Longtime Atlanta-based radio hosts Gary “DJ Mix Master Mitch” Mitchell, 56, and his cousin, Silas “SiMan Baby” Alexander, 58, are coming together to openly share their journey through stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Both men were diagnosed earlier this year.
“I arranged to have the gallbladder surgery and there was a complication in the process and with that complication, they found a mass on my liver, they tested the mass on my liver, and they said, yep, it is cancerous, but it didn’t start in your liver, it started in your pancreas,” said Silas Alexander.
Before they learned they had cancer, both men lost significant amounts of weight.
“I went from 400 pounds to 212 pounds, and it seemed like a couple months but that was affected by an eating disorder that comes along it seems like with this,” said Gary Mitchell.
Both Alexander and Mitchell admitted to not knowing much about pancreatic cancer other than late Georgia Rep. John Lewis and game show host Alex Trebek also had the disease.
According to the Mayo Clinic, pancreatic cancer begins in the tissues of the pancreas. There are several types of growths that can occur in the pancreas including cancerous tumors.
The disease is rarely detected in its early stages when it can be cured and symptoms do not usually become known until the cancer affects other organs.
“One of the difficulties with this disease, the symptoms or the signs that alert even the most sensitive or self-aware person to go get checked out cross over with so many other, much less complicated problems,” said Dr. Eddie Abdalla. Dr. Abdalla is the medical director of the Liver and Pancreas Program and Surgical Oncology at Northside Hospital Cancer Institute in Atlanta.
Dr. Abdalla says some risk factors for pancreatic cancer include smoking, diabetes, obesity, not eating enough healthy foods and genetics.
Some of the symptoms or warning signs include jaundice, change in digestion or taste, change in skin color or yellowing of the eyes, pain while eating and dramatic weight loss.
Dr. Abdalla says a pancreatic cancer screening provides more options to overcome the cancer if caught early enough. He also believes people diagnosed with the disease in later stages can have better outcomes with a positive attitude toward treatment.
“If they’re mentally strong and have a good family that’s pushing them, and they can get a good care team together and get on the right therapy, their outcomes can be tremendous,” said Dr. Abdalla.
Alexander says he has a family history of pancreatic cancer and now worries for his son.
“My father passed away at the age of 69. He had and died of pancreatic cancer. Now that I’ve been diagnosed of pancreatic cancer. I can’t help but be concerned for as much as he looks like me, he may have picked up whatever activates this situation later in life,” said Alexander.
On Alexander’s 58th birthday, he shared his diagnosis on his Facebook page but reassured his supporters both he and his cousin Mitchell are using this moment to remain positive and spread awareness.
The National Cancer Institute says Black Americans are more likely to get pancreatic cancer than any other racial group.
“Nobody’s talking about it. We want to talk about our cancers, pancreatic, colon, breast. Bring enlightenment to all of these cancers that are affecting Black people,” said Mitchell.
Moving forward, both Mitchell and Alexander plan to continue their cancer treatments. They are thankful to have supportive wives and a strong support system around them to keep them positive and motivated. They are also thankful to have each other.
“I am still encouraged by him, and I’m encouraged by the treatments and we’re just going to keep a positive spirit and positive energy,” said Alexander.
Mitchell and Alexander plan to launch a podcast on Oct. 12 called “Cousins with Cancer.” They hope to put pressure on insurance companies to cover more of the medical costs associated with early detection of pancreatic cancer. They also hope by sharing their experience, other people can take more preventative measures.
“Somebody out there is going through this themselves and they just shouldn’t have to,” said Mitchell.