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June 20, 2006 > Biletnikoff's battle

Biletnikoff's battle

by Biff Jones

Former Oakland Raider wide receiver, Fred Biletnikoff was born Feb. 23, 1943 in Erie, Pa. He attended Florida State University from 1961-1965 where he played football as a wide receiver. For two of those years he also played defensive corner back before a rules change permitted formation of separate offenses and defenses, allowing players to specialize. Thereafter, Biletnikoff played his favorite and best position of wide receiver. He was an All-American in 1964 and became the No. 2 draft pick of the then American Football League's Oakland Raiders. He played pro football for the Raiders for 14 seasons, including two Super Bowls and was named Most Valuable Player in Super Bowl XI. A durable player, he missed only eight games in his 14 years in the pros.

But then in September 1992, things changed. During his third season of coaching the Los Angeles Raiders under head coach Art Shell, Biletnikof was diagnosed with prostate cancer. This came just three months after he and his wife Angela became the proud parents of their daughter, Dacia. As Biletnikoff and his wife consulted doctors to determine their next course of action, the Raider family of players, coaches and spouses helped out by taking care of Dacia and doing many other things to assist the new family. After undergoing an MRI and several bone scans, they chose surgery for him over chemotherapy as the best chance to beat the disease.

In November 1992, he had surgery and spent five days in the hospital suffering many pains and indignities during recovery. It would be April 1993 before he went back to work. Nearly two years passed before he felt normal again. He now has a prostate screening test, or PSA, every six months and a complete physical once a year. All men over 50 should have regular prostate screening tests.

Approximately 280,000 men in the United States (1 in 6) are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. Every fifth case is fatal. Prostate cancer is the number one cancer in men although lung cancer has a higher mortality rate.

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