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Prostate Cancer Uncensored Podcast | Feat. Max Wade “Cowboy Max”

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Prostate Cancer Uncensored, a podcast produced by ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer. This episode is brought to you in partnership with Bayer. Today, our guest host is Twisted Sister’s Jay Jay French. He’s a rocker and author and a prostate cancer survivor.

Prostate Cancer: Uncensored podcast unfiltered discussions with researchers, caregivers, patients, and medical professionals about prostate cancer. Listen online, or subscribe and download on your favorite podcasting platform; episodes are available for listening on Apple PodcastsAnchor.fmStitcherGoogle PodcastsTuneInPlayerFMPocket CastsSpotifyPodBeanRadioPublic,


Voice-Over:
Welcome to Prostate Cancer Uncensored, a podcast produced by ZERO – The End of Prostate Cancer. This episode is brought to you in partnership with Bayer. Today, our guest host is Twisted Sister’s Jay Jay French. He’s a rocker and author and a prostate cancer survivor. In this episode, we talk with Max Wade, also known as Cowboy Max. He’s a TikTok influencer, farmer and prostate cancer survivor based in New Mexico. Max was diagnosed in 2021 at the young age of 46 and now uses his platform with nearly 450,000 followers on TikTok to chronicle his prostate cancer journey and raise awareness for the disease.

Jay Jay French:
Welcome, Max Wade.

Max Wade:
Hey, thank you. I’m so glad to be here. I appreciate the opportunity, like you, to further the message of getting men to grab a hold of this and understand and take control of our own destiny if you will.

Jay Jay:
Well, look, putting the cultural differences aside, you got, you’re from New Mexico, I’m from Manhattan, and all that stuff. When you get to a certain age, health becomes the overall issue. It doesn’t matter where you are, what country you’re in. You start having conversations with people and you find out that we’re not 20 anymore and things do happen in our lives and we’re going to cover a bunch of those. You were diagnosed at a young age at 46, I started checking for my prostate cancer at a young age because my father died of prostate cancer. He had undiagnosed prostate cancer. He and I saw what the results were of undiagnosed prostate cancer. As you well know, any- It’s not a pretty picture. Tell me about what it was when you were diagnosed, at what stage were you diagnosed? What was going through your mind?

Max:
Well, at 45, so two years ago in 2020, 45, I got a blood test. My PSA levels were elevated. They’re high fours, 4.8, 4.9. I think, somewhere in there. My primary doctor at the time said, “Okay, let’s not get alarmed just yet because there could have been other reasons why you’re elevated like that.”

Jay Jay:
Which is true. We need to say just because you have a high PSA does not mean prostate cancer. It can mean many things, but you have to start paying attention.

Max:
Exactly. It’s got to be something, now we need to be alerted to it. The doc said, “Let’s give it six months. Let’s see what happens.” 2021 rolls around, I go back in, PSA levels have gone to 5.6. It started the whole ball rolling at that point. I got referred to the urologist, went to the urologist, had the digital exam, the finger exam. He wasn’t– He didn’t feel, he felt some enlargement but really didn’t feel any tumors or anything like that.

Jay Jay:
By the way, let me just say to people listening that could be enlarged prostate due to a medical condition. Not prostate cancer. Just saying.

Max:
That was the same thing that they told me was. “We’re still early in this process, you have maybe a little bit of an enlarged prostate. It doesn’t mean you have cancer.” To give you a little heads up of where my mind was at the time it’s like I’m scared to death because my dad, he had skin cancer, he had prostate cancer and he survived both of those. He died of colon cancer. In my mind, I’m going to have cancer and that’s– It’s just, that’s what’s going to be going on. All along they’re reassuring me it doesn’t mean you have cancer, but we’re going to go to the next step.

The next step was the biopsy. We went into the 12-core biopsy deal. The results off of that confirmed, yes, I did have prostate cancer. In that whole process, I was never given a stage. It was run off of that– I guess through my own research I was maybe a stage two, but I had a Gleason score of seven, more risky seven, the four, three. That’s a complicated thing that goes on there with the Gleason scores that I can’t, I don’t really know exactly how it works other than they said, “You’re a seven, you’re on the higher risk seven.” From that diagnosis then I got the MRI and they confirmed that the cancer was very concentrated in one quadrant of the prostate, but right up against the wall, which became even more concerning in the whole process.

Jay Jay:
Because you don’t want it to break through. You do not want the cancer to break through the wall because this is where it starts to get really bad.

Max:
That’s where–

Jay Jay:
Try to get it contained.

