If you’ve taken a stroll along the Rotary Trail on a Wednesday morning in recent months, you might have waved ‘hello’ to a group of cheerful and determined men in blue.
The Blue Walkers, as they’re known, are out there to get some exercise and fresh air.
But more importantly, they walk to spread the word.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men.
One in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.
Although it is the second leading type of cancer to cause death in men, it is largely treatable – if caught early.
The Blue Walkers are all members of the PCCN Chilliwack support group, which meets the first Thursday of every month. Some are survivors, others are recently diagnosed and undergoing treatment, but just one of them is neither.
Chilliwack’s Marc Gosselin is a full-time financial planner with Raymond James, the organization that is sponsoring the Father’s Day Walk/Run for Prostate Cancer on June 19.
He lost his father Ed to prostate cancer in 2009.
In January 2015, shortly after Raymond James announced that it was partnering with the Prostate Cancer Foundation of B.C. (PCFBC), Gosselin decided that he wanted to step up and get involved first-hand.
Within a few months, he was on the organizing committees for the Father’s Day Walk/Run as well as the Ride to Live, which is a motorcycle ride, poker run and show and shine. More than 500 riders and volunteers raised $151,037 during the 2016 Ride to Live on May 29, bringing the seven year event total to more than $1.1 million towards prostate cancer education, research and survivorship.
Gosselin also volunteers as the vice-chairman – a “lofty title,” he chuckled – for the local prostate cancer support group, where he started the Blue Walkers group.
He helps coordinate a guest speaker for each of the monthly group meetings at Mt. Cheam Lions Hall (45580 Spadina Ave), many of whom are doctors or researchers.
Last month they had a doctor teach members how to find reputable information about cancer online, and how to filter out the unreliable content. In the recent past, a pharmacist presented the side-effects of various drugs, researchers shared studies of experimental treatments, and a philosopher discussed how treatments impact the psychological well-being of patients and their families.
Regardless of who is joining them for the day, the support group members always have each other to lean on.
“It’s fine to talk to doctors who have lots of education, but it’s nice to talk to people who have had prostate cancer,” said member and chairman of the support group Dale Erikson. “There’s different reasons why people chose a certain treatment, and it’s nice to get that information from people who’ve been on the same journey.”
Prostate cancer manifests in varying degrees of aggressiveness, and men who are diagnosed have a few treatment options to choose from.
There’s a lot to consider.
The prostate can be surgically removed, or treated with radiation or hormone therapy. Some side-effects are more permanent than others, and they can affect the individual on physical, mental, sexual and emotional levels. Those diagnosed are left with a plethora of questions, or they don’t know which ones to ask, but doctors often don’t have the time to discuss the options in detail.
That’s why the support group is so important.
“Having that awareness and understanding of what’s coming can really help people,” Gosselin explained.
Jim Soldan was diagnosed three months ago. His doctor saw a peak in his PSA (prostate-specific antigen) number, and a biopsy revealed that he had cancer in an intermediary stage.
“The group helped me to decide that I didn’t want to fool around – I just wanted it taken out,” Soldan explained. “I know there are some challenges with that down the road, but I would rather live with those problems than have something that’s continuing to grow in my body.”
While some choose to leave the support group once they’re in remission, other survivors continue to attend to help new members and to raise awareness among the community about prostate cancer, testing and local fundraisers.
“The more people that are aware, the more people will get tested, the more lives are saved,” Gosselin pointed out.
Maybe it’s the camaraderie, the exercise, the conversations or merely the beautiful scenery, but mornings at the trail often shape up to be the best day of the week for the Blue Walkers. And now they invite all to join them for a walk to support the men in their lives.
The Father’s Day Walk/Run takes place in five communities on Sunday, June 19. In Chilliwack, the 5km walk takes place at the Vedder River Rotary Trail. Participants will start and finish at the ASU (Keith Wilson Road at Korea Road).
Registration opens at 8 a.m. on event day, and the walk/run start time is 9:30 a.m. Participants can register for a minimum $35 as an individual or a team online in advance at www.thefathersdayrun.ca. Non-participants can donate to a participant online or in-person, and cheer them on at the finish line.
A pancake breakfast and entertainment will kick off at 10:30 a.m., with prizing to follow.
Learn more about the support group at procansupport.com.