Goulet Dreams of Cancer Cure
by Sharon M. Brown
SOUTH BEND - From "Camelot" to "The Man of La Mancha," Robert Goulet is well known as a singer and actor of the highest caliber. His fight against prostate cancer isn't as famous.
Goulet appeared in South Bend on Thursday to present the 1996 Leighton Lecture to a full house at Century Center. The lecture, an annual event featuring information on health of particular interest to senior citizens, is sponsored by Memorial Hospital's Leighton Center for Senior Health.
Goulet was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1993. Since then, he has spoken to groups across the country about the importance of early detection of prostate cancer. His appearance Thursday marked the kick-off of a campaign on prostate health awareness and screening by Memorial Hospital, the South Bend Medical Foundation and area physicians.
The awareness campaign will provide educational materials, programs and increased access to screening in the community, according to information provided by the Leighton Center. The campaign will help create survivors, which is how Goulet described himself.
"I'm a prostate cancer survivor. When you or the person you love is diagnosed with cancer, the first thought is of the end, and that is our destiny, but I'm here to talk about the value of living with cancer. It's not an easy battle, but we need to believe life goes on even in the face of cancer, and life can become more full because of cancer," Goulet said to the group of about 600.
Goulet was diagnosed by a fluke. He had no symptons, no problems with urination or other signs that anything was wrong. Instead, he was tested for insurance purposes while working on a film, he said. Unlike women, who have forced breast cancer into the open and become vocal supporters of prevention and early treatment, men hide from the notion of cancer. "We men act as if we were bullet-proof. I say now, if you're over 40 and go to the doctor and don't get a rectal exam, you didn't luck out, you were cheated." As a matter of fact, he added, "The vast majority of men do not know a urologist and feel uncomfortable seeing one. The first step for a man with problems urinating is to see a specialist, because it's not going to get better."
Keys to success include proper nutrition, exercise and listening to your body, he said. "If men cared about their bodies the way they care about their cars, they'd be a lot better off."
Goulet had a normal rectal exam, but blood tests were abnormal. After a biopsy and radical prostatectomy, he was back on tour as the king in "Camelot" in three weeks. "My main concern was incontinency," he admitted. "I had to go on stage in three weeks wearing tights." His catheter was removed the night before he went back on stage, and "it was a little scary. They gave me a great big thing called a diaper, but I was never incontinent. Whether it was luck or not, I don't know." On stage, he said, "I looked pretty formidable, I guess in tights with Depends and three pairs of jockey shorts." From the audience's perspective it must have looked quite funny, he added.
But prostate cancer isn't funny, he said: "200,000 men are found with prostate cancer each year, close to 40,000 men die of it each year." "This silent disease claims too many lives. You have to catch the diagnosis early. I did it by accident. I want you to do it on purpose. With early cancer screening there's an 85 percent chance of being caught early with treatment to cure the cancer," he added.