Like a character in the movie Platoon, Terry Leiden once thought that if he survived the Vietnam War, the rest of life would be a breeze.
But 12 years ago, he said, he felt as though he was dodging bullets again when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
"It's an incredible shock. Boom. It happens," Mr. Leiden said.
But when Mr. Leiden went in search of information to help him understand what he would face, he only found dry textbooks by physicians. There were few resources available on the topic compared to those for women who develop breast cancer, despite the fact that a similar percentage of men will get prostate cancer.
So he wrote his own book, Get Back in the Game. It's a work of fiction based on real men with prostate cancer in real circumstances with blunt talk of medical procedures.
It took several years to get the book published, Mr. Leiden said.
"Why would anybody be interested in writing about an old guy dying of cancer in Augusta?" was one response.
It is not a death sentence, but the diagnoses can feel that way. According to the American Cancer Society, 99 percent of the men diagnosed with prostate cancer will survive at least five years.
Mr. Leiden points to several famous men who retired or temporarily dropped out of sight after learning they had prostate cancer -- former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. But golf legend Arnold Palmer came back after treatment, Mr. Leiden said.
Many men don't want anyone to know they have cancer, because they might lose jobs, insurance coverage, friends and acquaintances, Mr. Leiden said.
Maybe because he was younger than most men when he was diagnosed, Mr. Leiden refused to give in to despair. And he wants to tell others not to give up.
He would like to see cancer treatment centers handing out copies of his book to men diagnosed with prostate cancer. And he would like to see others writing about the subject, Mr. Leiden said.
Men are reluctant to talk about their health, Mr. Leiden said. And most men won't be diagnosed during a regular physical exam.
"Not one guy in that whole book found out about it that way," Mr. Leiden said. Like one of his characters, who are composites, he was diagnosed after he got hit in the groin with a softball.
Mr. Leiden said he started asking other men at his doctor's office to share their stories. "Everyone has a story."
Mr. Leiden was able to pull other anecdotes and stories from his law practice. Representing people in bankruptcy taught him how workers' compensation and insurance can fail when they're needed the most.
And having gone through the treatment himself, Mr. Leiden is able to write realistically about the physical and emotional changes. And playing in the senior softball league helped him feature the game as a major plot.
Playing softball is important to Mr. Leiden. He scheduled his treatment so he would be able to finish out the 1996 season.
Mr. Leiden's team is the Triumph 65s.
"Every time we walk onto the field is a triumph right there," Mr. Leiden said.
Get Back in the Game is published by Harbor House and sells for $16.95.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or email@example.com.
OCCUPATION: Augusta attorney; author of Get Back in the Game, a book about dealing with prostate cancer
FAMILY: Married for 41 years Tuesday; father of three sons