Joel Nowak, 62, lives in Brooklyn Heights with his wife and has two grown-up sons. Over the past decade, he has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, prostate cancer (twice), and kidney cancer. He is a four cancer survivor.
He is the director of Malecare Advanced Disease and Advocacy, and was a featured speaker at the 2010 Summit to End Prostate Cancer in Washington D.C.
In 2001, at the age of 49, he was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. Having prostate cancer was not a surprise since his father had it, his uncle (father’s brother) died from it, and his first cousin had already been diagnosed. He had a laparoscopic prostatectomy at Mass General Hospital in Boston and then suffered a recurrence of the cancer in his lymph nodes along with micro-mets in his blood in December 2005.
Since he also deals with an arthritic condition, his rheumatologist sent him for an MRI in January of 2006. The MRI results were fine from the arthritis side, but it showed that, unknown to him, he had a 10cm tumor in his left kidney. Now being diagnosed with primary, clear cell renal cancer, he had a radical nephrectomy in January 2006.
Then in May of 2010 he paid a visit to his dermatologist for an annual “skin check.” After showing her a spot on his leg that he watched grow over a three month period he asked her to biopsy it. She was adamant that it was nothing, but he told her he wasn’t going to leave the examining room until she took a sample of tissue. Although he didn’t have any physical discomfort, his mind kept yelling at him that he had a problem. So, to appease him, she took a sample, without any surprise to him, she called him and reported that he had a thin melanoma. He had surgery to remove the lesion on June 11 2010.
In September of 2012, he had a bunch of atypical cells removed from a spot about 10cm from the original melanoma.