Biker working to raise funds, awareness for prostate cancer
Keith Fanks hopes to literally drive an awareness for prostate cancer. By enlisting the help of fellow motorcycle riders, Fanks wants to ease the journey for men affected by this disease by raising money and bringing attention to the condition.
Prostate cancer affects more than 14 million men worldwide.
He plans to organize a motorcycle ride, first locally, and eventually nationally, to help make a difference so that preventative measures are taken and a cure is found because every year more than 300,000 lose their fight, according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
It’s personal for Fanks, who was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006 at age 53. It returned in 2014. He is currently in remission and still undergoing yearly checks. His father, Victor, died in 1994 from the disease, at the age of 65. He has two sons Victor, 33, and Zachary, 30.
The timing for this is right because September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.
“The biggest message I hope to get across is that there needs to be national recognition and fundraising for prostate cancer at the level that there is for breast cancer,” says Fanks of Kennedy Township. “We men are being ignored.”
Getting the word out
Fanks has made it his mission to contact as many Harley Davidson Owner Groups to enlist their help. He began his quest by contacting the Prostate Cancer Foundation, based in California, teaming with the organization to start a fundraiser called Operation Terminate Prostate Cancer .
“I think what Keith is doing is fantastic,” says Oliver Freund, director of community management for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. “There isn’t the public awareness and empathy for men and their families going through prostate cancer that there is for women and their families and breast cancer. It is wonderful to have such a brave guy like Keith share his story.”
There are a lot of men dealing with this who are doing so in silence.”
He says he wants to create for prostate cancer what breast cancer has in that when you see pink in October you know what it represents.
“Men want that same sort of recognition,” Freund says. “Having someone like Keith share his story among bikers, groups that are generally male-dominated is a great way to gain support.”
Those interested can donate directly, set up a team or have an event.
This initiative invites motorcycle clubs, dealerships and motorcycle enthusiasts to support the Prostate Cancer Foundation through fundraising and awareness building in their community. The foundation is the world’s leading philanthropic organization funding and accelerating prostate cancer research. “The word cancer is frightening to hear,” says Fanks. “I know, because I have experienced being told ‘you have cancer.’ But there is treatment and if found early, you can survive prostate cancer.”
Fanks has been contacting other Harley Davidson shop owners and clubs to help get the word out. One of the calls he made was to Marilynn Postava, activities director for the Valley Chapter Harley Owner Group, based at McMahon’s Harley Davidson in Beaver Falls. She helped organize a 60-mile ride in July which began and ended at the Fly Girls Café at the Beaver County Airport. Cafe owner Tammy Custer was happy to help feed all the riders in support of this cause.
“Almost everyone in our group has had a friend or family member affected by prostate cancer,” she says. “It is not a cancer you hear a lot about. It feels good to be able to help. Men don’t like to talk about this, but they need to, because it’s important.”
Prostate Cancer Foundation
Founded in 1993, the Prostate Cancer Foundation has raised more than $745 million and provided funding to more than 2,000 research programs at more than 200 cancer centers and universities.
Prostate cancer is a condition in which a normal cell becomes abnormal and starts to grow uncontrollably without having the signals or “brakes” that stop typical cell growth. It starts in the prostate gland, a small gland located below the bladder, that is responsible for secreting one of the components of semen. Prostate cancer cells form masses of abnormal cells known as tumors.
In many cases, prostate cancer is relatively slow growing, which means that it takes a number of years to become large enough to be detectable, and even longer to spread outside the prostate, or metastasize. However, some cases are more aggressive and need urgent treatment.
Approximately 95 percent of all prostate cancers are detected when the cancer is confined to the prostate, so treatment success rates are high compared to most other types of cancer in the body. The 5-year survival rate in the United States for men diagnosed with prostate cancer is 99 percent.
JoAnne Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062 or [email protected] or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.