YOU ARE NOT ALONE
This website, created by Sudbury urologist, Dr. M. Pianezza, is the result of a unique peer support group founded by Angela Lessard for prostate cancer patients, survivors, spouses, and partners.
The Support Group Continues:
The Founder's Story:
In 2008, my husband and I both retired, and with many healthy retirees, had planned this phase of our lives to include traveling and enjoying our new found independence. We had actually planned to sell our home and relocate to a less populated area and enjoy country living.
After an annual physical check-up that included a PSA screening, my husband was told by our family physician that his PSA was slightly elevated. Up to this point he had not experienced any symptoms to indicate there was a problem. After a referral to see Dr. Pianezza and a biopsy that followed, we were informed the results showed that it was positive for prostate cancer. Understandably my first reaction was shock followed by a despairing fear. A diagnosis of any form of cancer does not invoke a positive attitude at the onset. Fortunately, Dr. Pianezza took time to dispel our fears with the encouragement of explaining the high success statistics due to the advanced availability and procedures of today.
We decided my husband should have a radical prostatectomy. He went through the surgery and recovery remarkably well. Unfortunately during surgery it was discovered the cancer had invaded the seminal vesicles and shown to be aggressive, thus requiring radiation therapy.
Throughout this whole process, I inquired if there was a support group available for prostate cancer patients, in the hope my husband would find comfort sharing his experience with other men. When none existed in the Sudbury area, I looked for a support group for myself for the same reasons only to find none existed as well. My life was one of uncertainty and fear and felt the only choice I had was to start a support group myself to include spouses and partners.
I spoke with Dr. Pianezza of my intentions and his encouraging words gave me the enthusiasm I needed to hear. He shared my belief we were in much need of such a support group in Sudbury and the Northern Region. After speaking with several people involved in supportive care regarding cancer, and with their guidance I attended a course in Hamilton to become certified in facilitating a peer support group.
My first task was to secure a location, date and time. Once I had that in place I composed a leaflet in English and French and named this group "You Are Not Alone". My husband and I attended as many cancer functions as we could to distribute these leaflets. Dr. Pianezza's secretary Patty prepared a list of doctor's names and their office addresses where I hand delivered the leaflets and asked permission to make them available for their patients to read. My son Dan Lessard, Communication Officer for Health Science North notified several local media informing them of this new support group specifically for prostate cancer survivors. I was contacted and interviewed by CTV and CBC Radio.
Finally my first meeting was held in July 2015. The response and participation of each member overwhelmed me and for the first time since the day my husband had been diagnosed, relief and laughter returned to me. We are a unique and dynamic group who have become a real support for one another as well as becoming life long friends.
Prostate cancer affects couples and speaking openly of it's complications can bring on tears but it also has room for laughter, which has been my experience and I believe shared by the other members. Join us and feel the welcome.
I wish to thank Angela Lessard and her husband, Gaetan, for working hard to create this support group. Her reason for doing so is on the foreword for this website which gives members valuable insights on dealing with prostate cancer and its effect on families. I first met Angela at a meeting at Supportive Care where we shared a desire to set up such a group. Our first step was to become certified facilitators, through the Canadian Cancer Society, which we did in Hamilton. From there Angela persevered and, with Dr. Pianezza’s support, created this prostate cancer support group.
Now my wife, Joan, and I are going to take up the torch and continue Angela’s work. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in April 2008 after having a PSA test at 15.6. After seeing an urologist and having a biopsy indicating I was 8 out of 10 on the Gleason Scale, my journey began. I had my prostate removed in July 2008, but some cancer cells survived on the margins. This led to radiation therapy at our Cancer Centre a year later. It turned out that I was part of the 10 percent who are badly affected by radiation therapy, which caused damage to my colon and then my bladder. This led to many visits with urologists, nurses and other healthcare professionals over a seven-year period to resolve that damage. The good news is that I have been without cancer for nine years and now have the energy to follow in Angela’s footsteps. Like her I can only do this with the support of my partner, who has been with me every step of the way. We are looking forward to organizing the meetings and welcome anyone who has been touched by this disease.