Rock and roll star works to break prostate cancer stigma

Healthbeat

WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — September is dedicated to raising awareness about prostate cancer, the most common cancer among men after skin cancer.

Each year, more than 3 million American men are stricken with prostate cancer.

One in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. One of them is the founding member of the iconic glam rock band Twisted Sister who is now encouraging men to get tested and treated.

“I didn’t want to be a statistic,” said Twisted Sister guitarist and prostate cancer survivor Jay Jay French.

Prostate cancer survivor and Twisted Sister founding member and guitarist Jay Jay French played on the 1980s classic rock anthem “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. Now, he’s fronting a national prostate cancer awareness campaign that bears the same title.

“And ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’, of course, is one of the world’s great songs, one of the most famous songs in history. And I have to thank my band, my record label, my publishing company for saying ‘go ahead and use it in this cause’,” explained French.

Roughly one in 41 men die from prostate cancer including rockers Johnny Ramone and Frank Zappa and even French’s father. Oftentimes, those deaths are suffered in silence.

“The natural progression for men is stick your head in the sand. Don’t talk about it. Embarrassing. Prostate cancer, whatever that would mean in your head. You can’t do that. You want to save a life,” said French.

Because of his family history, French was routinely tested for prostate cancer for more than a decade before he was diagnosed with it in 2018.

“Once you hit 50, you have to have a regular screening. You have to learn what a PSA is. It’s not a public service announcement. It’s a prostate-specific antigen,” explained French.

Now 69 years old, French has just released a book called “Twisted Business” which he calls a “bizoir”, part business primer and part memoir.

“T-W-I-S-T-E-D. I take the letters from twisted and I turn them into a teaching tool. The T stands for tenacity. The W stands for wisdom. In this particular case with prostate cancer those are two very important letters,” said French.

A theme of the book is reinvention which French believes applies to more than just his legendary band.

“And one of the parts of reinvention is staying alive. And as we get older, health becomes the singular and most important aspect of our lives because we owe it to ourselves, for our families which is why I’m advocating so strongly,” said French.

French has partnered with patient organization ZERO the End of Prostate Cancer, and Bayer to raise awareness about the importance of prostate exams.

To learn more about prostate cancer and French’s ZERO Campaign visit ZEROCancer.org.

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