Treated 1999 • Posted 2002

African-Americans, such as Alex Plummer, are 60 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer than Caucasians.

PROSTATE CANCER SURVIVOR ON A MISSION: Reprinted by permission of the Simi Valley Star

A routine blood test changed Alex Plummer's life. It was 1998, and the Simi Valley man was poised to retire from Plummer Security, a company he had run for 20 years. He had big plans, including spending time traveling with his wife, Betty, and the rest of the family.

The blood test, however, showed Plummer had a high level of prostate-specific antigen, an indicator of possible prostate cancer. Plummer, now 69, knew well what the test meant -- his father, Sonny, died at the age of 53 from the disease.

Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer among men in California. And African-Americans, such as Plummer, are 60 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer than Caucasians.

When Plummer's diagnosis was confirmed, he remembered what his father went through. "I didn't want to be cut or have someone ripping up my body," said Plummer, who now spends his time trying to enlighten men about the options available when prostate cancer is diagnosed.

Plummer said fear and depression set in after his diagnosis. He regularly worked out at a local gym, but began skipping exercise regimens. He closed his security company.

"I use to go to church with my wife, but I turned to the television and watched my favorite preacher, Charles Stanley," Plummer said.

His brother, Miller Plummer, a deacon in a church in New York, called him daily. "God will heal you -- if you have a strong faith and trust in God," Miller told him.

Then Plummer watched a "60 Minutes" segment devoted to proton-beam radiation, a non-surgical alternative to fighting prostate cancer. The procedure was available in Southern California at Loma Linda University Medical Center.

His insurance plan rejected the proton-beam treatments, which cost about $70,000, and said he should have surgery. Plummer said no.

Changing insurance took months, but finally he was allowed to go to Loma Linda and receive 15 proton-beam radiation treatments. Three years later, his cancer remains in remission.

Now, he's determined to stay active and promote prostate cancer awareness. He stresses the importance of men undergoing screening for the disease. Those diagnosed with it should seek opinions from several doctors and then explore various methods of treatment, Plummer said.

A first-person account of his experience appeared in a recent issue of "Guideposts" magazine. And Plummer spreads his prostate cancer message wherever he can -- at support group meetings, at church and in low-income communities of Los Angeles.

"Most people of minority descent have no knowledge of prostate cancer," Plummer said. "I want them to get tested and have a positive attitude. If you start thinking negatively, then it will affect your lifestyle and cause you to deteriorate.

"If you have family support and a positive attitude, you can get through it."

Alex Plummer - Simi Valley, California