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Fullerton-Based Forum Gives Out Information

Two cancer survivors, asked to leave a hospital-sponsored support group, went their own way.

March 07, 1997|STEVE EMMONS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Murray Corwin and Bill Dehn became friends in 1991 after they were both thrown out of the same meeting.

It was a hospital-sponsored group for men with prostate cancer, and Corwin and Dehn were causing problems. Both men had prostate cancer, had researched it extensively and were answering questions and handing out articles to men at the meeting.

Hospital authorities, who politely asked them not to return, had a point, Corwin now concedes. "Their group was about emotional coping. They wanted a group of men who would bond together and have emotional stability."

"But what we knew was that these men were also hungry for information," Dehn says. "Some people just want to do what the doctor says, but others want the information and seek out an answer for themselves."

Corwin, a retired engineer from Orange, and Dehn, a retired plastics contractor from Fullerton, founded Prostate Forum. Since 1992 it has grown to the point that more than 800 people subscribe to its mailings. The twice-monthly meetings in Fullerton draw people from as far as Woodland Hills and Palm Springs.

Last fall, Prostate Forum joined other cancer organizations in Orange County and staged the Prostate Cancer Public Forum in Buena Park. The event attracted some of the nation's foremost prostate experts and was attended by nearly 1,200 men. Dehn chaired the event.

Such events are popular because many men are dissatisfied with the information--or lack of it--they get from their doctors, Corwin says.

"Everybody's well-intentioned, but the communication is abysmal. The doctors don't have the time. Imagine being told you have cancer, and all the questions run through your mind. How much time does the doctor have to spare? Five, 10 minutes?"

"The first reaction is denial," Dehn says, "then confusion, then fear." All this time the doctor is talking, but the man isn't hearing.

"All he can think of is, 'I guess I'm going to die. Who will take care of my wife and kids? Is my will prepared?' " Corwin says. "Then he's jarred awake when the doctor says, 'Well, do you have any questions?' And most of them just ask, 'How much longer do I have to live?' "

Now many of these men wind up calling Dehn or Corwin.

"We get lots of calls, and typically they average an hour," Corwin says. "They want information: What else can I do? What are the statistics? What can I read?"

They get answers over the phone and from Prostate Forum's lending library of books, articles, videotapes and audiotapes, which occupies a room in Corwin's home. They also get information at forum meetings, where medical experts lecture and answer questions. Occasionally, a meeting is devoted to prostate patients telling their own stories.

Dehn and Corwin have enlisted their organization in the National Prostate Cancer Coalition, which is promoting accelerated research. That is the ultimate answer, the two men say.

"If the doctors were agreed, this information problem wouldn't exist," Corwin says.

* Prostate Forum meets at the First Presbyterian Church of Fullerton, 838 N. Euclid St., on the second (noon-3 p.m.) and fourth Wednesdays (6-9 p.m.) of each month. Murray Corwin, (714) 633-9241, or Bill Dehn, (714) 526-3793.

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