Second annual Prostate Cancer Awareness Night hit a home run at Comerica Park

The second annual Prostate Cancer Awareness Night with the Detroit Tigers, Karmanos Cancer Institute and McLaren Health Care, the official health care system of the Tigers, was a smashing success as fans celebrated the lives of survivors near and far. Decorated with a blue theme to build awareness for prostate cancer, Comerica Park welcomed hundreds of prostate cancer survivors as the Tigers defeated the San Diego Padres 12 to 4 in game one of the series.

“Partnering with the Tigers for such a large event not only allows us to bring more awareness to the importance of prostate screening, but we also get the opportunity to celebrate survivors,” said Elisabeth Heath, M.D., FACP, medical oncologist and leader of the Genitourinary Oncology Multidisciplinary Team (MDT). Dr. Heath attended the game with many of the specialists and staff members of the MDT.

Prostate Cancer Awareness Night took place Monday, July 25. During the special pregame ceremony, survivors were honored on the field, one survivor threw the ceremonial first pitch, and a prostate cancer survivor and his twin brother sang the national anthem to begin the ballgame.

Karmanos Starting 9

The Karmanos Starting 9 were nine prostate cancer survivors who received treatment at Karmanos in Detroit, Farmington Hills and throughout the Karmanos Cancer Network. They were:

  • Timothy O’Neill, 10 ½-year survivor
  • Timothy Gilbert, Sr., four-and-a-half-year survivor
  • Bill Harris, 14-year survivor
  • Abraham Allen, less than a year in survivorship
  • Steven Brandt, 12-year survivor
  • Kenneth Crandall, five-year survivor
  • Eugene Urcan, two-year survivor
  • Joe Schubert, one-year survivor
  • Michael Britt, eight-month survivor

Brian Ake: Three-year survivor

Twin brothers Brian and Bruce Ake sang the national anthem to open the Tigers game. The twins’ father and uncle both died from prostate cancer, so Brian personally knew the importance of annual checkups and screenings.

Matthew Johnson, M.D., Brian’s radiation oncologist at Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Port Huron, said when caught early, the disease is typically curable through radiation therapy or surgery to remove the prostate. Brian’s cancer was detected in the early stages of the disease in 2019. Upon completing radiation treatments, the associate pastor from Port Huron received the best news - he is cancer-free.

Pat Deriemacker: Seven-year survivor

A seven-year prostate cancer survivor from Novi, Michigan, Pat Deriemacker threw out the ceremonial first pitch after sharing his inspirational story with fans across Comerica Park.

Prostate cancer is part of Deriemacker’s family health history, so his primary care provider recommended a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer at 46 years old. Deriemacker chose to come to Karmanos in Detroit and worked with specialists in the Genitourinary Oncology (MDT). Michael Cher, M.D., urologic oncologist, performed his surgery, but two years later, his PSA levels rose again. He then underwent radiation treatment with Jordan Maier, M.D., radiation oncologist, at Karmanos’ Weisberg Cancer Center in Farmington Hills. Still, his PSA levels continued to increase two years later. Under care with Dr. Heath, a PET scan exposed a lesion on his spine, which was just recently treated with radiation. Deriemacker is grateful for his family and friends who have supported him throughout his journey, with a special thank you to his wife of 27 years, Patti, for being his rock.

During the game, many fans had the opportunity to donate toward prostate cancer research and patient care at Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit. Fans also received a blue foam finger to root on the Tigers at the Karmanos information tables across the ballpark’s main concourse.

In a great defeat, Eric Haase hit a grand slam, Jeimer Candelario homered twice, plus Miguel Cabrera’s 506th career homer in the sixth inning led to a smashing success for the Tigers in the first game of the series against San Diego.

The inspiring stories of three Karmanos cancer patients were shared, and fans learned more about the disease and prevention throughout the ballpark.