Max:
That’s where my mind was, I’m just envisioning all of this nasty, these creatures trying to break out because they’re right at the wall. My mind is spinning. They’re going to bust out at any minute type of thing.

Jay Jay:
How much education did you start reading about it when you were diagnosed? Did you already have a lot of knowledge about prostate cancer beforehand? How much education did you find yourself having to go into? Did you go online, you start reading magazines. What were you thinking at this point?

Max:
Backing up to my dad a little bit, in his later stages of his losing battle with colon cancer. One of the things he had told me is he said, “Don’t do what I did.” He said, “Go to the doctor and go get checked.” We’re taught, we hear this all the time. Men are just not prone to going to the doctor, too prideful, whatever it is, especially when it comes to things around the prostate, anywhere around there, we don’t want to deal with that. That got me going to get to the doctor and getting the blood test because beyond respect for my dad and he said to do it, so I did it. When I first had the elevation in 2020, I was not overly concerned because the doctor was not overly concerned.

I’m like, okay. Because I’m really not that educated on it at that point. Now fast forward to 2021 when the doc tells me, “Okay, you’re 5.6, it’s gone up dramatically. Chances are pretty high at this point.” Every step along the way it gets a whole lot more stressful. Prior to getting the diagnosis, I started looking into things, primarily online. We live online, and I started looking at things and here’s– I started to educate myself about what it was and then talking to a few of my friends and people that I knew that had gone through it and had cancer, had the prostate cancer, but what started happening also when I started paying attention more to that phrase, prostate cancer and not, now my dad had had it, but he got past that. All of a sudden, every time I hear prostate cancer, it’s another man dying. I’m scared to death really prior to getting the diagnosis. Then I get the diagnosis and it did send me for a tailspin.

Jay Jay:
Max. I know that for me, even though my father died of it, my brother had it and I always expected it was going to come and all the tofu and the world wouldn’t have changed my diagnosis. It’s still not great to hear you have prostate cancer. Do you remember what you were thinking at the moment they told you that?

Max:
Yes, I really do. Leading up to it, I was concerned obviously that I was going to be diagnosed with prostate cancer because dad had it and the cards were lining up that probably I was going to have it. There’s still that thing in the back of your mind? Well, maybe I don’t and I felt like I was preparing myself. I felt like okay. If it does come back and it says, “Yes, you have cancer.”, I’m going to be okay, because I’ve prepared. My wife was the one who got the call because I was in the middle of something and I missed the call. I came into the house and she told me and I was floored. I had no idea that emotionally it was going to rock me the way it did.

I was in tears, wow. Again, I feel like I’ve gone through this journey to get to that particular point. The journey up to that point was highly emotional and nerve-wracking to me and now I’m starting another chapter of this very emotional rollercoaster, physical rollercoaster. I know that I’m going to be in pain. I know that there’s possibilities on the backside of it.

The side effects of sexual dysfunction and incontinence and whatever, those are looming large. The amount of the– It was a bombshell to me for a little while. It really was. We talked about the battling of it all. The emotional battle was what was really tough because it’s cancer and that’s not a good word. It’s just a bad word. Cancer, so many things and has so many potential implications.

Jay Jay:
I always thought cancer was what other people got.

Max:
Yes, exactly.

Jay Jay:
Not me. When it was me and I said, “I have cancer”, I had to say those words to myself. “I have cancer.: Oh my God. In my case, I just have to say every time I’ve taken my test on my biopsy they always just emailed me or faxed me the results into your negative, negative, negative. I got a phone call this time. It says, “I think you need to come in” and I knew there’s no reason why I have to come in if you’re telling me I’m fine. What pathway did you choose? I had a radical prostatectomy. I wanted it out of my system. I’ve spoken to so many men and the guys who wanted out of their system just said, “Man, I’m not interested in seeds. I just wanted it out of here.” Some said, “I didn’t want to go through that.” What pathway did you choose?

Max:
I did the same exact thing. The radical prostatectomy and for the exact same reason was it’s got to be gone. I can’t- because they give you the three or gave me the three options, we can sit and watch, which I’ve got cancer. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I don’t think you can convince me of that deal. Then, or I can do the seeds, the radiation seeds and I was fortunate though that I did have ended up with a really good surgeon that I think was fantastic. I really, it was one of those things – you always ask that, “What would you do?” His deal was, “I’d absolutely take it out” and he would, not just because we want it gone but there was rationale behind it.

