Good Cause: Wear blue for prostate cancer fight
It’s all about the blue T-shirts.
Eric Fastabend and his wife, Megan, wear them as often as they can, trying to raise awareness about prostate cancer, a disease that often stands in the shadow of its female counterpart: breast cancer.
“You’re fighting a stereotype,” said the Naperville resident. “Guys don’t like to talk about their health in public while women do well to talk about it.”
He noted how, when his neighbor found out she had breast cancer, she created a website so she could chronicle her journey and everyone could follow what was happening.
Eric is a little more subtle but more visible. He wears his T-shirt to the gym or even mowing the lawn.
“Friends have asked us about them,” Megan said, hoping that the T-shirts start conversations.
Eric’s father died of prostate cancer in 2006, surprising Eric who knew his father went to the doctor yearly.
However, Bill Fastabend wasn’t getting tested for prostate cancer, and when he finally did get tested, he was immediately diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer at age 58. Bill’s cancer was a rare aggressive cancer, unusual for prostate cancer. However, since it had spread outside his prostate, his chances for survival dimmed.
“It’s really not a big deal to get a blood test,” Megan said. “People don’t know what it is though.”
For Megan, she was pregnant with their daughter Delaney, now six, and wishes that Eric’s father had been tested earlier because life might have been different.
“He could have known his grandchildren even for a short time,” she said.
Often people don’t realize that a man can develop prostate cancer in his 40s.
“If it’s caught early, it can be managed very well,” said Leanne Atwood, the director of marketing and development at Wellness Place in Palatine, an organization dedicated to cancer education and support.
“It’s not like other cancers where you have no control.”
Eric pointed out that 1-in-6 Americans have a prostate issue and that chances of getting it double when a family member has been diagnosed.
“Maybe wearing blue T-shirts will save our son’s life,” Eric said of their son Jack who is three.
But there also are a number of ways that men at risk can help themselves. They can exercise and manage their diets as well as getting their PSA numbers tested yearly.
Fastabend takes vitamin supplements, has chosen to limit his intake of red meat, drinks only organic milk, and takes his family blueberry picking yearly because the antioxidants in blueberries have been linked to delaying prostate cancer.
He says he always took care of himself by watching what he ate and exercising, but now is more vigilant since losing his father.
While there is no set age that men should begin to get tested, Atwood said that experts recommend starting in the mid-40s if a family member has been diagnosed with it.
“We have many people come into Wellness Place in their 40s, and they often think that it was an older people’s cancer,” she said.
For the Fastabends, they know that raising funds is great but educating people about prostate cancer can go a longer way.
“Three thousand dollars in medical research money is a penny,” Eric said.
“The knowledge and education of prostate cancer is where breast cancer was 15 years ago,” said Atwood, who also serves as one of the race directors for the SEA Blue Prostate Cancer Walk Run of which the Fastabends will take part.
Rather than focusing on the money, their team of 19 people walking in the event this year will wear their blue T-shirts, hoping that one day blue will be as recognizable for prostate cancer as pink is for breast cancer.
“He definitely is dedicated to spreading the word,” Megan said of her husband, “to get as many people tested as possible so no one goes through what we did.”