By Mark Viviano

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Cal Ripken Jr. considers himself fortunate. He recalls the days when a cancer diagnosis was considered a death sentence.

It’s not, and now he wants to share his story to help others.

“It’s a shocking sort of experience to be told you have cancer,” he said.

Cal Ripken Jr. was diagnosed with prostate cancer in February and had surgery in March. He’s kept it a secret until now.

WJZ’s Mark Viviano spoke with him on a video conference Thursday.

“I can share the story and maybe I can convince a few other people that are as hard-headed as I am sometimes about waiting to go to the doctor, that you might want to go to the doctor and get your regular checkup because if you are going to get the bad news, you want to get the bad news at an early stage.  You want to catch it really early because the prognosis is very good,” Ripken said.

As a player, a younger Cal Ripken Jr. fought through injury and illness to compile the longest consecutive game streak in history- earning him the nickname “Iron Man.” The approach no longer applies at his current stage in life.

“I had a pretty stubborn streak in me, and I thought I could play through most anything and in some cases I did, but you get older- I’ll turn 60 in a week, 2 weeks maybe, the end of August. So your perspective in life starts to change,” he said.

And now, as a prostate cancer survivor- Ripken sees a lot more life ahead.

“I’m basically back to doing the same things I’ve done the whole time. It’s an interruption in your life, so is COVID- it’s an interruption in your life.  You get to the other side and I’m doing the same things I was doing so it’s a very happy ending,” he said.

It’s a milestone year for Ripken. As he said, he turns 60 soon, and in September, he celebrates the anniversary of breaking Lou Gehrig’s “Iron Man” streak, a memorable night at Camden Yards 25 years ago.

A local urologist who spoke to WJZ said prostate cancer is more common and dangerous than most men think.

“Prostate cancer is extremely common. It’s the second most common cancer in men,” Dr. Ryan Cleary, of Chesapeake Urology, said.

Dr. Cleary said most men don’t know it’s silently growing in their body, mainly because, “most frequently, patients don’t have symptoms.”

Doctors recommend men ages 50 and up have yearly prostate exams.

“We recommend a blood test that screens for prostate cancer That has been shown to diagnose cancer earlier,” Dr. Cleary said.

The Sanford J. Siegel Prostate Cancer Run/Walk is going virtual this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. For more information, please click here.

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