Thomas Wallace’s advocacy journey began on July 30, 2010, when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Prior to diagnosis, his prostate specific antigen (PSA) was an elevated 5.45. Its continued elevation in a repeat test a few months later, in combination with an enlarged prostate, led Thomas’ urologist to recommend a biopsy to determine if he had cancer.
He received the results on a day that was meant to be a celebration: His daughter’s wedding vow renewal ceremony.
“When I got the news that my test results confirmed prostate cancer diagnosis, I was playing golf with my son and son-in-law,” said Thomas. “So for the next three and a half hours, I had to hold it together and finish the game without telling them.”
After discussing treatment options with his wife and conducting additional research, Thomas decided to pursue proton therapy at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. During treatment, as he became interested in prostate cancer education and advocacy, he noticed that only five or six patients out of some 100 attending his support group were African American.
Further investigation revealed that prostate cancer is a significant problem for the African American community and that health literacy, access to treatment, and socio-economic status all play a large role in increased risk and outcomes.
“I thought that I could make a great impact for the African American community by getting involved with prostate cancer advocacy efforts,” he said. “To accomplish this, I started an advocacy organization in 2011 called Power of Proton. Through the organization I educate African American males about proton therapy as an option for prostate cancer treatment.”
Thomas is retired from the United States Army, and spent and extensive amount of time teaching in the Chatham County School District. While attending a prostate cancer health disparities conference in Florida in 2010, he was introduced to the Prostate Cancer Research Program (PCRP) at CDMRP. Since then, Thomas been serving as a PCRP peer reviewer. He acknowledges that other than the birth of his children and marriage, serving as a reviewer has been the greatest experience he could ask for.
As a COMPPARE Patient Stakeholder, Thomas primarily works to engage the African American community both in Florida and on the national level to increase recruitment to the study.
“The number one thing I can contribute as Patient Stakeholder is my personal experience with a prostate cancer diagnosis, receiving proton therapy, and now being cancer free for eight years,” says Wallace. “It’s been a great experience interacting with the scientific community and learning so much about the research being done to eradicate this awful disease called prostate cancer.”
We are grateful for content adapted from the Department of Defense – Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs website for use in this article.