Survivor Spotlight: Arthur “Ajay” Bendolph
Ajay Bendolph wants men to know prostate cancer could happen to them even if they don’t expect it.
According to the National Cancer Institute, African American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer and are twice as likely to die from the disease, compared to white men. And, the CDC reports African American men get prostate cancer at a younger age, tend to have more advanced disease when it is found, and tend to have a more severe type of prostate cancer than other men. Arthur “Ajay” Bendolph is one of those men, and he says these startling facts are one of the reasons he talks openly about his prostate cancer diagnoses and treatment at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute.
The other reason that compels him to speak about prostate cancer is that he sees himself as active, healthy and young, so when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer it was a total shock to him. Ajay wants men to know it could happen to them even if they don’t expect it.
In his 50s he began monitoring his PSA levels, which were within a normal range for several years. He skipped a check-up during the Covid-19 outbreak, and when he returned to his doctor’s office for the blood test, he was surprised to see that his PSA number had jumped significantly.
After seeing a urologist, having an MRI and seeing a few other specialists he wasn’t comfortable with the potential or possible side effects from conventional cancer treatment options. Ajay kept doing his research and soon discovered the Institute. He couldn’t believe that this place - “the best in the world” as he said - was right in his backyard. He did more research and couldn’t find a downside to proton therapy and scheduled an initial consultation at the Institute.
“Florida Proton made me feel like a golden customer,” Ajay said. “They gave me more than I expected,” he continued.
He said from the moment he arrived at the front desk, he felt comfortable. Ajay feels lucky that he didn’t need surgery or chemotherapy. The proton therapy treatment went well, and he only felt some mild fatigue. Following treatments, he says it took him just a couple of weeks to feel like his old self again.
Today, Ajay is proud to share his cancer story with friends, family and even strangers. “There is a shame in cancer diagnosis, and there shouldn’t be,” he said. He explained that if we talk about cancer more, we will lose the shame and find others who have faced the same battle. Ajay says it’s important to the African American community for more men with prostate cancer to speak out. He wants to change the grim outlook African American men face and thinks open dialog and education are the key.
Ajay is also a Proton Ambassador who joined an Institute staff member at a community presentation at the local American Legion Post 197 in Jacksonville. Christina and Ajay spoke to a group of black men and women to educate them about prostate cancer and how proton therapy can benefit men with prostate cancer. At this presentation, Ajay shared his story, what questions black men should ask their doctors and what to expect with proton therapy treatment.
Ajay has launched an amateur podcast about facing cancer so others can hear his story in his own frank, upfront way. As an Air Force veteran and former leadership consultant he has no qualms about telling it how it is.