|PHEN Network Member Spotlight
When Patrick Baxter was 38 years old, he made checking his prostate a part of his routine physical examinations. In 2007, at 45 years old, during such an exam, his physician noticed an increased PSA that was “significant” but not conclusive. Baxter sought a second opinion, which led to a biopsy, showing cancer. He opted for the radical prostatectomy procedure using robotics—known as the Da Vinci surgical system.
The 55-year old physician’s assistant describes his prostate health as good for two reasons. “One, I don’t have to wake up at night to urinate, and two, my sexual function came back.” He attributes his good outcome in part to his fitness regime. He says he “runs, lifts weights and eats well.” His diet focuses on what he calls “superfoods” like kale, spinach and bok choy. While he does not describe himself as a vegetarian, he is “mindful of what I cook and usually leave red meat out.”
When diagnosed, Baxter was not aware of any family history involving prostate cancer, but since the diagnosis, “An older sibling has been stricken,” and his twin brother is being monitored with checkups every six months.
Baxter decided to take a public position in raising awareness about prostate cancer in the black and Caribbean community because there is a “lot of machismo.” He said, “If I had done nothing at 45, I would have been dead at 55.” He said, “Men worry more about being able to have sex, than about dying!” That is the mindset he aims to dispel. His journey was featured in a Florida newspaper article. After the publication, he got lots of requests for speeches. “Every chance I get, I share the gospel. Men, get checked.” He tries to keep his remarks light hearted, so that men can “laugh about something that can kill you.” His message is the same, no matter the color of the audience. “Men, don’t forget to get checked.”
He believes that women are an important part of men’s health equation. “It is the women who will get the men to go out and do what they’re supposed to do,” he warned. “Men won’t do it on their own. I grew up in the Caribbean. Women are in church when men aren’t!” He said women can “go home and tell the guys.”
The native Jamaican says, “We have to come out of the closet about this (prostate cancer)!” He notes women often get up in church and talk about breast cancer, but many churches are hard pressed to focus on health issue for men. Men should be doing that, but “too often we don’t want to talk about it. It needs to be in the black church because we are the ones affected.”
His involvement with PHEN came because founder Tom Farrington “tracked me down in Miami.” After reading up on the organization, he found the work “Impressive.” Baxter feels, “Sometimes, we get to the top and forget about everybody else. Mr. Farrington did not take his experience with prostate cancer and hide under a rock.”