Own experience fuels man's fight against prostate cancer
reporter for the Argus
|Jim Fulks and Hannah
FREMONT, CA. WHEN HIS DOCTOR told him he had terminal prostate cancer at the age of 55, Jim Fulks feared he would not live to have grandchildren. But six years and three grandchildren later, he is still alive. However, the cancer spread to his lungs and, although it appears controlled for now, death looms constant.
Instead of allowing himself to live in shadow, the longtime Fremont resident has chosen to live out loud. He tirelessly campaigns to increase awareness about prostate cancer, which will kill 37,000 men in the United States this year, the American Cancer Society estimates.
"It makes you appreciate life a whole lot more," he said. "If I had been cured, I probably wouldn't be as involved ... I just keep going from day to day just hoping someone will come up with a miracle cure."
Fulks is doing more than hoping. He started a prostate cancer support group in Fremont in 1997 and publishes a monthly newsletter. He is retired from Sun Microsystems and spends much of his time doing research on the latest developments in prostate cancer treatments and helping other men cope with the disease.He is also trying to bring more attention to the Prostate Cancer Awareness postage stamp recently released.
His efforts have not gone unnoticed. He was honored by the American Cancer Society two years ago, and Shari Welters with the society's Tri-Cities unit of said Wednesday the group is privileged to have a volunteer like Fulks.
"Jim is one of the most generous men I have ever met. His dedication and drive to help find a cure for prostate cancer is admirable," she said. "For anyone suffering from this disease, Jim is there to help. He is a very special person, and we need more people like him."
In addition to being a shoulder to cry on, Fulks is a valuable source of practical information, said prostate cancer patient Maurice Indig of Fremont, who is in Fulk's support group. "He is a very caring person and extremely knowledgeable. He not only offers moral support, but also thoughts on how to approach the illness," Indig said.
Being informed is one of the best ways to stay alive, Fulks said. Men need to be their own advocates and research different treatment options. Advances in medicine are being made every day, he said.
Fulks, who has already lived a year beyond his doctor's prediction, is now participating in a clinical trial to treat prostate cancer at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center. "I'm trying to make sure men who are at risk don't ignore the opportunity to find it and treat it early, because early treatment can be effective," he said. "[Men think] the big C -- I'm a dead man, but you don't have to be a dead man if you treat it."
Early detection is key, and Fulks is a strong supporter of regular prostate cancer screenings. The American Cancer Society recommends annual blood tests and digital rectal examinations to check the prostate beginning at the age of 50. Men with a family history of prostate cancer should start earlier. Living with the side effects of having his prostate removed, which can include impotence and incontinence, and the fact his cancer could come back at any time, has been difficult for Fulks. With the support of his wife of 39 years, Gerry, who is retired nurse, he said he will do the best he can for as long as he can. "I'd like to make a difference," he said. "I am hoping I can."
The Fremont, CA. prostate cancer support group meets 7 to 9 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month, Washington Hospital auditorium, 2000 Mowry Ave. For prostate cancer information, call Jim Fulks, (510) 490-8439 or visit his Web site:
Reprinted by generous permission of The Argus (ANG newspapers)