Isabelle Pagé spent this Father’s Day doing what she’s done almost every year for more than a decade: walking on Mount Royal among a sea of red and blue T-shirts as part of an annual event to raise awareness and funds for prostate cancer research.
But for the first time ever, Pagé walked without her father by her side.
“It’s our first year without him being on Mount Royal so it’s very emotional, but he’s here. That’s why it’s sunny,” said Pagé, honorary president of the Jean-Pagé Procure Walk of Courage.
Her father, longtime sportscaster Jean Pagé, died in 2019 after a 24-year-long battle with prostate cancer. He co-founded the walk with Procure, a Quebec organization fighting against prostate cancer. In 2020, Procure renamed the walk after Page to honor his efforts to break the stigma around the disease.
CF Montreal players and city firefighters were among the hundreds who gathered on Mount Royal for entertainment, music, beer and hot dogs on Sunday.
It was the 16th edition of the event and the first in-person walk in two years due to the pandemic. In total, it raised $335,000.
Winston McQuade wore a red T-shirt to the event, signifying that he’s a survivor of the disease. While he’s been cancer free since 2005, he said it’s important to turn out to support those who have it.
“We need people around,” said the Procure spokesperson. “We need people that are supporters, that are family, that are loving, because when you go through prostate cancer, it’s a tough go.”
McQuade said people with the disease are often asymptomatic, emphasizing the importance of yearly check-ups with a doctor.
“It’s not really a terminal disease. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be,” he said.
Some men avoiding cancer screenings due to pandemic
According to Procure, 4,380 Quebec men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year — about 12 each day — making it the most common cancer in men.
Laurent Proulx, CEO of Procure, is worried the pandemic made men even more reluctant than they already were to seek help from a doctor for a prostate-specific test or screening. He’s concerned about the impact a late diagnosis will have on patients in the years to come.
“Right now, you have men that have waited for two years, not going to the doctor, and now they have a late [diagnosis] of prostate cancer,” he said.
“Cancer was there prior to the pandemic, but now it’s going to be a much bigger problem to handle because you have all those patients that were not diagnosed.”
As a survivor of prostate cancer, Gaspard Fauteux said that the services were there throughout the pandemic, but it was hard to co-ordinate how to receive them. He said this brought a lot of anxiety for those suffering from the disease.
“They were concerned, they wanted treatment … but there was always this question of doubt. Will my treatment be available? Will it be on time?” he said.
Proulx said men need to take their health in their own hands, and as Quebec works to catch up on surgeries delayed because of the pandemic, his organization will work hard to dispel myths about men’s health.