Ken Griffey Sr. Encourages Men to Speak Up About Health

After surviving prostate cancer, three-time baseball All-Star Ken Griffey Sr. has made talking about health a priority in his life and hopes others will follow.

As a spokesperson for the national Men Who Speak Up Movement, Griffey Sr. will be in Detroit to help kick-off Men’s Health Week with the Michigan Institute of Urology and other partners on Monday, June 13.

Organizers of the Blue Monday event will gather at the Spirit of Detroit downtown at noon, and are encouraging the community to wear blue on this day. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is a proud partner of the Blue Monday event.

Griffey Sr. recently shared more about his involvement in the Men Who Speak Up campaign with the A Healthier Michigan Team. Check out our Q&A below:

Q: You’ve spoken publicly about how prostate cancer has impacted your family. Why is it important for you to be involved in men’s health efforts like Blue Monday?

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Men Who Speak Up Ambassadors, Ken Griffey Jr. (left), and Ken Griffey Sr. (right), courtesy image.

A: Blue Monday is a reminder for me and all men that maintaining our health is a priority. Health issues – especially those that are cancer related or linked to sexual health – can be as uncomfortable to talk about as they are to live with. No one should be scared to speak up about their health. Back in 2006, I was diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer during a routine screening. Having lost four uncles to the disease, I knew the importance of regular checkups. Sadly, not every man will be so lucky to be diagnosed and treated early, and because of that, I joined Bayer’s Men Who Speak Up campaign to help men be empowered to talk about their advanced prostate cancer symptoms.

Q: What is the Men Who Speak Up campaign? Why is it important for men to talk about prostate cancer?

A: Men Who Speak Up brings to life the symptoms of advancing prostate cancer, which can include fatigue, difficulty walking or sleeping, unexplained pain or difficulty doing normal activities. The program encourages men to speak up and take action against advancing prostate cancer.

For most men, active surveillance following early diagnosis means their cancer can be controlled; however, there are times, like with my uncles, when prostate cancer advances and becomes life threatening. It’s important to know that the symptoms I just described often don’t emerge until prostate cancer has advanced. It’s also not always easy or obvious to determine the cause of these symptoms, so a good rule of thumb for men, especially those who have advancing prostate cancer, is to talk to their doctors about how they’re feeling and whether they’ve noticed any changes. Doctors can help men recognize symptoms and manage their disease, if men are willing to speak up about them.

Q: Please tell us what it was like to have the opportunity to be on the same professional baseball team with your son?

A: It was such a unique and rewarding experience to play alongside my son, Ken Griffey Jr., in the Major Leagues. I knew he had something special when I couldn’t strike him out at age 14. By being his teammate, I really got to see what kind of player he was. One of my proudest moments was when we hit back-to-back home runs playing the Angels. It’s every father’s dream, and I was lucky enough to live it. I was already so proud of Junior and confident in his abilities, but witnessing his progress firsthand on the field was just incredible for me.

Q: How do you continue to stay active now? What do you do for exercise?

A: I love to play golf with Junior – it’s not quite the same as a baseball swing but we’ve learned to adapt! My grand kids keep me busy as well. They are already talented basketball, football and lacrosse players with curiosity and drive. Not only am I proud of their dedication, I’m also thankful that they help me stay active.

Q: If you had the chance to go back in time, knowing what you know now, what would you tell yourself?

A: I’m lucky to have had a mother who made me aware of prostate cancer and its role in our family. I try to do the same for Junior and my grandsons, now that I’m older and my mother is gone. It’s important that men know the risks and the warning signs of advancing prostate cancer, and that they know when it’s time to speak up.

Editor’s Note: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is a proud partner of the Blue Monday event and the Michigan Institute of Urology.

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Photo credit: TMAB2003 Flickr (feature image); Men Who Speak Up, Courtesy image (thumbnail).

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