Mind & Body

Changing Men’s Health One Man Cave At A Time

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In November 2015, Thomas Milana, Jr. received an alarming blood test result during a routine doctor visit revealing that he had a high PSA. Tom underwent a series of tests that came back positive for prostate cancer. In April 2016, Tom had successful robotic surgery and remains 100% cancer-free today.

Tom’s experience revealed to him not only how difficult living with a cancer diagnosis can be, but also how few resources there are outside of the internet for men when it comes to their health. Men rarely talk about their medical conditions. Men are conditioned from a young age to avoid sharing emotions, feelings or stressors. In sports competition, studies show how male athletes more often feel pressure to play through pain and injury. That may translate into ignoring pain or symptoms that may be signs of disease later in life. This is something that his family is working hard to change. The Milana family created Man Cave Health, a unique patient care model combining educational resources, emotional support and the latest in medical technology where men will feel free to talk about their health.

OR: It is such a pleasure meeting you. Tell us how you got started in business.

TM: I graduated from Fordham University in 1989 with a BS in Finance. Since then, I have owned and operated over 15 businesses.  

OR: Why did you start the Milana Family Foundation?  

TM: When I sold my company in 2009, I started my foundation as a way to give back. Prior to Man Cave Health, we mostly supported charities that focused on children in need.

OR: Congratulations on Man Cave Health.  How did Man Cave Health come to be?

TM: Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in April of 2016. After going through the process of having cancer, I realized how bad the overall experience was. At that point, my family foundation started to focus on men’s health awareness and Man Cave Health was born. While we still support other charities, our main focus is trying to get more men to the doctor.

OR: What went through your mind when you were told that you tested positive for prostate cancer?

TM: The first thing that goes through your mind at the time of diagnosis, is that you’re going to die. The second things that happens, you turn to the internet. There is nothing good on the internet about any cancer. I was fortunate enough to speak to the head of the prostate cancer foundation, Dr. Jonathon Simmons and he immediately walked me off the cliff. Most men don’t have the access I do and Man Cave Health is a way to give them access through our hotline.

OR: What exactly is Man Cave Health building?

TM: Man Cave Health is creating sports-themed facilities called “Man Cave” replacing the traditional, clinical setting with a luxurious and private waiting area with masculine décor, which includes memorabilia from local sports teams, flat-screened televisions, leather seating and coffee bars while providing educational resources on prostate health.

OR: Tell us the vision you have for Man Cave. Where will the next one open?

TM: My vision is to open Man Caves worldwide. Currently, there are about 10 Man Caves in the works in various cities. In each case, they have reached out to me because they heard about us and the work we are doing. The momentum we currently have is so much more than I ever expected. There is nobody out there advocating on behalf of men’s health except Michael Milken. The goal is to provide men and their spouses a better experience when at the doctor’s office and that’s what we have achieved with the first Man Cave. If the experience was better, the hope is more men will go to the doctor. 30K men died last year from prostate cancer mostly because they didn’t know they had it until it was too late. That needs to change.

OR: Why do you think men don’t take care of themselves the same way most women do?

TM: That’s the million-dollar question. I wish I knew the answer, but my gut tells me that if the experience wasn’t so bad, more men would go. Would you rather sit in a traditional waiting room like a herd of cattle or sit in a room with a 70-inch TV on the wall, sit in a leather chair, have a cup of coffee while you wait while surrounded by some cool memorabilia?

OR: Do you think the millennial generation is a society in which is more health conscience and understands the severity of annual doctor visits?

TM:  I think there is more awareness around prostate cancer today than ever before. Before I had cancer, I never realized how many TV commercials and radio spots are out there daily. But just because men are aware, doesn’t mean it will get them to the doctor. Men think they are invincible and usually won’t go to the doctor unless they are really sick. If medical institutions can provide a better experience and don’t let them wait when they arrive, I think that will go a long way.

OR: Men tend to look after their cars before themselves. What advice would you give them?

TM: There are 8,760 hours in a year. My advice would be to take one of those hours and get an annual physical. A simple checkup and some blood tests can save your life. It saved mine!

OR: We hear the Milana Family Foundation Annual Golf Event is coming up on Monday, June 10 at the Fresh Meadow Country Club.  What can golfers and guests expect?

TM: This is the 4th year of our event.  In my opinion, it’s the best golf outing of the year!  Our outing is more of a big party all day long. The venue is great, the food is delicious, we have a bar on every par three and people just seem to really enjoy our event. And when the golf and dinner is all done, we have a poker tournament that runs until midnight.  Fun! Fun! and more Fun!

OR: If you can have dinner with somebody you never met, who would it be? We have over a million monthly readers so you never know who will see this interview.

TM: Wow, great question and since we are trying to reach someone, I will pick someone that is still alive.  At this point in my life, I think I would like to have dinner with Warren Buffet because he’s one of the most successful businessmen in history and he is a prostate cancer survivor. I feel that if I spent 3 hours with him, I can get him to believe in the Man Cave Health mission and that he would really help the cause. I know you asked for one but the other person I would like to have dinner with is Roger Goodell. I think the NFL has failed when it comes to men’s health as have the other leagues.  I would ask him straight up, why do you wear pink in October and do nothing in September for Prostate Cancer Awareness Month? The fact that prostate cancer is so prevalent in the African American community and that the NFL has no initiative around it, is troublesome. I’m actually working on that meeting as we speak. In my opinion, every NFL city should have a MAN CAVE as should other cities with major sports teams. If teams and athletes get behind this, it will make a tremendous difference.

OR: What advice would you give your 8-year old self?

TM: The advice I would give to my young self is to try and always do the right thing in life.  Whether it’s in your personal life or business, always TRY and do the right thing. I have always lived my life like that way, but no one is perfect. Lastly, I would tell myself to live your life.  Everyone always says you only live once, but that’s not true. You only die once; you live life every day. And if you love life the way I do, they very least you can do for yourself and your family is to go to the doctor annually and get a physical.

OR: Thank you so much for taking the time to share your personal story with me and our readers.  Congratulations once again and continued success.

TM: It was my pleasure and I look forward to seeing you at the outing.

There are more than 2.9 million men living with prostate cancer in this country. Men are notoriously bad patients and compared with women, they avoid going to the doctor, skip more recommended screenings and practice riskier behavior. They also die about five years sooner, live with more years of bad health and have higher suicide rates. They will die on average, almost five years earlier than women because they are less likely to seek preventive care for themselves and most men, never talk about it. Their silence is deafening. It is also potentially deadly.

For more information on the upcoming golf event: www.milanafamilyfoundation.org

For more information on Man Cave Health: https://mancavehealth.org

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