Cancer diagnosis inspires Mark's Mission

One of the unwritten rules of working in TV is that you leave your worries, your personal challenges, and your darkness at the studio door. In the studio, you do your job. Mark Watkins does that well.

LEELANAU COUNTY, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) -- One of the unwritten rules of working in TV is that you leave your worries, your personal challenges, and your darkness at the studio door. In the studio, you do your job. Mark Watkins does that well. If you have watched our Chief Meteorologist over the past several months, you probably had no idea what emotions he was setting aside to bring you the forecast.

Taking a break from one of his daily walks around town, Mark explains, “I feel very healthy having had all that examination, other than the cancer." That cancer is what brings Mark to Munson Medical Center every day for treatment. Mark says, "Since August I have had a long series of tests, MRIs, body images, x-rays, all to focus in on where my prostate cancer is, but also to eliminate anything else in the neighborhood that's a problem."

For a man who has made a career out of forecasting the future, who always knew what was headed our way in the days to come, a cancer diagnosis wasn't exactly on his radar. Mark explains "I have never had much of an illness in my entire life, whenever I go to the doctor they ask a long list of questions, especially as you age, you got problems with this or this? and it's always no, zero, nothing."

No problems until this past August, when, after a biopsy, the call came. His reaction to the news was typical Mark Watkins. "The first moment I got the news, I thought I am a member of a special club. It's weird, kind of like, I am different" explains Mark.

That special club that Mark belongs to now adds new members every year. Doug Brown is a radiation oncologist with Munson Medical Center. He is overseeing Mark’s care. He says, "It is one of the most common cancers in men, there are roughly 180 to 200 thousand new cases of Prostate Cancer diagnosed a year." Dr. Brown says prostate cancer is often silent for a long time. Men may not notice the warning signs or if they do, they may not realize how serious it is. "It can be very difficult to determine what is related potentially to prostate cancer versus just in what is the normal aging process" explains Dr. Brown.

But listening to your body and speaking to your primary care provider about any concerns you may have can literally save your life. Mark’s was caught early, and after a long list of tests and exams, a game plan was laid out to treat it. Dr. Brown says, "It's very scary to get a diagnosis of prostate cancer but there are very good treatment approaches that provide cure rates of upwards of 95 to 99 percent."

Treatment can involve state of the art radiation like Mark gets every day. Dr. Brown says some patients may not need any treatment at the time of a cancer discovery. Instead, those patients can be monitored until there is a change. But Dr. Brown says, "one of the most common treatments nowadays is with radiation and the radiation approach to prostate cancer has changed significantly especially aggressive prostate cancers over the last several years."

It's too early to tell if it's really working, but Mark is optimistic and determined. Mark says "I'm told that my prognosis is very good. We are fighting this, we have gone through several stages and steps and I am hoping that we can get rid of it completely."

Mark says his cancer was discovered due to routine screening conducted at an annual physical. He says his doctors told him it might have been 10 years before he experienced symptoms that would have led to the discovery of his cancer. Finding it early gave him more treatment options, and he believes a better prognosis. As he has traveled this journey, Mark realized that he wanted to turn his experience into something positive. He wants others to know that it’s OK to speak up and talk about a topic and a part of the body that most of us tend to shy away from. Mark stresses “Guys need to be checked for this kind of thing, they don't want to think about it, and maybe they don't realize there is an issue, but the older we get the more likely we are going to develop problems like this."

To learn more the symptoms and treatment of prostate cancer, click here.

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