It was supposed to be a normal day at the office for Mike Haynes until a seemingly ordinary task from his boss turned into a saving moment.
In 2008, the NFL Hall of Fame cornerback, who spent 14 years with the Patriots and Raiders, worked in the player and employee development department, helping athletes get in and out of the game. league. At the time, the Pro Football Hall of Fame was holding a health checkup for retired players, and Haynes’ boss asked him to go check on the event.
But when the former Super Bowl champion arrived, he saw that the majority of the players were talking and hanging out. One of the event workers approached Haynes with a simple request, “Hey, why don’t you do it? Maybe you can encourage some of the other guys to do that too. Haynes, then 55, agreed and figured he would get his blood test results in a few days. But nearly half an hour later, the doctor shouted, “Mike Haynes? Mike Haynes? ”
“[The doctor] asked me a lot of questions about my family history and realized that I didn’t know much [about it]”Says Haynes.” I knew my grandpa had some kind of cancer, but I didn’t know what it was. And that’s how it started.
The doctor told the NFL legend that if the blood test measured levels of prostate specific antigen, or PSA, a protein produced by normal and malignant prostate cells, it alone could not detect and confirm the presence of prostate cancer. This would require taking tissue samples, which they could not do during the health screening event. The doctor encouraged Haynes to contact his attending physician.
When Haynes returned to New York a few weeks later, he followed the doctor’s instructions, but his doctor was puzzled as to why he was there, considering that “everything was fine” when he visited a few months ago. Haynes explained the screening and the couple discussed their PSA test results: their levels went from two to three and a half in the space of about two years. “I thought PSA was short for Personal Service Announcement,” says Haynes. “I had never heard of its use [in that] manner.”
Haynes says the doctor told him, “You’re good for a guy your age, Mike. You’re less than four years old, and I think I think you’re okay. But to be on the safe side, let’s do a biopsy. ‘ ”
Haynes agreed, although he didn’t know what a whole biopsy involved at the time. The urologist put her on a robe and lay on her side, asking Haynes to bring her knees to her chest.
“Then he stuck an instrument in my back to take samples from my prostate. “If I had known, I probably wouldn’t have come. I don’t know for sure if I would have done it, but I don’t think I would because he was already saying, ‘I think you’re okay.’ ”
The results came back showing that nine of the 12 prostate tissue samples had cancer.
“I was lucky my boss sent me there. I was lucky the doctor didn’t scare me enough where I didn’t want him to test me, ”says Haynes. “I realized that [it’s a] slow growing prostate cancer, and finding out when I did has really prolonged my life. I don’t even know if I would have been there that long.
Haynes used to avoid discussing it, but after learning more about the disease, he thinks it’s important to point out that his doctor was black; they discussed how black men are more likely to get this disease. “I don’t know if I would have felt comfortable talking to a non-African American doctor, so I’m saying this because I think it’s something important,” says Haynes, who is also black. .
According to the American Cancer Society in its 2019-21 report, one in seven black men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. From 2011 to 2015, the average annual incidence rate of prostate cancer was 76% higher for non-Hispanic black men than for white men. And a 2018 study found that black men were twice as likely as white men to die from the disease.
“They were really more likely to die from the disease because they didn’t find out they had it until late, and there wasn’t much they could do about it,” says Haynes. “So if you find out early on, it’s treatable. Now you can do a lot of things.
Haynes, who says he knew someone who died of prostate cancer in their 30s, warns he should not be categorized as “old man’s disease,” even though the American Cancer Society has found out. that the average age of men diagnosed with prostate cancer is 66 years old.
Although doctors, friends and colleagues assured Haynes that it was slow growing cancer, Haynes made the decision to have the operation. Six months later, in 2009, he had his prostate removed, revamped his diet and exercise program, and set new goals for himself and his health.
“Because of the sport, I always set a lot of goals for myself, so I never really had a goal about [life]”Said Haynes.” I had a goal of speed, what kind of game I wanted to have and what kind of season I wanted to have. But I never had a goal for my life, like how long I want to live.
After being diagnosed with prostate cancer, Haynes says he realized he didn’t have a goal, so he didn’t really care about making better choices. “I could eat candy all day because… I didn’t have a goal to stop. After I retired I didn’t have a goal to encourage me to go out and exercise and watch my weight and stuff like that, ”he says.
His wife, a former dancer who also played sports, enjoys exercising, walking and doing yoga, and because he enjoys being with her and exercising, he has continued his lifestyle active to some extent. But after his diagnosis, Haynes says he really focused on “what I ate and what I did in my body and how certain things break down.” He wanted to avoid things that could be avoided, like diabetes (which is common in his family) and high blood pressure.
So, he switched to more natural sugars, drank more water, ate more leafy greens, and even stopped eating red meat. He became a pescatarian, but recently, when he had a blood test, doctors told him he lacked iron. They encouraged him to eat meat, saying that one steak a week would be good for him and his body.
Haynes is still tested regularly, and every time he has come back without fail. Now he is talking to other players about the importance of these issues and the need for projections. At first he only spoke to men, but now he also speaks to wives and other women, so that everyone can be informed.
“When I realized there were things we could do to improve our lifestyle, that doesn’t guarantee that I’ll live to be 125, but I’ll be listening,” Haynes says. “And I’ll be more tuned in to the different things people say about diet and exercise and the importance of sleep and things like that.”
Due to diagnosis, treatment and lifestyle changes, the now 68-year-old man is able to better enjoy the hectic lives of his six children, most recently visiting Tate, who plays football at William & Mary’s. On September 11, Tate made six tackles against Lafayette as his parents watched from the stands.
When Haynes talks to anyone about prostate cancer, heart disease or diabetes, he encourages them to learn about their family’s health history, especially the younger generations. Because he is a prostate cancer survivor, Haynes hopes his children will seek more information and ask the necessary questions. It’s a very different scenario than it was for him, which happened to be in the right place at the right time.
“It doesn’t have to be a death sentence,” says Haynes.
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