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David James’ Father’s Day request: Go to the doctor

Published: Jun. 16, 2021 at 6:00 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 16, 2021 at 6:01 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Metro Council President David James has a problem, and no ordinance, zoning change, or task force can help him. Months ago, he invited WAVE 3 News to follow him through his uncertain medical journey to help get the message out to men, as Father’s Day approaches, to stop staying away from the doctor.

“I sit up there in the big chair and I could not hardly sit there,” James said. “I kept leaning forward and trying to run the meeting and the pain was so intense, so I texted my wife and said, ‘Something is really wrong. I don’t know what’s going on here.’”

He said his sleep and meetings were interrupted, and he couldn’t go 30 minutes without a trip to the restroom.

“During meetings in the day I had to make sure I didn’t wear light-colored pants,” James said. “Accidents were becoming a more normal thing. That’s embarrassing.”

In April, the council president was referred to Dr. John Eifler at First Urology who sees 75 patients a month with prostate cancer and diagnoses three to five new cases per month. James was sure he would be the next one.

“My great grandfather had died from prostate cancer,” he said. “My father had prostate cancer when he died so I know there was a genealogy thing associated with that.”

James said due to his high family risk of prostate cancer, Eifler wanted to put him through additional genetic testing to determine if he had any genes that predispose him to prostate cancer or other types of cancer.

“He said we have to look at your bladder and see if you have bladder cancer,” James said. “Look at the prostate, see if you have prostate cancer, then roll you over and look at the other side.”

The relieving verdict: the doctor found no cancer.

“In this case, there is an enlarged prostate,” Eifler said, “and he also has an abnormal lobe in his prostate called the median lobe.”

For that, James needed surgery.

“When your prostate gets operated on, it’s kind of raw and irritated,” First Urology Doctor Hal Rosenbaum said in a pre-op appointment. “So when you urinate, it’s gonna inflame it.”

In that pre-op appointment, James learned the procedure he would undergo is called Aquablation.

“If you’ve used a pressure washer at home to clean your porch, that’s essentially what we’re having,” Rosenbaum said. “A small little water jet under incredibly high pressure that can destroy and ablate prostate tissue, but the advantage is no heat generated.”

Under anesthesia in the hospital, the man who runs Metro Council meetings had to submit to a robot guided by Rosenbaum, power washing problematic prostate tissue away, utilizing a camera with ultrasound imaging.

Worse than the surgery was that it won’t end James’ worry.

“He’s right to be concerned,” Eifler said. “He’s at risk because he’s African American. That puts him at risk because he’s at high risk of prostate cancer and having aggressive prostate cancer.”

James said he does not know why men, especially Black men, don’t go to the doctor as often as they should.

“I don’t know,” he said. “It for me was like, ‘I’m a guy. I don’t want to talk about how vulnerable that is.’ Right? It’s not something that’s a part of your culture that you even talk about. My father, for example, he didn’t tell me that he had prostate cancer until they called me from the hospital to come get him from his surgery.”

In terms of his health, James wants to adjourn his meetings with doctors, but he has more work to do. For now, he’s filing a motion requesting men get their prostate checked.

“I think it’s important for you to be in touch with yourself and know when something’s not right,” he said. “Do something about it.”

Black men are more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer and twice as likely to die of the disease than white men. There is no biological reason for it. A recent Journal of the American Medical Association study found Black men get fewer PSA screenings and are more likely to be diagnosed with later-stage cancer because they don’t go to the doctor enough.

First Urology recommends African American men and all men with a family history of prostate cancer begin screenings at age 40. For all other men, it’s at 50.

James has surgery on his heart on June 30th. On June 13, he announced he was suspending his campaign for Louisville mayor to focus on his health issues.

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