Every Day Is an Awakening

Following a prostate cancer diagnosis, one survivor ditches the ‘macho man’ attitude for a lighter approach to life.

Since 2004, Bin McLaurin has been learning to weather the storm of cancer and life after disease. A routine physical found the aggressive prostate cancer that resulted in surgery, radiation and hormone therapy for nearly two years.

Now cancer-free, McLaurin spends his time spreading awareness and bringing communities together. In an interview with Heal®, he gets real about hot flashes, his new normal and how he became empowered.

Heal ®: What does survivorship look like for you?

McLaurin: My life has blossomed. I know a lot of people going through cancer may not say that they are grateful for it, but I am. So many people may not know what it’s like to find yourself in a new reality. My goal is that the whole story will shed light on the blessings, as well as the challenges, that will come. You feel better when you are connected with people who are going through similar stuff. Every day is like an awakening. I have cancer and I’m a survivor, but my (sharing of my) experience has been a valuable resource to others. It gives them hope and a door out to (realize that) someone else has built a new normal despite the circumstances.

At one point, I was going through treatment and I had hot flashes, and I got depressed. I went to a social worker at the hospital and asked what resources were available. She plugged me into community right away. I took an art therapy class with other cancer survivors, all ladies. I was the only African American and only male. I walked in the door and thought, “Uh-oh, did I come in the wrong room?” But I said, “I need help, and I know I need help. I will sit through this.” In sitting with those ladies, I became amazed at their stories. They showed me how to be transparent. They showed me resilience. Instead of focusing on the negative, I can lean into the positive.

Do you experience any late- or long-term side effects?

The biggest one that I didn’t know I could get was hot flashes. Who knew men could get hot flashes? ... I also put on about 60 pounds from the medications. Some people lose weight, but I put on weight (along with experiencing) regular things like ED (erectile dysfunction) and (urinary) leakage from the surgeries.

The lingering side effect has been to try to find my new normal. I have been working with Bristol-Myers Squibb to share my story as part of their “Survivorship Today” program, which is a series about helping people understand what it’s like to live with cancer. And I don’t know if many people realize when they are given a diagnosis of cancer that it transforms you. It really will change your body, and the person that you know will be changed. You will not look the same, possibly. You may not feel the same. And that’s maybe forever for a lot of us. That was one of the beautiful things about this experience, though. Telling my story and opening up about my experience with cancer has (allowed) me to be empowered.

What was your motivation for becoming involved with “Survivorship Today”?

For me, community became a really important part of my life in terms of helping me not stay isolated and go through it alone. I found that community really helped me gain resources that were available, as well as share my story and hear other people’s stories. Then you kind of find this thread of resilience. I found out that I wasn’t alone. As African Americans, we are hit as a community a little harder by some of the cancers and mortality rates are higher. And a lot of that has to do with, I believe, awareness. I can share my story and, hopefully, reach the community that I grew up in — the African American community and men.

Please describe MACHO (Men Actively Creating Healthy Outcomes), the men’s health advocacy organization that you founded.

I thought (that) if this could happen to me, it could happen to others, and then I started learning about statistics about how cancer affects the African American community and men. And I thought, “There’s not enough of us out there to spread awareness around preventive health care and the importance of taking part in cancer screenings.” I was 46 when I (received my diagnosis of) prostate cancer, and that’s pretty young. A lot of guys just think it can’t happen to them. I think sometimes it’s based on how we are socialized: “Be a man. Be macho.” What’s the new macho? The new macho is taking better care of your health; being aware of your health status; participating in routine health checks; and, if you are affected by cancer, reaching out and getting connected to community.

Do you have a favorite quote or life saying?

“Live with gratitude, and expect the biggest blessing in the next minute.” That’s how I live my life. Every day may not be the perfect day. Some days I felt dark. I have so much more to be grateful for than the few things that I’ve lost.