You can’t skip a year’
Percy H. Caines III’s grand ambition is to hop on a motorbike and travel the world raising cancer awareness.
It’s not something he decided on a whim.
The 59-year-old learnt he had prostate cancer in 2016. He believes annual check-ups are what saved him and hopes his global trek will do the same for others.
“I found out I had cancer that April,” said the Bermudian who left the island for the US 28 years ago. “On August 9, I had surgery to remove my prostate.
“Two years later, there are still some mornings when I get up and cry a bit because I had cancer in my body.
“I get up in the morning and tear a bit, because it hits me. I didn’t want to have cancer. I don’t wish that on anybody.
“I have heard of a lot of guys who are not listening out there, who are not going to the doctor.
“Last November I woke up one morning and I think the good Lord spoke to me and said, ‘I need you to do something for me’.”
As he lives in Jonesboro, he contacted the Arkansas Prostate Cancer Foundation hoping he could partner with work being done there.
The government-funded agency said it didn’t have the cash for the type of project he was proposing.
“So, I did it on my own,” said Mr Caines, who estimates he’s spent as much as $5,000 establishing the charity Men Listen Up and promoting its work. “I want to get guys out of their comfort zone. I want to tell guys how important it is that they get tested.”
His hope is that his rides get people talking — Bermuda will be his first.
He’s inviting everyone to get on their mopeds and join him as he makes his way from Dockyard to Clearwater Beach, St David’s, on Saturday, July 28.
There is no fee for participating; the first 200 people to donate $50 or more will receive a T-shirt.
“This is an historical event,” he said, explaining that the island doesn’t have a charity dedicated to prostate cancer or any programmes to raise awareness about the disease.
“I’m in touch with my class of ‘76 from [the Berkeley Institute]. A couple of them have helped me organise it and at least 130 people have said they’ll join me. Even people who don’t know me have said they’re coming.”
According to the American Cancer Society, one out of every nine males will have prostate cancer. After skin cancer, it’s the second most common cancer for men.
Getting on a moped to raise awareness was an obvious solution for Mr Caines, who remembers how much fun he had on bikes in his youth.
“Growing up in Bermuda was beautiful,” he said. “We cliff-dived, pulled mussels off the reefs. I lived on Mount Hill, on Berkeley Road.
“We used to race up and down North Shore. We would go to football games with a girl on the back of our bikes. I hit the pavement so many times.”
His first thought was to ride across the United States to draw attention to the cause, but then he decided to aim bigger.
“I want to do other islands, go all over the US and then go to Europe, to Australia,” said Mr Caines, who works for a Jonesboro car dealer. “It just came to me. The good Lord opened my eyes and said, ‘I need your help. Get out there’.
“With breast cancer, people [often hold] walks and runs so I thought I could ride a moped because it’s something different, something people would look at and say, ‘Hey!’.
“There is a lot of advertising for other cancers; prostate cancer needs to be out there too.
“We want to be the biggest advertiser for prostate cancer awareness [utilising] TV, radio, billboards, park benches, bumper stickers, etc.
“We also want to partner up with other prostate cancer foundations in the world.
“If these foundations [are able to encourage] 100 men to go and get a yearly prostate check-up, then with our advertising they should be getting thousands.
“We want to also partner up with the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, etc — breast cancer is, why can’t we?”
He is thrilled that he followed medical advice and had a complete physical every year.
“A lot of guys don’t get tested because they’re too macho. I’ve been screened every year since I was 50 and I never had any symptoms [although] my PSA [prostate-specific antigen] scores were going up and down.
“I had a biopsy a few years ago and it came back negative and then, in the early months of 2016, my reading was a little higher than ever before.
“So, I was told to see my urologist, Dr Joseph Kueter, and get another biopsy and that’s when I found out I had prostate cancer.
“I almost fell out. It was a sad day for sure, but luckily he said I had caught it at an early stage.
“I was walking around with cancer in my body and I didn’t know a thing. Early detection is the key.
“Once I found out, I was distraught because I didn’t know really what was happening. Yes it’s a slow-growing disease for men, but it’s still scary.
“Men need to go every year for testing. You can’t skip a year. You could skip and have cancer growing in your body.”
Although he is still in the healing process, his focus is on building Men Listen Up.
“I want to spread awareness and build up enough collateral so I can give money to foundations that do tests. It’s time for men to take off the blindfold. Prostate cancer is real. Have a look.”