Fourteen-year Survivor Focuses on 'What Went Right'

"The Lord gave me prostate cancer because he needed a mouthpiece for this cause, and he knew that I had a big mouth."

Herschel Chalk
close up portrait of Herschel Chalk

Herschel Chalk says he got prostate cancer for a reason: to talk to other men about it.

“The Lord gave me prostate cancer because he needed a mouthpiece for this cause, and he knew that I had a big mouth,” jokes Chalk.

Chalk, 64, is a 14-year prostate cancer survivor, and he’s spent the past 11 years talking to men about prostate cancer as part of his job and as a volunteer for the American Cancer Society Man To Man program in Cincinnati, Ohio.

‘An attitude is all I have’

Chalk found out he had prostate cancer after a physical turned up abnormal blood work.

“I had just gotten insurance on a job, and I decided to get a physical. It had been 15 years since I had had one,” Chalk recalls. “The doctor said my blood work looked suspicious and referred me to a urologist.”

A biopsy confirmed prostate cancer. After discussing treatment options with his doctor, Chalk decided to have a radical prostatectomy. The surgery went well, but 18 months later, Chalk’s PSA scores started to rise. He then had 35 radiation treatments.

“The doctor recommended watchful waiting, but I wanted to get rid of it,” says Chalk.

After treatment, Chalk struggled with incontinence and erectile dysfunction. At one point during his treatment, Chalk says he was joking with his doctor, who told him he had quite an attitude.

“At this point, Doc,“ he remembers saying, “an attitude is all I have.”

Becoming a volunteer

After treatment, Chalk decided to volunteer with the American Cancer Society. He first started as a volunteer with Let’s Talk About It®, a community-based program developed by the Society and 100 Black Men of America, Inc., to increase awareness and knowledge of prostate cancer among African American men. He then got certified as a national trainer for the Society’s Man To Man program.

“I wanted to tell other men that life isn’t over just because you have prostate cancer,” says Chalk. “I’m blessed to be here. Too many times, we linger on what went wrong instead of focusing on what went right.”

Chalk organizes lunch every other month for a group of prostate cancer survivors and patients.

“Right now, we’re ‘word of mouth,’ but I hope to start promoting the group a little more,” says Chalk.

He also talks to prostate cancer patients as part of his work with a medical company in Cincinnati.

Staying well

Chalk sees his urologist twice a year and gets his PSA level checked regularly. He still struggles with some incontinence, but says overall he’s “doing well.”

He stresses the importance of his church family.

“If you’re someone who goes to church, share what you’re going through with the congregation,” advises Chalk. “It’s nice if 2 or 3 people are praying for you, but having 200 people praying for you is even better. You can never get too much help.”

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