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Phoebe plans men's health fair

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- Two years ago Mike Decuir, the band director at Albany State University, had his perspective on life changed forever.

It all started with a trip to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital's men's health fair, and ended with a prostate cancer diagnosis.

"We weren't comfortable with his numbers," recalled his wife, Lynn Decuir. "The biopsy came back, and it said he had cancer cells."

When the Decuirs first got the news, their next step was to discuss their options.

"We both agreed to surgery," Lynn Decuir said. "He came out real well. Now he's doing good."

The problem was initially detected by a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test.

"I would tell anybody to get a PSA, and if it (the result) doesn't sit right, to check with their doctor," Lynn Decuir advised.

The first thing that went through Mike Decuir's mind after hearing the diagnosis was how to break the news to his loved ones.

"It was an out-of-body experience," he said. "I thought 'what if the worst happens?' You start to look back on life."

This year's men's health fair is set to take place from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday at Phoebe HealthWorks, located at 311 Third Ave.

In addition to the PSA test, the health fair also includes screenings for diabetes, blood pressure, body mass index and cholesterol. The screenings' results are later mailed to the participant's home.

One of the focuses behind the event is the idea that women are often the gatekeepers of health in a family, which is something the cancer survivor's wife can relate to.

"I'm the one who makes everyone go to the doctor," Lynn Decuir said.

Even the survivor himself admits the truth behind that theory.

"A lot of my friends don't want to go to the doctor," Michael Decuir said. "I think a lot of them get into trouble."

The band director' wife learned her role as the gatekeeper the hard way after her father died from emphysema.

"All of us used to fight to get him to go to the doctor, and by the time he did it, it was too late," she recalled. "I learned from what my father went through to help my husband."

The good news is that things are beginning to change.

"These days, guys are starting to talk," Mike Decuir said. "The culture is changing."

Darrell Sabbs, community benefits coordinator at Phoebe, said the event started as a family function organized by those wanting to get involved in improving health outcomes in the community.

"It started off as an event for men to get involved in community service," he said. "We used to do it as a family picnic, and incidentally we would do health screens. Over the years, it changed from a social model to a health model."

Sabbs, along with others at the hospital, has begun to notice a change in attitude regarding men's health -- much like the Decuirs have.

"Men do a lot of things well, but some take better care of their cars than their own health,"Sabbs said. "There is a mentality about men that they will wait until it is falling off.

"Nine years later, we get more than 700 men who automatically respond. In some cases (the health fair) is like a doctor's visit for them."

Sabbs said he has also noticed that women play a significant role.

"A man's behavior is as such that they don't have a long life expectancy. The result is that women are being left widows," he said. "The biggest cheerleader is the woman in his life, and there's research to back that up.

"She does more than a doctor could do."

Sabbs has seen that in his own family, even when it comes to his children.

"They come to me for money, but for their health, they go to their momma," he quipped.

The speaker at the health fair will be Dr. Rex Ajayi, a urologist who will discuss what men can do to improve their sex life.

Those who have been involved in the event before say it can be beneficial to men of any age.

"The health fair will check a whole number of things," Mike Decuir said. "It doesn't matter if you're a teen or older. It helps to go."

In his phone interview with The Herald last week, Sabbs made sure to emphasize that there are others involved in making the men's health fair a reality, including public health officials, the Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition, as well as area churches and universities.

"We don't do this alone," he said. "The fact that we partner with these folks is what helps. It's not just Phoebe."

Participants are expected to fast starting at midnight the night before the screenings. A lunch will be provided along with door prizes, information booths and T-shirts.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call (229) 312-7121.