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Mr. 80 Percent

Mr. 80 Percent podcast episode summaries

Episode 1: Twelve Uneasy Pieces

I’m 48 and married with two young kids. I’m an entertainment writer for The Boston Globe, which means I drink a lot of mediocre chardonnay at parties and track Matt and Ben’s every move. All in all, life’s pretty good. Until it isn’t. According to my primary care doctor, my PSA is high, and a high PSA can mean prostate cancer. Hold on, I think. Isn’t that something old men get? Yes, but not just old men. I discover that prostate cancer is extraordinarily common. Nearly 200,000 men in the United States are diagnosed with it every year, and 30,000 die from it. Still, like most guys, I know nothing about the prostate or prostate cancer. That’s about to change. (Warning: Explicit.)


Episode 2: Chasing Hutch

My wife, Michelle, and I met as students at Bates College. In other words, we’ve been together for an eternity. After the children arrive, as often happens in marriages, sex becomes perfunctory and much less frequent. But then, unbeknownst to me, Michelle begins devouring romance novels — books featuring hunky heroes with names like “Hutch” — and that proves to be the antidote to a lackluster sex life. Then boom! I’m facing treatment for prostate cancer, and the potential side effects on my sexual function range from bad to catastrophic. (Warning: Explicit.)

Episode 3: Hands of God

Until the early 1980s, every man who had his prostate surgically removed was impotent afterward. You heard me: 100 percent of men who got a radical prostatectomy — the procedure I’m contemplating — couldn’t get an erection afterward. For generations, the treatment for prostate cancer was worse than the disease. A lot of men died on the operating table. Along came “the Michelangelo of prostate surgery,” Dr. Patrick Walsh, who pioneered a procedure that saved the sex lives of countless men. Would it save mine? (Warning: Explicit.)


Episode 4: Our Prostates, Ourselves

My story is not unique. Indeed, prostate cancer is so common that doctors like to say men either die with it or from it. Age and family history are significant risk factors, but so is race. Shockingly, Black men are 76 percent more likely to develop prostate cancer than white men, and twice as likely to die from it. One reason you don’t know this is because men don’t talk about prostate cancer. In this episode, we meet a couple of guys who’ve been treated for prostate cancer and, now, make it their mission to raise awareness about the disease. (Warning: Explicit.)

Episode 5: The Manopause

Are you aware that testosterone is the food that fuels prostate cancer’s growth? I wasn’t either. What happens if you remove all of the testosterone from a man’s body? I find out the hard way. With a shot of a testosterone blocker in my backside, I’m temporarily castrated. Hello, manopause. My libido vanishes; I endure unbearable hot flashes; and what doctors euphemistically call “mood swings” are actually volcanic eruptions that freak out my family and alienate my friends. (Warning: Explicit.)

Episode 6: That Old Feeling

With treatment over, I’m cancer-free. For now. Problem is, prostate cancer is insidious — it often comes back — so I’ll need to be tested a couple of times a year for the foreseeable future. In other words, the ordeal isn’t really over, and that’s maddening. I’ve learned a lot about prostate cancer — stuff I wish I’d known beforehand. There are countless men out there who are going to be diagnosed with this disease. Mr. 80 Percent is for them — and the people who love them. (Warning: Explicit.)


Meet the Family

Mark, Michelle, Julia and Beckett

The Cast of Characters

Mark Shanahan can be reached at mark.shanahan@globe.com. Follow him @MarkAShanahan.