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Father and Cancer Survivor Encourages Others to Check Family History

When Mitch Luxenburg was 11 years old, his father, who was 48 at the time, suffered a heart attack. From that point on, Mitch was very aware of how important it was to know your family health history. This became more apparent when Mitch’s father was then diagnosed with prostate cancer at 63 years old.

“I knew about prostate cancer and all the stats, that having a father with prostate cancer doubles a man’s risk of getting it,” says Mitch. “I was nowhere near prepared that I would have to address it so soon in my own life.”

At 36 years old, Mitch was faced with his own prostate cancer diagnosis. To make matters worse, his wife had recently passed away from breast cancer, leaving him to raise their four young children on his own.

“I honestly don’t know that there are words to describe it. It’s almost like a surreal, out-of-body experience. It’s not that the diagnosis isn’t bad for anyone but I’m in a unique situation.”

“I knew about prostate cancer and all the stats, that having a father with prostate cancer doubles a man’s risk of getting it. I was nowhere near prepared that I would have to address it so soon in my own life.”

Because of his age and family history of prostate cancer, his primary care physician recommended an appointment with Eric Klein, MD, Chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Glickman Urological & Kidney Institute. After discussing treatment options with Dr. Klein, Mitch opted for surgical removal of his prostate gland.

Mitch kept his prostate cancer diagnosis quiet in order to protect his children. “At the time I was not open at all, it was a complete secret. My kids had already been through enough, I didn’t want to add to their stress.”

As they got older, Mitch found opportunities to discuss his diagnosis with his kids, who are now teenagers. “Both my sons and daughters need to be prepared since each of their parents have had cancer at an unusually young age,” says Mitch. “I encourage them to stay on top of it - if something doesn’t feel right, speak up. I try to make it clear that the loss of their mother and their father’s cancer diagnosis does not define them. It’s something that happened to them but it does not define them.”

Mitch plans to get tested to see if he carries the gene mutation that increases a man’s risk of getting prostate cancer, which will then be factored into the care and screening timeline for the boys. “I want to make sure we are utilizing all options to improve the odds for their survival should the day ever come,” says Mitch.

Mitch now meets regularly with patients who are going through similar cancer journeys to give them advice and to offer a listening ear. “Today I’m meeting with a man who just lost his wife to breast cancer, and 11 years ago I lost my wife for the same reason,” says Mitch. “I enjoy helping other people because I wish I had the resources available to me when I went through it.”

Related Institutes: Glickman Urological & Kidney Institute
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