CLASSY STACHE- From left Kevin Biller

Support available for men battling prostate cancer

Community comes together for ‘Movember’ to raise research funds

Facing a diagnosis of prostate cancer can be devastating, but a local group is available to lend a helping, caring and supportive hand.

Back in the late 1990s, Bill Martynes and Mike Eckenswiller helped launched the Red Deer Prostate Cancer Support Group (Prostate Cancer Canada Network – local chapter).

Bert Lougheed joined up in 1999, having been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1998.

He recalls his first meeting with the support group as very enlightening, because there really is nothing like being with others who have gone through or are currently going through a similar experience, he said.

“People were there to answer my questions,” he recalls of those earlier times. Lougheed still attends meetings, and these days it’s fulfilling to be able to lend a hand to newcomers who are dealing with news of a diagnosis.

The group, which typically numbers between 15 to 20, meets monthly (the third Thursday of each month in the basement of Gaetz United Church). Meetings start at 7:30 p.m.

Statistics show that 25,500 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year alone in Canada and 4,100 men will die of the disease this year.

According to Prostate Cancer Canada, it develops as a result of dietary, environmental and heredity factors (more research is needed to identify its causes and prevent the disease). Prostate cancer is also turning up in men in their 40s.

One in seven men will be diagnosed with the disease and it’s the most common cancer to afflict Canadian men. Prostate cancer has no symptoms in its earliest, most curable stage, and the good news is that more than 90% of prostate cancer cases are curable if detected and treated in their earliest stages.

As to the local support group, there are four basic rules for the meetings. First, they must start on time and secondly, they must end on time. Third, those in attendance must laugh at least four times during the course of a meeting. And finally, what is said in the room must stay in the room.

Many newcomers are newly diagnosed and have been presented with several treatment options by their doctors. Sometimes they are confused about the next steps and men who’ve been through treatment are able to help out with advice and simply share their own experiences.

“The meetings are a positive experience, and we can help.”

Regarding Movember, the movement was launched back in 2003 by some guys in Australia who wanted to bring back the moustache into fashion while raising money for prostate cancer research.

As November comes to a close, there are perhaps millions of men around the world who now sport moustaches who didn’t at the month’s start.

The idea is to grow a moustache while raising funds. Supported by the women in their lives, Mo Sistas, Movember Mo Bros raise funds by seeking out sponsorship for their Mo-growing efforts. In 2010, $22.3 million was raised in Canada.

At this past weekend’s ‘Stache Bash 2011’ at Chillabongs Bar and Grill, awards were handed down for the best moustaches in a number of categories.

The Movember movement continues to grow locally and internationally, said Steve Snelgrove, one of the event’s organizers. Local hockey team the Red Deer Pylons have been hosting Movember activities and taking part in the campaign since 2007. People around the world have since taken up the cause, and today Movember is truly an international fundraising success.

There are now formal campaigns in Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., Canada, the UK, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain, South Africa and Ireland.

Besides fundraising for prostate cancer research, Movember representatives say they will also continue to work to change habits and attitudes men have about their health and to educate men about the health risks they face.

For more about the local support group, call Bill Martynes at 403-342-0694 or Bert Lougheed at 403-343-3808.

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