Former NFL cornerback Mike Haynes tackles prostate cancer and wins

Former NFL cornerback Mike Haynes tackles prostate cancer and wins
Mike Haynes waves to fans during a parade in Canton, Ohio in 2016. Courtesy photo

CARMEL VALLEY — Meet Mike Haynes: pro football Hall of Famer, former NFL cornerback who played for the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Raiders, and prostate cancer survivor.

The Carmel Valley resident, now 64, has had a lot of successes in the world of sports but perhaps one of his greatest achievements has been to beat prostate cancer.

In 2008, at the age of 55, Haynes attended a health screening at the Pro Football Hall of Fame which led him to the discovery he had prostate cancer. Shortly after, he had a real wake-up call. Even though as an athlete he got a physical checkup every year, this one was different.

Talking about his story for National Men’s Health Month in June, Haynes wants to help other men be proactive about their health.

“When I got the results, it really got my attention since because my PSA (prostate specific antigen) numbers were up,” said Haynes, who has been a spokesperson for the Urology Care Foundation’s Know Your Stats campaign since 2009. “African American men are much more susceptible to prostate cancer and I started thinking about my own family, and my grandpa who died of cancer.”

When he called his primary care physician he was told his number had gone from 3.0 to 3.5 in just three months.

“We never had a conversation about it and I quickly learned that my numbers and had gone up, but I was told it wasn’t much of a spike, and I had nothing to really worry about,” said Haynes, who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997.

 In pursuit of answers

But instead of turning his head, Haynes pursued the results further and went to a urologist, who told him he might want to think about having a biopsy since his PSA numbers had gone up quite a bit in three years.

He followed the advice and had the biopsy done; sure enough, it came back that he had tested positive for a low stage of prostate cancer.

“Like a lot of men, I was naïve when it came to my health. I’d always been in the dark and never wanted to talk to anyone about it,” he said. “When I learned I had cancer, I started doing research and looking into treatments and everything I could.”

He added that he didn’t want people to feel sorry for him and his reaction was typical: “Let’s not tell anyone.”

But as soon as he started talking to people and seeking help, he felt better: “People’s opinions made me feel better and stronger, I’m now a strong advocate of talking about things, especially when it comes to health.”
Haynes was living in New York at the time and decided he wanted to have surgery to remove the cancer, but he wanted to return to California to be with family.

“I was lucky to find out early on that it was a slow-growing cancer that could be treated,” he said. “I wanted to take care of it immediately.”

That’s when he called Urology Care Foundation and asked them what he should do, and he looked at their website for treatments and options.

Surgery calls

Haynes returned to San Diego in 2008 about six months after the diagnosis to have a radical prostatectomy surgery to remove the cancer at UCSD.

“It was so innovative; instead of the doctor standing over me doing surgery, a robot did the surgery,” he said.

His stay in the hospital was one night and he felt great immediately afterward.

“My wife and I went shopping the next day,” he laughed. “Even though I had a catheter in for 10 days, and couldn’t do anything strenuous, I felt good.”

In remission

Haynes, now in remission for 10 years, ended his career in football in 1990 and has since worked for Callaway Golf as a global licensing manager, as well as an NFL consultant for integrating players after college into careers outside of football.

These days he is a consultant and contractor for Key Brands and a number of companies in the health and wellness field.

He’s also much more focused on his health and wellness, setting many goals for himself since his cancer.

“It was a real wake-up call for sure,” he said. “Now that I am older, I am much more attuned to my health and wellness. As a kid, I always thought people died in their 50s and 60s, but I set a goal that I am going to live until I am 125 years old. I believe in bodacious goals.”

He’s since changed his eating habits, eating less meat, and even his workouts have come of age.

“I used to work out with weights, but now I do yoga with my wife,” he laughed.

He also likes to walk, hike and play golf.

 Missing football?

Does he miss football? Haynes, a two-time All-American selection at Arizona State University (1972-75) and inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001 said, not really the game, but more of the camaraderie.

“I miss being in a huddle with 10 guys and all of us are reaching to complete the same assignment and pull it off,” he said. “I do miss the environment of the game, but you know, it was my job then.”

His advice to other men who put off health checkups?
“Don’t. I say get to know your family history and start there,” he said. “There’s the likelihood that you will get the disease if it runs in your family. Also, set goals and reach for them, don’t put them off.”

Speaking out

 A spokesman for the Urology Care Foundation at functions, Super Bowls and with the media, he spreads the message to men about watching their health.

“I talk about early detection and how men should not delay a visit to the doctor even though they may not want to go or face it,” he said. “I want to be able to be an educator for men, it’s important.”
Married to Gigi, Haynes has six kids and said his goal for the future in addition to living until he is 125 is to “set up his family for success.”

He is also into philanthropic work including being on the board of the Pro Football Retired Players Association, and San Diego-based Reading Legacies, a group that helps kids learn the importance of reading.

To take a knee or not

As for that controversial issue of whether football players should stand for the “National Anthem”:

 “I believe everyone should stand for the “National Anthem,” and I always did,” he said. “I’m OK with their protest, but it wouldn’t be my choice not to stand. I say they should either kneel before or after it, not during.”

As the Urology Care Foundation and the NFL celebrate the 10th anniversary of its partnership, the Know Your Stats campaign encourages men to know their prostate cancer risk and to talk to their doctor about whether prostate cancer screening is right for them.

 10 THINGS MEN SHOULD KNOW ABOUT PROSTATE CANCER:

  1. Every 3.2 minutes a man is told he has prostate cancer.

2. Every 18 minutes another man dies of prostate cancer.

3. Prostate cancer affects one in nine men.

4. Prostate cancer affects one in five men who have a family history.

5. Your odds increase to one in six if you are African American.

6. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men.

7. If caught early, it is one of the most treatable forms of cancer.

8. Prostate cancer often doesn’t cause any symptoms until it is a more advanced stage of cancer.

9. There are nearly 3 million prostate cancer survivors in the U.S.

10. If you are age 55 to 69, talk to your doctor about prostate cancer testing.

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