Sports Talk: Haynes aims to stiff-arm prostate cancer

Mike Haynes was famous for shutting down the NFL’s top wide receivers.

Now he can’t shut up and we should all praise just that.

Haynes, a longtime North County resident and a Pro Football Hall of Fame member, continues with his quest that eclipses his stellar career. A prostate cancer survivor, Haynes is relentless in spreading the word so other men aren’t blindsided by his ailment.

Haynes, now an NFL executive, has transformed from an athlete to an educator. His subject is one that can be the difference between life and death.

“There’s just so few men that don’t know much about prostate cancer,” Haynes said. “So many men are going to get it and die. But if it is caught early, it can be treated.”

Haynes speaks the truth. If not for an NFL function in 2008, Haynes might not be here to help others.

“We had joined with about 20 urologists in the U.S. to kick off a partnership,” Haynes said. “By chance my boss asked me to attend the event and see how the screening was going. I had a physical earlier, but the nurses — who I call my angels — encouraged me to take a blood test. When the results returned, the doctor called me in.”

Haynes was peppered with questions, many of which he didn’t have an answer for: did he know his baseline medical readings? Did cancer run in his family? Had he had any symptoms of prostate cancer?

“That really got my attention,” Haynes said. “I was really surprised because I thought I was OK.”

Haynes was diagnosed with prostate cancer and started treatments. He beat the dastardly disease which strikes one in five African-American men, one in seven in the U.S.

“I remember when it happened, I was 9 years old,” said Haynes’ son, Tate, the Cathedral Catholic High quarterback who led his team to a state title and is headed for Boston College. “It’s always scary hearing that one of your family members has cancer.”

It’s a revelation that doesn’t have to be a death sentence, the elder Haynes stressed.

“It’s almost 100 percent curable if you catch it early enough,” Haynes said.

So Haynes, 63, stays up late doing interviews, making appearances — anything to dispel the notion that being manly doesn’t include being stubborn about prostate cancer.

Women, Haynes noted, are almost always more in tune with their body than the opposite sex.

“I think it’s because usually nothing happens in a man’s life that has an impact on his health until he’s in his 50s,’’ he said. “Where with women, once they become of child-bearing age, they are wondering about their health and they are educated about the body.’’

Haynes said men in their 40s should start speaking with their doctor about prostate cancer. In their 50s, Haynes said they need to be tested.

“I’m encouraging men to talk to their doctor and then tell one more man to talk to his doctor,” he said. “We have to get men educated about this.”

With June being Men’s Health Awareness Month, the time is right.

“So many men are going to get this and die,” Haynes said. “But they don’t have to if they get educated.”

Sounds like solid advice. Haynes pleads for men to be proactive and visit www.KnowYourStats.org.

“In this case,” Haynes said, “you really do want to be like Mike and get tested early.”

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