It has never been easy for men to discuss and deal openly with medical issues involved with their “private parts”—symbol and essence of manhood—but the need has always been there.
It was in that context 20 years ago that Dr. Irwin Kuzmarov and other professionals at the Lakeshore General Hospital took the first steps to organize Montreal’s first prostate cancer support group.
“It became evident that it was very important to understand and deal with men’s genital-type cancers, much like women are being dealt with, in a very structured and professional way,” Kuzmarov said last month.
He was speaking to 40 people, those living with prostate issues and several spouses, to mark the 20th anniversary of the West Island chapter of the Prostate Cancer Canada Network.
The first such support group was set up in Winnipeg. After visiting there, Kuzmarov was instrumental in setting up the first such group in Montreal. He did this with infrastructure support from the Lakeshore General’s Board of Directors, funding from the hospital’s foundation and grants from the pharmaceutical industry. Kuzmarov’s wife, Donna, trained in educational psychology and counseling, provided advice.
“We felt it was important to give people, who come to a meeting, a forum to express themselves in their own way, style, and time, and ensure that no one person dominates the discussion,” he recalled.
Oncology nurse Teresa Dellar, now executive director of the West Island Palliative Care Centre, and social worker Ellen Kampf worked with the founders and patients to run the support group.
“Of all the things I’ve done, this was probably the most touching and meaningful experience of my life,” said Kuzmarov. “Not only did we give to the group but I learned about what cancer is all about, and the importance of support.”
The former director of professional and hospital services at Santa Cabrini Hospital in Montreal, Kuzmarov is now a surveyor at Accreditation Canada and director of medical affairs at LEAN Medical.