by VEJAY STEEDE
First thing’s first: Arnold Allen is a warrior!
A highly disciplined man who has studied martial arts for more than 50 years. A ninth-degree black belt in Sanuces Ryu Jujitsu; fifth-degree black belt in Shotokan Karate; a student of Judo, Kung-fu and many other forms; and a retired military veteran of 37 years. This is as tough a guy as guys come; a textbook example of what Muhammad Ali once famously described as a “Bad man!”
Now celebrating his arrival at the refined age of 65 years, Mr Allen is proud to include cancer survivor in his long list of gladiatorial accomplishments.
The journey through prostate cancer was not exactly a joy ride for Mr Allen, but he reflects on it with grace, charm and an intense passion to make other men understand the urgency of getting checked for the affliction.
His story starts with an astute observation by a dear friend: “When it comes to my prostate, I did not have any symptoms really. What happened was a good friend of mine, Basil Wilson, who was my doctor at the regiment, and my personal physician, had informed me that he did not like what he was seeing, and called me to come to up his office right away.”
Dr Wilson told Mr Allen his PSA was very high and sent him to a specialist.
“After visiting the specialist, and then going back for my results, there was a cold feeling as he entered the office. And when he told me, ‘Yep, you have prostate cancer, but it’s curable’ – at the time I didn’t hear ‘curable’ at all.
“All I wanted to know was: why me, you know? I felt like God was punishing me for all the things that I had done wrong in life.”
This was a devastating diagnosis for a man who had lived such a disciplined life: a highly skilled, highly capable man, who had always had the utmost confidence in his own physical abilities. This was the hard part though, and this, too, would pass.
Mr Allen’s own research put him in a better mental space, as he learned that prostate cancer, if detected early – before it’s able to spread – is very survivable, and that he would have several options for treatment.
His cancer had been caught in time.
“Mine was not outside the prostate at that moment, so we did observation treatment, where we were watching it, and then we found another spot.
“After discussion with the doctor about what treatment I could get, and what would happen if I had radiation and chemo, and that I could have it fully removed – I decided to have it fully removed.”
Luckily, Mr Allen did not experience any severe symptoms beyond frequent urination at night, and his treatment would basically consist of the operation to remove the cancer. The wholesale life changes and moments of hardship would come during his recovery.
“The only treatment was the operation. The aftereffects of the operation were when I came home, and I had to wear the diapers. I was also wearing the pads, having to change the pads every day – even on my job! I would go to the bathroom and change the pads because I had a lot of leakage. Laughter would cause me to leak profusely, and stuff like that.
“Today I still wear the pads – it’s just like one a day. If I go training in the martial arts, I will wear a diaper; you know, so it’s things like that, I would say, have changed my life.”
This would be too embarrassing for many men to talk about, but Mr Allen is no ordinary man – let’s face it, you aren’t going to poke fun at a ninth-degree black belt in any martial art!
Having come through the most harrowing lows of a cancer survival journey, Mr Allen now talks about the experience with a distinct elegance and levity; the quietly confident tone of a warrior who has successfully vanquished yet another opponent.
On his recovery, he said: “The good thing about my life is that I’ve always eaten good food, exercised, and been careful of what I do. So, the recovery has been great; I’m able to go for my seven-mile walk and run; I’m able to train – kick and punch – you know, things are really great.
“The way I process everyday stress and world problems, however, is totally different – I don’t let anything stress me, really, because stress and cancer do not mix!”
His focus has now turned to cancer awareness, and encouraging his brothers to just go and do what they have to do to ensure they won’t succumb to the decidedly beatable scourge that is prostate cancer.
“I feel that every man should go get the ‘poke for life’. It’s a very serious thing! Since I’ve been back, I’ve talked to over 50 guys, and every one of them has had some sort of symptom, like using the bathroom more often – just last week I talked to a gentleman, and he was telling me he was urinating blood. So, I said, ‘Listen, you need to go get checked!’
He said Bermuda should needs more cancer support programmes for men.
“For myself, I’d like to put on a Karate tournament, just to raise funds for men’s prostate and cancer awareness; that is my goal, actually.”
As technical director of the Bermuda Karate Federation, Mr Allen has discussed putting on a tournament to raise money for organisations such as PALS Cancer Care in Bermuda and the Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre.
“I’m saying men because men seem to be afraid of going to get themselves checked regularly, and it’s a must – there’s no reason why we should be dying today from prostate cancer!”
Mr Allen is a formidable man; a man with a particular set of skills; a man whose willingness to tell his story reaffirms his hero status. He’s determined to make a stand against men’s cancer – cancer should be very afraid!