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  • Jordan Snobelen

Movember takes on new meaning for chef with prostate cancer diagnosis

Rick Duffy, the head chef at Ernie’s Roadhouse in Hespeler, has always been a supporter of Movember, the social movement championing men’s health awareness. At 67, his father Bill is a survivor of late-stage prostate cancer.

But this year, the mustachioed month has taken on an entirely new meaning.

Duffy began feeling symptoms associated with prostate cancer, one of the most common forms of cancer in men, this past summer, and after much convincing from his wife, Fran, Duffy reluctantly visited a doctor fearing the worst.

It was August when he received the news confirming his suspicions. At age 47, he had prostate cancer. Everything had changed.

The weight of the diagnosis bore down on Duffy when he returned home to see his nine-year-old son, Shamus, and six-year-old daughter, Molly, who has a severe neurological disorder leaving her unable to walk or talk.

“Right now it’s just flying by the seat of my pants, and it has kind of shaken the ground beneath me, it’s kind of lit a fire underneath my ass ... I want to get better at everything,” Duffy said at Ernie’s this past week.

Thanks to some “poking of the bear” from Jeff Borysiewicz — a past Galt Gargoyles teammate and an owner of Ernie’s along with his wife Nicole — Duffy agreed to help plan an upcoming gala awards night at Ernie’s in support of the Movember Foundation.

Taking place this coming Saturday, Ernie’s will be the official Movember gala site for Cambridge, featuring prizes ranging from golf packages to shaving kits awarded to winners of competitions like “Man of Movember” and “MoSister,” or the people’s choice: “Ultimate Mo.” North of 7 will provide live music while volunteers and friends will be helping out with blind beer taste tests and a hot wing challenge, with wings doused in sauce from Hellspeler Pepper Company.

In the coming weeks Duffy will find out how he’ll be combating the cancer — surgery or chemo. A long journey awaits, and yet there’s hope found in an early diagnosis.

“I’m not an Eeyore kind of guy, so don't feel pity for me or anything like that, because I’ve lived a good life, and if I was to pass away from this, then I pass away from this,” he said.

Beneath the strong facade, he says that his work as a chef is therapeutic. “There’s a very romantic feeling of coming into the kitchen, having it pure silence and turning the lights on and turning the hood on, and hearing the hum of it to start the day,” he explained, with a wry grin spreading out over greying stubble.

It’s a place he spends long hours, often from dawn until night. He would miss it dearly.

“I don’t want to just sit and loaf and dwell on it, because if I do, that’s when it’ll get ahold of me, and that’s just not the way I deal with it,” he said.

Ernie’s has their own team of six men growing out fuzzy upper lips. So far they’ve managed to raise $700, and are hoping to hit $1,000.

If there’s anything Duffy hopes to accomplish, it’s spreading awareness.

“We get people — men — to get out of their shell, if you need mental health help, go get help for it, if you need to go see your doctor, go see your doctor, don’t be afraid of those kind of things, because it could turn out that you’ve postponed it so long it turns out to be really bad.”

Duffy says it’s the “two-finger check” bothering men, but he has some advice: “Get over yourself, because it’s nothing, it’s more important to get the check.”

All moustaches are welcome at Ernie’s this Saturday, “Movember 30,” and while Duffy wonders about whether he’ll appear as Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit, echoing in the back of his mind is the concern of just how sick he’s going to be. It’s important to remember there’s a lot more at stake than just facial hair.

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