Prostate cancer screenings

David and Martha Duffy celebrate at Yachtsman Steakhouse in Disney World Yacht and Beach Club on September 14, 2015.

BREVARD COUNTY ― The Duffy's met in Port Ewen, New York when both of them were children. Mrs. Duffy recalls their serendipitous meeting with distinct recollection, as if it had happened just a week ago.

"He was pitching and I was walking by with friends and I stopped, for whatever reason, behind the batters box and I just stood there, looking at this boy," Mrs. Duffy said. "Our eyes just met and I smiled. He said that my eyes were all twinkly."

Mr. Duffy courted her throughout their adolescence and into their teenage years. She remembered falling in love with him at a young age.

"We took walks, flirted or whatever you do at that age. I pretended to play girls softball, which I did not like," Mrs. Duffy said.

Although their romantic lives took different paths, they ended up finding their way back to each other and were married for 30 years.

But neither of them could have expected the news that they got three years ago.

On Feb. 2, 2016, the couple received a call at 7:40 a.m. that upended their lives.

"When you get a call at 7:40, you immediately think it's horrible," Mrs. Duffy said. "I'll never forget that date as long as I live."

Mr. Duffy had previously had blood work done prior to a colonoscopy, which doctors discovered his Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) levels were high. The doctor informed Mr. Duffy that he had Stage Four prostate cancer, which had metastasized to his bones.

Mr. Duffy had known he had an enlarged prostrate, which can be an early warning sign for prostate cancer. However, doctors had ruled out a positive diagnosis for it at that time.

Mr. Duffy succumbed to Metastatic Prostate Cancer and passed away on April 22, 2018.

According to the American Cancer Society, one in nine men are diagnosed with prostate cancer and one in 41 will die from the disease every year.

The unforeseen diagnosis and general unsuspecting way in which Mr. Duffy endured the remaining years of his life were agonizing for Mrs. Duffy. However, grief gave way to a momentous undertaking that she believed to be paramount to helping combat the elusiveness of prostate cancer.

Since her husband's death, Mrs. Duffy has organized and championed for free blood test screenings for prostate cancer in Brevard County.

PSA tests check for higher levels of protein in the patients blood that can show as early warning signs for cancer that also contribute to prostate problems.

According to a May 8, 2018 article, The Associative Press reported that "new evidence suggests that PSA blood tests can slightly reduce the chances of dying from the disease for some men."

"There's so little talk about prostate cancer. It's frightening to me that there isn't enough awareness out there," Mrs. Duffy said.

Mrs. Duffy's ultimate outcome in spreading awareness is for PSA blood tests to become standard tests in annual blood work for men over 40 years of age.

Mrs. Duffy started with questions to the Brevard Health Department pertaining to what criteria needed to be met to organize this type of event.

For a location, Mrs. Duffy contacted James McCormick, owner of the Cocoa Beach Health and Fitness Center who agreed to provide the location for the tests to take place.

"I set about trying to find a lab and a doctor, which was not so easy. It's not finding a doctor to order the blood tests that's the difficult part, it's finding one that will agree to notify all the men after. That takes time," Mrs. Duffy said.

Mrs. Duffy was able to secure Suncoast Pathology Associates, located at 3030 Venture Lane #108 in Melbourne, to provide the testing.

In addition to the legwork Mrs. Duffy put in herself, she received overwhelming support and donations from the Prostate Cancer Research Institute in Culver City, California, the Prostate Cancer Foundation in Santa Monica and the Prostate Conditions Education Council in Denver, Colorado, who sent brochures and materials to distribute.

Lowes and Ace Hardware helped to provide items for the raffles and materials for the events activities. Local businesses like Cocoa Beach Publix and Winn Dixie are donating water and muffins for potential test-takers.

Mrs. Duffy also received a large donation that put her over her funding goal, allowing free testing of over 200 potential men. She never asked for any money, but contributions, either monetary or those volunteering time or supplies, came in none the less. She explained that the community involvement she's received has been miraculous.

Mrs. Duffy hopes that with that the overwhelming support she's received for the screenings, that the event will be just the first of an annual event taking place in the month of September - Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

The event will be held at Cocoa Beach Health and Fitness, located at 1355 North Atlantic Avenue in Cocoa Beach, on Thursday, Sept. 12 from 7-11 a.m. and 3:30-7:30 p.m.

"If I didn't know what the word humbled meant then, I do now. I didn't expect the genuine kindness and support," Mrs. Duffy said."I didn't think about it as me doing it, I just wanted to give his death meaning."

For more information, contact the Cocoa Health and Fitness Center at (321) 613-2969.

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