the coronavirus in the USA. That provided me with an opening to drive home the point that these boosters are designed to keep people like him and me out of the hospital and away from death’s door.

I’m still working on him!

Now, it suddenly dawns on me: I am becoming a strong advocate for vaccinations and boosters designed to fight the dreadful disease called COVID-19, and it’s much like my work as a cancer patient advocate.

Think about it: COVID-19 was the third-leading cause of death in the United States in both 2020 and 2021, tracking behind only heart disease and cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.

That fact alone is enough to get me motivated. So, I preach to men to go for their prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test to gauge whether cancer is present. I also take an opportunity to promote mask wearing, social distancing and boosters and vaccinations in the fight against the coronavirus.

For me, this is like two peas in a pod, a hand in glove. It’s a dual role that springs from my gut and my heart. Full steam ahead!

What if, I ask myself, I can change one mind about the need to be screened for prostate or any other form of cancer? What if I can provide transportation (like I am for my neighbor for his updated COVID-19 vaccination) for a friend or acquaintance who is sitting on the fence about the need to get the booster shot?

The “what-ifs” constantly pester me until I’m driven to action. That can be as simple as sharing a timely news article via text or email or engaging in a casual conversation where I can work in some science-backed facts to counter misinformation.

Health advocacy is challenging work, but the rewards are bountiful when someone says to me: “Yes, I see what you mean. I hadn’t looked at it like that before. Please go ahead, sign me up!”

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