WASHINGTON--In 1990, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf commanded the imagination of the American people during his service as Commander of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. At the First National Congress on Cancer Survivorship, he stormed the stage of the Washington Court Hotel to describe his role as a prostate cancer survivor and patient advocate. The message was simple and personal. "I am here," the general said, "because I won a battle."
WASHINGTON--In 1990, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf commanded theimagination of the American people during his service as Commanderof Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. At the First NationalCongress on Cancer Survivorship, he stormed the stage of the WashingtonCourt Hotel to describe his role as a prostate cancer survivorand patient advocate. The message was simple and personal. "Iam here," the general said, "because I won a battle."
In the summer of 1994, General Schwarzkopf went to the doctorbecause of a sore knee. He described himself as thinking, "Well,as long as I'm here, I might as well walk by the urologist."There was no particular reason to suspect anything was wrong.The results of a recent PSA test had been well within normal.
But the digital examination revealed an abnormality, and a biopsyshowed prostate cancer. The general's first response was angerand denial. "I don't get cancer!" he told himself.
The next stage was a search for some sort of control, startingwith an attempt to find information. He sought out articles, books,news accounts--anything in print. Finding little available, helooked for people to talk with--doctors, cancer patients, cancersurvivors. Talking brought considerable comfort and reassurance,he said.
The day General Schwarzkopf went to the hospital for surgery,a staff aide asked him, "What shall we tell the press?"His instructions to the aide were very clear. "Be open. Tellthem I have prostate cancer." The response to that opennesswas a flood of correspondence, telephone calls, and visits fromprostate cancer patients and survivors. Senator Bob Dole paida visit to him in the hospital and joked, "Now you can replaceme as the prostate cancer poster boy." "Why not?"the general replied.
General Schwarzkopf's recovery was swift. Within a few weeks hewas walking 5 miles a day, soon raised to 8. The letters keptcoming, and he found himself immersed in the role of patient advocate.
The general closed with two messages: He advised all men over40 to visit a urologist regularly and to be satisfied with nothingless than a thorough examination. Second, he urged cancer survivorsto make themselves available to others.
"We need to be advocates," he argued. "We needto stand up and start talking. We need also to be available toother people. It is important to be more than a survivor, it isnecessary to be a general in this war on prostate cancer, especiallybecause it is a war that we can win."