Gary Barrett: One-year survivor

A Detroit sports fanatic, Gary Barrett started noticing unusual back pain. His primary care provider believed it was his gallbladder, which was later removed; however, the severe pain remained. During an emergency room visit in 2021, Barrett was pre-diagnosed with prostate cancer. Gary chose to entrust his journey to Karmanos, where his cancer care team discovered the cancer had spread to his bones.

After his diagnosis, Barrett remains a strong advocate for men’s prostate health and wellness by encouraging his sons to check their PSA levels regularly. For Barrett, traveling with his family, creating music and DJing events around Detroit is what keeps Gary motivated.

Bill Happel: Completed treatment in July 2022

From Whitehouse, Ohio, Bill Happel just completed his radiation treatments for prostate cancer days before the Prostate Cancer Awareness Night! He is the first prostate cancer patient treated at the new Karmanos Cancer Institute at The Toledo Clinic Cancer Center in Maumee, Ohio.

After his own experience, Happel advised during a pregame interview with Bally Sports Detroit, “All men should be cautious and listen to their doctors and get their PSA levels tested, which is just a routine blood test.”

Happel’s urologist noticed a concerning rise in his PSA levels, so he decided to get surgery and later radiation treatments under the care of Faheem Ahmad, M.D., radiation oncologist. Happel shows appreciation for the relationships with the staff by bringing them doughnuts every Friday. When he is not delivering doughnuts, Happel, a retired graphic arts high school teacher, enjoys painting portraits in his spare time.

Fred Hardy: 15-year survivor

After learning that his family health history included prostate cancer, Fred Hardy subsequently trusted Karmanos for his PSA testing in 2007. Discovering a high PSA level, Hardy’s cancer care team in Detroit designed an individualized plan. Now, after brachytherapy and radiation treatments, he is celebrating 12 years cancer free!

As an active member of both the Karmanos Cancer Advocacy Program in Detroit and lobbying with the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network in Lansing, Hardy continues to encourage men to stay on top of their prostate health while enjoying cross-fit training four to five times a week! This professional actor-performer did not let a cancer diagnosis stop him from achieving his dreams or pursuing his goals. He often tells men that early detection saves lives.

Early Detection Saves Lives

Second to skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men, affecting roughly one in eight during their lifetime. And just behind lung cancer, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men.

Most men diagnosed do not die – only 1 in 41 die from prostate cancer. This disease is most curable in its early stages, so catching it early is essential.

Hesham Gayar, M.D., radiation oncologist and associate medical director at Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Flint and medical director of the McLaren Proton Therapy Center, part of the Karmanos Cancer Network, along with Isaac Powell, M.D., urologic oncologist and member of the Genitourinary Oncology MDT, both provided on-field interviews during the pregame ceremony. Both physicians explained to Tigers fans the current prostate cancer research happening at Karmanos, what prostate cancer screening entails and why it is so important.

“Prostate cancer awareness is vital because it’s important to diagnose it early. One of the problems is that you can’t see or feel prostate cancer. Often the symptoms in the urinary system may not be related to the disease,” said Dr. Powell.

Karmanos, McLaren and the Detroit Tigers encourage men to talk with a health care provider about the benefits and risks of prostate cancer screening through a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test or a Digital Rectal Exam (DRE). Men should consider prostate screening at age 50 (age 45 for African Americans) if they are at average risk for prostate cancer. Those at  higher risk may start screening at an earlier age. Visit for more information.

At Karmanos, the Genitourinary Oncology MDT includes surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, plastic surgeons, pharmacists, specialized nurse practitioners, dietitians, social workers and genetic counselors. The team is specialized and entirely focused on treating genitourinary cancers, including prostate cancer. Members share their collective expertise to create a customized treatment plan for each patient.

If you or someone you love is diagnosed with prostate cancer, it’s important to receive a second opinion from a cancer specialist. Call 1-800-KARMANOS (800-527-6266) or request an appointment here.