When Leno Zecchel, 86, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1994, the only medical literature available to him was a pamphlet he received from his doctor.
He described it as an worrisome time, one where he had more questions than answers.
“It’s an emotional thing, you know. You’re thinking, ‘how long have I got?’” he told Peace Arch News in an interview at his Newton-area home last week.
A few months before delivering the cancer diagnoses to Zecchel, Dr. Robert Yong co-founded the Prostate Cancer Support Group, based in Newton. Yong had invited Zecchel to a meeting.
Twenty-three years later, Zecchel still attends the meetings.
“You get the feeling that you’re not the only one, you’re not alone,” Zecchel said, who has been prostate cancer free after receiving surgery in 1994. “There’s no fees to join… We still have speakers, and up to date information. That’s what they come for, the information.”
Zecchel attended his first meeting because there was a lack of available information. In today’s Information Age, the challenge is reversed.
“Nowadays, the Internet, there’s so much information there. You don’t know where to get the truth. You get overpowered by it, all the information that is out there,” Zecchel said.
People drive from all over the Lower Mainland to attend the monthly meetings. At the time of the support group’s inception, this sort of network was groundbreaking.
Yong, who was born in Indonesia but practised in Canada since 1964, has lived in New Westminster for the past 45 years. Although he’s never been diagnosed with prostate cancer, Yong has driven to Surrey to attend every monthly meeting – with the exception of three – since 1994.
“Our group was the first one – cancer support group. I’m not quite definitely sure, but I think it is,” Yong said, who retired from his practice this year at the age of 86.
“I helped newly diagnosed patients learn about the disease itself. It’s more easy than attending the doctor’s office… To see a doctor, it’s more of a nuisance, I guess,” he told PAN.
Zecchel, who chaired the Prostate Cancer Support Group for 12 years, said there are now approximately 15 support groups operating throughout the province.
The group, which meets at Valley View Memorial Gardens (14644 72 Ave.) from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on the last Saturday of the month, gets approximately 20 visitors per meeting.
To acknowledge Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, there will be a by-donation barbecue this Saturday (Sept. 23) from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at South Surrey’s Choices Market (3248 King George Blvd.)