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by Diana Vela and Tina Butler   |   April 16, 2021

Breaking the Unwritten Rule

There’s an unwritten rule in the Hispanic/Latin community to not talk about “it”. Whether it’s a general illness, preventative care, or even a cancer diagnosis, we don’t talk about “it”. I see it in my husband’s family and in too many other Hispanic families as well; health and healthcare are simply not discussed. It’s not common to share any illnesses with family members. I’ve never understood why either. 

It was common knowledge in my family growing up that my maternal grandmother and three out of five of her daughters, had different types of cancer diagnoses (breast, lung, ovarian). My paternal grandfather also died from bladder cancer. Even though we knew about other family members who each had different types of cancer, nothing was said that was proactive. We were never told to watch what we eat or to exercise regularly. Now, due to my parent’s health and our participation in ZERO events, we now talk about how important it is to take care of ourselves and be proactive with our healthcare. 

In the spring of 2015 my dad, Ramiro Cesar Martinez, had developed painless hematuria (blood in urine). He was evaluated by a urologist with the initial concern being bladder cancer due to family history. At this time he underwent multiple tests and was diagnosed in April with prostate cancer (rated as a 6 on the Gleason scale) and was told watchful waiting was appropriate given his age (74) and the Gleason score. At that time only two spots out of 10 showed cancer and his PSA levels were normal.  

In August of 2016, he underwent a second prostate biopsy due to his continued hematuria. This time, 9 out of 10 biopsy sites showed cancer and it transitioned into “undifferentiated” cancer. His PSA remained normal and in September of the same year, he began three cycles of chemotherapy. With a rise in his PSA, his doctors determined that chemotherapy was no longer successful and began radiation treatment. By the end of his treatment in February of 2017, the hematuria had finally resolved and he felt great. Dad was then in remission! 

An unfortunate car accident in 2017 brought forward a diagnosis of metastatic brain tumors from prostate cancer for my Dad. He developed a DVT (deep vein thrombosis) post-op and had an IVC filter placed. He underwent radiation therapy to the parietal and occipital lobes of his brain. We sought a second opinion at MD Anderson in Houston, TX where he was accepted into a clinical trial. Throughout the remainder of the year, more mets were discovered and he struggled with multiple DVTs. After receiving his first dose of chemotherapy from the clinical trial, Dad felt great and was optimistic. 

Like the majority of us who connect with ZERO, I found the organization from a quick Google search. I was looking for a 5k run for prostate cancer and found ZERO. My dad had hoped to participate in the event one day as a survivor. On January 11, 2018, at the age of 77, he passed away. 

In my opinion, education and awareness are the most important components of ZERO and receiving a prostate cancer diagnosis in general. The Run/Walks across the nation allow us to dive into our own prostate cancer communities and connect with each other. That unwritten rule about “not talking about it” is broken thanks to these events. There isn’t enough education or talk about prostate cancer in our communities. It is so important to get screened. 

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, my one piece of advice is to take it one day at a time and support the patient. It is so important for the man in your life to know that you are with him each step of the way. My Dad knew how much we believed in him. He saw and felt the support and love. In the span of just about a  year from Nov. of 2003 to Dec. of 2004, he had lost his mother and then his wife of 43 years. Our parents taught us what true love is all about. Our Dad passed with a smile on his face, and I know it was because he saw our Mom again at that moment. 

The crushing pain of losing both of my parents was intense. I’m thankful for the support of my family to make it through it. Thank goodness for the support we gave each other. 

Break the stigma. Talk about “it” and take preventative measures in your health care and those you love. 


Join us on September 19, 2021, at the ZERO Prostate Cancer Run/Walk San Antonio. More details to follow. Please reach out to Tracy Crites for more information.