From Avoidance to Advocacy for Men’s Health
When Ed Eyford was diagnosed with prostate cancer, he kept the bad news to himself, not even telling his wife.
“Waiting for the surgery to have it removed was so stressful, I had a heart attack. That’s when I realized I had to let it out.”
That was 26 years ago, and Eyford has made a remarkable journey from avoidance to advocacy for men’s health.
“People have to be their own advocate and keep in perspective that doctors are very busy people. You don’t realize how many people your doctor can deal with in a day and can’t remember everything about our health. You have to take care of yourself,” he said.
Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation is dedicating the month of June to local men’s health, raising funds and awareness for prostate cancer and heart health.
This year alone 4,000 Canadian men will die of prostate cancer. Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death throughout the Western World and the second most common cause in Canada.
Since men with a family history of prostate cancer have a fifty per cent increased risk of developing the disease, Eyford makes sure his two sons get tested.
“Children have to look at their parents’ health to see what they might have to deal with down the road. Maybe you can do things to offset health conditions.”
As a member of the Vernon Prostate Cancer and Awareness Support Group to provide men and their families with information and support, Eyford has rarely missed a meeting over the past 23 years. The group meets the fourth Monday of each month from September to June at The People Place, although Eyford provides support all year round.
He carries a stack of PSA screening vouchers to give out, and advises men to get the PSA test (prostate-specific antigen, which measures the level of PSA in a man’s blood) and the digital-rectal test. “You have to have both,” he says. And for the test, you need to have a doctor because the lab has to have somewhere to send your results.”
“Men think they have to be tough and strong. We tend to keep medical conditions to ourselves and wait too long before getting help,” said Eyford.
Donate to Men’s Health Month
Last fall, Eyford got an unusual feeling while out for a walk. “I knew something didn’t feel right and eventually got my neighbour to drive me to the hospital. Nothing showed on any of the test, so they sent me home.”
One month later he was back in the emergency department. This time tests revealed he had had a heart attack.
“We each know our own bodies best and if something does not feel right it probably needs to be checked so see your doctor.”
“My angiogram showed four blockages requiring quadruple-bypass open heart surgery. One of the blockages was so bad the doctor told me they called it the widow-maker.” Eyford underwent the surgery at Kelowna General Hospital.
“All the people I dealt with were great. The surgical team obviously did a good job. The nurses are great. They were the ones I was in most contact with. They do a great service in putting us at ease and giving comfort and total care.”
After the surgery, home care nurses visited to change his dressing, checked the incision on his leg where his artery was harvested, and showed his family how to provide care. At VJH, he received consultations from a physiotherapist, pharmacist and a nutritionist. “Our medical system takes care of all of this. We don’t have to worry about how we are going to pay for this. That’s an extra load off your mind when you are dealing with a very serious situation.
Eyford faithfully follows an exercise program of walking three times a week, working out on treadmill and lifting weights twice a week. “I even do a bit more,” he says. “But when it comes to chores and work around the home, what used to take me a day now takes two to three.”
Eyford stresses the importance of sharing your experiences with others and makes himself available to those who need to talk.
“During recovery, I tried to put some joy in what we were all going through. You have got to keep a positive attitude. Whatever you are going through, there is a gloomy side and a bright side, but you have to stay on the bright side.”
As a driving force behind the ‘Do it for Dad Run and Walk’ for 17 years, Eyford volunteered on the organizing committee, securing prizes and sponsorships, recruiting volunteers, and setting up the day of the event.
While ‘Do it for Dad’ is being replaced by Men’s Health Month, funds raised will continue to support prostate health, in addition to cardiac care. “I will miss the walk, but the returns on investment were getting lower,” he said.
Eyford is grateful to all the people who were there for him in his times of need. “I would just encourage people to donate to this worthy cause.”