September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, which aims to raise awareness about the impact of one of the most prevalent cancer types among men, affecting about 24,000 Canadians each year according to the Canadian Cancer Society.
With this month, the significance of one of Wellspring’s most enduring partnerships becomes increasingly evident. For over two decades, the Oakville/Mississauga Prostate Cancer Support Group has been meeting monthly at Wellspring. This lengthy partnership has fostered a strong relationship between the external support group and the Wellspring community.
When a Prostate Cancer Support Group attendee comes to their first meeting, they end up learning about Wellspring through the meeting and are often given a tour of Birmingham Gilgan House. Wellspring staff and program leaders also appear as guest speakers at the Support Group to talk about the organization and its programs, such as Cancer Exercise, Nourish and Cancer Related Fatigue.
Over the years, Support Group members have become not just members at Wellspring, but also dedicated Wellspring volunteers.
Michael Moorcroft, a Support Group member since 2005 and a Wellspring volunteer since 2006, traces his journey back to a talk for prostate cancer patients at the old Oakville Hospital. This event marked his introduction to both Wellspring and the affiliated support group.
Moorcroft said the impact of the group is hard to measure, but pointed out that the group’s ability to raise awareness is significant because early diagnosis makes an enormous difference in prostate cancer survival. Further, like Wellspring, the group provides a different form of cancer care than the medical world does.
“People come to the support meetings with lots of questions that they get answered from a patient’s point of view, not from the doctor’s perspective,” Moorcroft said. “The intention is to provide a safe space for men to come and learn about the best way for them to go through their cancer journey, and to support them to the degree we can.”
Since 2021, current Support Group leader Walter Eadie has made almost 150 welcome calls to new Wellspring members who had identified prostate cancer on their registration form. In addition to an orientation on Wellspring programs, Eadie provides counselling and support, and guides them to prostate cancer resources across the province and country.
Some of these individuals become regular attendees of the local support group, echoing the journey of John Beamish. Beamish, who joined Wellspring five years after his wife did, recognizes the immense strength she gained from similar interactions.
“She got a lot of a lot of strength out of it. So when I was diagnosed, it made sense for me to follow a similar path,” Beamish said.
He said he believes members of the group benefit from a compassionate environment among others facing a similar journey.
“I’m not alone, I’ve got other people who are going through the same issues that I’m going through,” Beamish said. “It’s a case of ‘They’re making their way through. I can do this too.’”
Like at Wellspring, caregivers are not left behind at the Support Group. The importance of making support available to partners and families is well-recognized, especially for a type of cancer that can have sexual health implications.
“Caregivers are recognized as extremely in-the-fight,” Moorcroft says. “A lot of people will tell you that prostate cancer is a partner’s disease as much as it is a patient’s disease.”
Eadie says the group is very grateful for the support they receive from Wellspring. In return, they actively participate each year in raising money for Wellspring fundraisers, including Light Up Wellspring during the holiday season. Last year’s donation to Light Up from group participants totaled $3,000.
For these participants, the value is immeasurable.
Said Beamish, “Prostate cancer strikes at a core part of masculinity. Because of that, being in the same room with people who were going through the same issues eased my mind.”
In recognition of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, Wellspring will be hosting an online prostate-focused Nourish class led by dietician Cara Rosenbloom on September 27 at 6:30 p.m. To learn more, visit https://wellspring.ca/online-programs/programs/all-programs/nourish-nutrition-and-prostate-cancer/.
To learn more about the Prostate Support Group, see the Wellspring website at https://wellspring.ca/birmingham/programs/all-programs/prostate-support-group/ or visit https://www.prostatecancersupport-oakville-mississauga.ca/