Golf recently lost one of its greats when Arnold Palmer passed away September 25th at the age of 87. What many don’t know is that Palmer was an avid cancer awareness advocate. He took great pride in educating people on early detection. Personal experience was his biggest motivation.
One of Palmer’s daughters was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 32 years old. She is now cancer-free. In 1997 Palmer was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He immediately underwent surgery and radiation. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. Each year, about 180,890 men in the U.S. are diagnosed with prostate cancer, and an estimated 26,120 men die from it. However, when diagnosed early, there is a 98 percent survival rate. Luckily, Palmer’s cancer was diagnosed early.
After beating cancer, Arnold Palmer went on to win many more championships, but he never lost sight of what could have been. He devoted his time and financial resources to prostate cancer awareness and several large medical institutions including the Arnold Palmer Prostate Center at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Palm Springs, Calif., and the Arnold Palmer Pavilion located in his hometown of Latrobe, PA.
Palmer’s message was that of early detection and regular check-ups. He credits his doctor with saving his life. The doctor began regular physicals and protein-specific antigen (PSA) screenings to monitor him for cancer when he was in his thirties. When one of those screenings came back positive, Palmer was quick to take action. He spread that advice to his many followers, known as “Arnie’s Army,” in the hopes that they, too, would get PSA screenings. While the PSA has come under scrutiny due to false positive results, Palmer insisted he wouldn’t be here without it.
While undergoing treatment for his prostate cancer, Palmer’s wife Winnie, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She passed away just two years later. In his upcoming autobiography titled, A Life Well Played, Palmer wrote:
“I am lucky to have survived cancer, but not so lucky to have not felt the sting of tremendous loss in my life due to the disease,” he said. “This is a fight that I will wage until my last breath, for Winnie, for my family, for everyone who must confront this awful disease.”
Of all of Arnold Palmer’s accomplishments — 62 PGA Tour and 10 Senior PGA Tour wins, membership in the World Golf Hall of Fame, and his signature drink of half lemonade and half iced tea — the golfer nicknamed “The King” considered his win against prostate cancer one of his proudest. We couldn’t agree more.