Article Content

I WAS READY!! After two years of looking for an avenue to talk with the men of our church, the men's ministry had given me thirty minutes to speak about health issues. I was keying in on prostate and testicular cancers, as in the last year several men in our church had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Armed with my brown painted walnut and Lance Armstrong testicular self-exam shower cards, I strode up front to talk with this elusive group.

Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.

With great enthusiasm I used the walnut to show them what their prostate looked like and told the gallant story of Lance Armstrong, champion cyclist, and his fight and cure of testicular cancer. When I proceeded with a pop quiz, the men's eyes glazed over. The only enthusiasm in the room was mine-and it was fading fast. I asked God to help me salvage this precious time.


I stopped, took a seat facing the 40 men and said, "You knew this information, but many of you haven't had a physical in years. What am I missing?"


I discovered the men didn't need more information. Instead, we dialogued about why they didn't (or wouldn't) go for annual screening. It wasn't about money, time or insurance. It came down to "I don't like to be told what to do" and "If it ain't broke, leave it alone!!" Prior to the seminar, I had approached two male cancer survivors, asking them to share their stories. One wrote a letter for me to read, and the other spoke of his experience and treatment with radiation seed implants. Their messages were personal and hit home.


My clear challenge became how to motivate these men, not feed them information. I learned badgering from wives and family members doesn't work. But, one-on-one coaching from a nurse makes a difference!! Men I have coached on diet, exercise, lifestyle changes and seeing their health care provider have had excellent results. Follow-up is low key, with face to face talks. Many will quietly seek me out to tell me the results of their blood tests, physician's visit and what the scale currently reads. I have pulled aside a few men in order to have a short, direct chat. Two had BPs of 190-210 over 100-110. Both refused to seek treatment and had concerned wives. They also had brand-new grandbabies they adored. I was on nursery duty one Sunday when they came to pick up their bundles of joy. I asked God to help me say the right words so these men could live their lives to the fullest.


God brought John 10:10 to mind: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." I relayed this and added, "God has given you these beautiful grandchildren; don't let the thief steal them from you. It's God's Word; please take it to heart." By the following Sunday one had seen a physician and started blood pressure medication. The other found himself in the ER with a bad nose bleed. When he reported to his ER physician what his BP had been on Sunday and what his parish nurse had said, the physician exclaimed, "Next time, listen to her and do exactly what she says!!" Now he stops me to tell me how he is doing, and I offer encouragement.


I am one part-time parish nurse within a growing congregation of 650. God did not call me to do this job by myself. God's Word tells us we should be accountable to each other (Mt 18:15; Gal 6:2). I am reaching men via their small groups, and teaming up with the men's ministry to encourage accountability partners.


I keep the brown walnut on my desk to remind me that there are different ways to connect with others. I must pray for God's help and wisdom in finding the right way to reach each one.