Healthy Living in the North

Surviving prostate cancer and telling the tale

Allan Joseph, prostate cancer survivor.

Allan Joseph, prostate cancer survivor.

Meet Allan Joseph. He is the newly elected Chief of the Yekooche First Nation, located roughly 75 km northwest of Fort St. James. At 60 years old, Allan is a prostate cancer survivor who considers himself very lucky to have gone through radiation and chemotherapy treatment and live to tell the tale.

It was a little over five years ago that Allan received the diagnosis of prostate cancer, and he received treatment in Vancouver to rid his body of the sickness. Doctors were initially concerned that the cancer may have metastasized (spread) to other organs in the body. His follow-up appointments after the treatment were very regular for the first few years, and Allan made sure that he was taking an active part in his health by making all his appointments so that doctors could keep a close eye on his condition. Seeing his doctor on a regular basis is very important to Allan as he wants to stay on top of any health issues related to the prostate cancer.

The check-ups are an annual appointment for Allan now, just as they should be for all men that are over the age of 50 (hint hint).

The radiation treatments that Allan received caused him to experience quite a bit of weakness and numbness in his legs, and he admits that his mobility has not been the same since his treatment regimen. However, he says that the weakness in his legs is a small price to pay to be cancer free.

Despite his leg troubles, Allan is still an avid hunter and fisher. The hunting and fishing, as well as trapping for furs, has been part of the Yekooche way of life for thousands of years, and is an identifiable piece of his heritage that he cherishes. Living in the north has always presented itself with rugged obstacles that Yekooche members are well prepared to tackle with hunting and fishing methods that have been essential survival skills for millennia.

Family and community are integral to the hunting lifestyle that is so important within their traditional territory. Getting out and continuing the hunting and fishing traditions with his grandchildren is an important way for Allan to pass down the customs of his ancestors, much as his father taught him. Passing traditions down to the grandkids would normally seem routine, but not many people can say that they have 37 grandchildren!! He loves to take the kids out but chuckles as he recollects how noisy some of them can be during the hunt. It’s hard to keep kids in stealth mode!

Allan urges other men to take part in their own health by getting regularly screened for prostate issues, risk factors for heart disease and for blood sugar elevations associated with diabetes. These screenings can help people to identify problems that are easier to address with lifestyle changes when they are detected earlier on. Delaying check-ups can cause health issues to escalate out of control and make them much harder to treat down the road.

For more information on men’s health, visit men.northernhealth.ca.

Laine Becker

About Laine Becker

Laine Becker is in his final year of the Bachelor of Nursing program at UNBC, working towards becoming a registered nurse, and has worked as student for NH's men's health program. He's lived in the north his whole life and feels he couldn't have picked a better place to live, choosing to stay here, now raising his two kids with his wife. He feels the north has everything for everyone and the last few years has renewed his passion for being outdoors, as he is teaching his kids the importance of being active and exploring the world in his backyard. He urges men and women to become involved in their own health care: Eat well, exercise regularly and get proper check-ups!

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The more you Mo

20131112LaineBeckerkidsI want to get dudes thinking about getting active with their families and friends. Becoming healthy men (and women) begins early in life, as studies have shown that healthy childhood development is associated with better overall health in life’s later stages. It doesn’t matter what stage of your life you are at, what matters is spending some quality time with those people and getting some much needed exercise while doing it!!

For me, that means making sure that I have time and energy for my kids, even at the end of a long day. The best experiences of being a dad are when I am out and being active with the kids. Sharing laughs and stories with them is super important to me, and that kind of connection is helping us to grow as a family.

I found a renewed interest in recreation when my kids came along. I often say to my friends when they have kids for the first time: “How does it feel knowing that you have reached the best part of your life?” Having kids is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. They quite likely saved my life, actually, and watching them discover and learn allows me to live vicariously through them.

There are interesting perks to being a father that you really can’t get a feel for until you have kids of your own. Any dads reading will know what I’m talking about, and for those aspiring (or not so much) to be a pappy someday, you might get a chuckle.

  1. Who knew that I would become the world’s toughest dude? It doesn’t matter what size you are or how strong (or not strong) you might be, kids look up to their dads with unconditional admiration. So for the first ten years or so, I will continue to be stronger than anyone else on earth…at least in the eyes of two little people.
  2. I’m also a giant that can pretty much reach up and touch the sky. Just sayin’.
  3. I apparently can also fix everything that is broken and there are very high expectations for me to do so. Thankfully they have yet to expose my limitations, but for the time being I will gladly play the part of MacGyver.
  4. My daughter is convinced that I actually know everything in the whole world! It’s kind of funny really because for most of my teens and twenties I thought I knew everything too! Nonetheless it’s nice to have blind support in my corner.

But you don’t need to be a dad to have fun with family. Connect with your parents. Head out hunting or fishing with your old man. Go for walks. Hit the ski hill. Go for a canoe ride down the river. We live in one of the best regions on earth, with endless terrain allowing for versatile recreation at every turn. The important piece is to take the next step and get out there! Even if you are far from home or the family isn’t available for adventure, take the initiative to get involved in the outdoors of northern BC.

My recommendation is to live everyday as if it was your last…and live well right until the very last day. That notion has a different meaning for me now than it did 10 years ago. Planning for the long-term begins today.

Get up an hour earlier and take control of your life. As you are reading this, millions of people across the world are getting exercise and taking care of themselves…push the close button at the top of this screen and open the door; get outside!

The other thing that men need to do is to take a more active part in their health. This extends beyond getting exercise and eating healthy. Men in Northern BC are renowned for higher rates of diseases, cancers and occupational injuries…yet we access the health care system less than any other dudes in the province. So even though we are sicker and more prone to injury and illness, we are reluctant to see our doctors for the necessary check-ups.

So break the mold. Change the pattern. Make an appointment with your doctor and get the proper check-ups. If you aren’t sure what screenings you might be due for and when, have a look at The MANual created by the Men’s Health Program at Northern Health.

Movember brings men’s health issues to the forefront, but we need to fight the good fight all year round. Taking care of ourselves is a full time investment that has a great long-term rate of return!! The more you Mo!!

Laine Becker

About Laine Becker

Laine Becker is in his final year of the Bachelor of Nursing program at UNBC, working towards becoming a registered nurse, and has worked as student for NH's men's health program. He's lived in the north his whole life and feels he couldn't have picked a better place to live, choosing to stay here, now raising his two kids with his wife. He feels the north has everything for everyone and the last few years has renewed his passion for being outdoors, as he is teaching his kids the importance of being active and exploring the world in his backyard. He urges men and women to become involved in their own health care: Eat well, exercise regularly and get proper check-ups!

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