“You’re 46 years old. The concentration is highly concentrated at the wall essentially and we don’t want to take the way- you’re young now and with radiation then, we run into a lot of other problems with the seeds where you’re going to affect your bladder and all of the other things that now you’re going to compound problems and just push them off for later on.” Even though I was there listening to the other options, my mind had been made up. I just want it gone. That’s all there was to it.

Jay Jay:
Max, tell me because we do live very different lives in New York and you’re out there and you’re a cowboy, how does being a cowboy factor into any of this?

Max:
Let me clarify. Cowboy in the traditional sense, you’re out working, riding the range and you’re gathering cattle, working cattle and all that, and though I’ve done a lot of that, my life as Cowboy Max is I’m a goat rancher so how did the whole prostate cancer affect you? Once you had the surgery obviously, you’re down for quite a while. My daily activities revolve around me picking things up and pulling things and doing things. There were many months where I couldn’t do that and the same thing with the heart issues I was having. There was about a year of my life right there that I was down, just couldn’t do anything.

Jay Jay:
I’ve been very honest with my side effects. I’ve spoken about them on my podcast. I’ve spoken about this with Rob Halford. I’ve spoken about it with other cancer survivors because you just do and I didn’t talk about it at first because I was embarrassed about everything. You need to talk about this stuff. My side effects were tough. I didn’t have it at the age of 45, 46. I was much older. They say that when you’re younger and you have radical prostatectomy, your ability to come back from erectile dysfunction, for example, is easier. It can come back because the nerves will regenerate faster and you can have a more normal sex life. Can you elaborate a little bit on that?

Max:
I got to say, listening to your podcast, I appreciate the honesty because I think men just– You see, that we’re thick scolding, you got through there and honesty is the only way, the blunt honesty is the only way to get there. Yes, so obviously those were the huge concerns, incontinence, and sexual dysfunction. I’m like you’re hitting right at the manhood of everything and so major concerns. There was a couple of things that went on in the early stages. That was all part of the decision of, are we going to go ahead and go through this because there are the major risk that you are going to have erectile dysfunction and you are going to have incontinence? In my process, I started out with one surgeon and she actually transferred from one hospital to the VA.

She recommended me to another doctor, her mentor because I couldn’t go to the VA. Initially, it was like, “You know what? We’re not taking any chances because of the location of the cancer so close to the wall, we’re going to have to take the nerves out on that side.” That’s the thing that, once you remove the nerves, then the erectile dysfunction is a guaranteed kind of thing. It was a hard conversation but also my wife always says it’s better than the alternative because–

Jay Jay:
Can we stop right there? What you just said, you’re choosing to live first, right?

Max:
Yes.

Jay Jay:
That’s the first choice you make. When you’re dealing with this kind of stuff, man, if you don’t understand that your first choice is life, you’re a family person, you got kids, you got a spouse, if they’re supportive of you, your job is to live, bro. Number one. You said to yourself, that’s my choice, “I’m going to live no matter what?”

Max:
That’s 100% the choice you have to make. I think you can lose sight of that. The idea is that I have a wife, I have kids, I have family, I have friends, I have people that love me, that need me, that want me in their lives and it’s not just about me. It’s a difficult conversation to have with yourself but at the same time, it’s much better than the alternative. That was the thing when I first met with that surgeon. She said, “We’re just going to have to take the nerves out on this side, we can spare them on the other side and we can cross our fingers in hope.” We just settled in on that. My wife and I were like, “Okay, let’s do it.”

Then the transfer happened. I went over to the cancer center with a new surgeon there and he says, “You know what?” He says “I’m going to do everything I can to spare the nerves as much as I possibly can.” He says, “I won’t know until I get in there. Once I get in there, I’ll be able to tell the situation.” I’m all for that. That’s great. Fast forward to this and I got to tell you, and I think it’s a combination. I had an incredible surgeon and I’m young, so I have issues but my sexual function is, it’s there. It all works and maybe it doesn’t work as well as it did, but everything works fantastically and the recovery is progressing.

Jay Jay:
Did you ever say to yourself, “I have no intention to talk about my issues”, or did you feel that once you got better you needed to educate people? What was your thinking as far as that was concerned?

Max:
When the pandemic hit, I got into TikTok. My kids got me doing TikTok because I’m just goofy that way and I do funny things and whatever. I got into that, the deal and the world’s going through crazy stuff and it always has been but the last few years have been nuts and people need something. They need a relief, they need an outlet and for whatever reason, that was happening for me with my TikTok influence and doing what I was doing, just my everyday life of hanging out with my goats and looking at the mountains and drinking coffee and just doing things. What I started to realize was there’s a need that people have for something. I don’t know what it is that I’m giving exactly but people were drawn to it and felt good about it.

