Life in the Dawg House

By John Mann

After being diagnosed with prostate cancer at 40, John Mann spreads awareness and hope.

John Mann is a dedicated musician and avid bow hunter.

His contradictory passions are reflected in his music studio, which is often described as hippie-meets-hunter. Known as the Dawg House, the studio is outfitted with a bearskin rug and other pelts from animals John has taken down with his bow.

On Friday nights, you can find him in the Dawg House playing music with his friends. The longstanding jam session starts after work and continues until no one is able hold their eyes open.

Married for 20 years, John also enjoys fishing, hiking, downhill skiing and electric mountain bikes.

“If I have an hour off, I’m using it for something,” John said. “No one has to tell a cancer survivor to use their days wisely.”

While many men feel comfortable recounting the details of their latest sporting accident or the last time they pulled a hook fishing, cancer remains a taboo subject. Especially prostate cancer — the second most common cancer among American men, and one of the most private.

Not John. Diagnosed with prostate cancer when he was 40-years-old, John has made it his mission to spread awareness of the disease that strikes at the heart of masculinity.

“Guys aren’t comfortable talking about health issues, let alone a health issue that can steal your masculinity, “he said. “There just doesn’t seem to be the awareness of prostate cancer.”

Prostate Cancer: When to See a Urologist

The prostate is a small gland that is part of the male reproductive system. It is responsible for secreting prostate fluid, a component of seminal fluid, and helps propel fluid into the urethra.

Located below the bladder, the walnut-sized gland also produces an enzyme called prostate specific antigen (PSA), which can be used to detect prostate cancer. PSA may be elevated in cases of prostate cancer, enlarged prostate or inflamed or infected prostate.

Other symptoms of prostate cancer can include frequent urination, weak or interrupted urine and blood in the urine.

John had none of those symptoms. After developing pain in his groin area, John scheduled an appointment with Dr. Gary Gingrich, founder of Gorge Urology, a clinic at Mid-Columbia Medical Center.

“I knew down deep that some-thing was wrong,” he said.

The pain proved to be due to a hernia, which was successfully repaired, but during the evaluation, Dr. Gingrich became concerned that John may have silent prostate cancer.

It was nearly 8 p.m. when John received the call that changed his life, and possibly saved it.

“Gary called me at home,” John said. “He said, ‘John, I don’t know why but I can’t get you off my mind. I think you should come back for a biopsy.’”

The warning from Dr. Gingrich was clear: “If I can’t sleep about this, you shouldn’t be able to sleep either.”

After Prostate Cancer: “Life has been very, very good to me”

During John’s biopsy, eight samples were removed from his prostate. All eight samples came back positive for cancer, which was unusual in a man John’s age. The risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age, and the average age of diagnosis is about 66-years-old.

“I will never forget the day Dr. Gingrich called me,” John said. “It was about 11 a.m. He cancelled his personal plans and we met. We talked for two and a half or three hours.”

John was not comforted by their discussion. Married with a two-year-old son, and faced with a life-threatening disease, it was impossible to find comfort.

But after leaving the doctor’s office, he was well informed about his treatment options and felt very comfortable in his decision to have Dr. Gingrich perform his surgery, a radical prostatectomy to remove his prostate gland.

“Doctors today are so busy, “John said. “When Dr. Gingrich knew I needed time, he cancelled his personal plans just to talk to me. It was phenomenal.”

John was out of work for about a month after the surgery. It was a difficult process, physically and psychologically. In facing prostate cancer, especially as a young man, he fought a painful battle.

But John is one of the lucky ones. He has been cancer free for 17 years and has experienced nonnegative side effects from surgery.

Not all men get that lucky. But when a young man with prostate cancer wants to discuss the diagnosis with someone who has been there, Dr. Gingrich often places them in touch with John for a candid conversation.

“I spend an hour or two telling them how it went for me,” he said. “Only good has happened to me since that surgery. Life has been very, very good to me.”