In his famous tough-guy, robust voice, pulling no punches, Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa related the worst battle of his life — prostate cancer — to an audience of cancer survivors Friday at New York Hospital Queens.
“I was shot four times on orders of John “Junior” Gotti, but prostate cancer was more difficult for me,” Sliwa, 58, told an audience of about 150 survivors.
He related that a simple blood test taken in 2009 found the disease, but that it was not at a dangerous level. Doctors ascertained that they couldn’t use radiation on him due to his wounds from the gunshots.
Thugs used hollow-nosed bullets on Sliwa in 1992, he related, which “impair your insides.”
Last year, while at a speaking engagement, he couldn’t talk because of pain, fainted and was taken to a hospital where doctors performed robotic surgery to remove the cancer. “They got it all, but the recovery was long and excruciating,” Sliwa said.
His message to men was not to avoid testing for prostate cancer. “Because of fears and wive’s tales, they don’t get tested and that’s a mistake,” Sliwa said.
He added that there is a lot of awareness for women getting mammograms but not so for men and prostate awareness. “This year, the prostate cancer test came on the radar screen and there’s been some advertising about it,” he said. “But men are staying away, even when it’s free.”
He said he was “crestfallen” over the lack of men showing up and hopes that this attitude will change in the future.
Now, Sliwa says, he is living in Forest Hills with former Councilwoman Melinda Katz and their two sons, ages 4 and 1. Katz has been rumored to be running for borough president next year and Sliwa confirmed that he is encouraging her to seek the office.
He told the cheering audience that “we have a responsibility to eliminate cancer because it takes out everyone.”
A native of Brooklyn, Sliwa set up the Guardian Angels in 1979. He now hosts a radio morning talk show.