It did give me this platform because all of a sudden I realize I watched dad go through some horrible– This the strongest, most vibrant man that I’ve ever known. I thought he was invincible. Even at 40 years old, my dad is still invincible and I saw cancer crush him. The words that he told me, he said, “Don’t do what I did. Don’t wait until you’re 70 years old to go to a doctor because at that point it’s too late.” He said the same thing and what I’ve heard is with cancer, most cancer, if you catch it early enough, you have a chance. It resonated with me. It got me to thinking because so many men are this way where we just don’t want to deal with it. “I don’t want to deal with problems”, but my surgeon had I not started, there’s no reason for me to have started doing blood tests prior to being 50 years old. That’s the marker.

That’s always been the marker. You don’t want to worry about getting your PSA or prostate checked until you’re 50. Well, 40 is the new 50 now. That’s the thing I wanted to. I said, “I’ve got a kind of a platform. People need something, there– I think there’s an opportunity to be able to make an impact on people’s lives.” Prostate cancer, we say, “Well, that’s a man’s disease.” It affects everybody, the parents, the wives, the kids, the whole thing, because people love us. Somebody out there loves us. I just felt like with my influence on TikTok, I never did say, “I’m going to zip my lips about this and not talk about it.” I said, “I think I’ve got an opportunity to impact somebody’s life and maybe, I don’t know, maybe save somebody’s life”, because I think my dad saved my life.

Jay Jay:
It’s a cliche that someone says, “If I can just change one life”, but you want to know something? As much of a cliche as that is, I say to myself with every interview, if just one guy says to himself, “You know what? I shouldn’t, I got to get checked today. I just should do this.” If just one person does it, that’s all you can do. That’s all you can do. You got to be out there. You have to put it out there, which is why– Then I went completely the other way and said, “I’m going to tell everybody the story. I’m going to scream it to the top.” Rob Halford, he said to me I have to talk about it. Rob Halford is Judas Priest.

We’re all supposed to be invincible, but we’re not invincible. We’re not invincible. We have families that we have to think of, and besides all that other stuff, this is why we do what we do. You, without hesitation, dove in and said, “I’m going to use this platform.”

Max:
I did. I tried to document every step of the way, as much as I could, from drinking the nasty shake before the biopsy or in all, every step along the way, the surgeries and after surgery, and by the way, I got so much more content because my heart’s failing at the same time. I’m doing both at the same time, like, hey, but yes, I think that– I guess the reality for me in that deal too, was like, “Wait a minute. The initial steps for us as guys, when it comes to prostate cancer, it’s a blood test.” I didn’t know that beforehand, before all of this happened. My view of this was always the finger exam. I didn’t know– No, I didn’t ever want to do that. How about that? I never wanted to do that, but it’s the blood test, that’s the initial deal.

I think we’re strong enough to get a blood test. If it’s that simple, gosh, again, what’s the alternative? Go get blood drawn, or I find out 10 years down the road that I’m too late.

Jay Jay:
Tell me today. How do you feel when you get up out of bed today, now?

Max:
I feel fantastic because that whole thing is the, what’s the alternative? Even if I’m not feeling great today, I’m alive, man. I survived the prostate surgery. I survived the heart surgeries. I’m still kicking another day. I got to say, I do very often go pat myself on the shoulder. “Good job. Way to go for going ahead and listening, finally, listening to your dad and paying attention to something and going and doing something about it”, because I wake up and my wife is there. I wake up, my kids are there. I wake up, my goats are there, my life is there. It worked out just the way it was supposed to.

Jay Jay:
Again, where you and I are similar, the death of my father to prostate cancer is what made me aware of prostate cancer. We owe this to our fathers and that’s something we should be grateful for. This show is brought to you by ZERO Prostate Cancer, brought to you by Bayer, who has been instrumental in educating men, because they want ZERO out prostate cancer, they want to end it and we share that. Doesn’t matter where we’re from or what our occupations are. We have a shared goal, and that is to instruct and help people learn and hopefully prevent dying from prostate cancer. With that, Max, I’d like to thank you so much for being on the show and good luck to you.

Max:
Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Thank you for all you all are doing and that’s it, as I always say, have a good day.

Voice-Over:
You’ve been listening to Prostate Cancer Uncensored, a podcast produced by ZERO: The End of Prostate Cancer. This episode is brought to you in partnership with Bayer. To learn more about prostate cancer and to download more episodes of Prostate Cancer Uncensored, go to zerocancer.org.