Claude Hendrickson has a passion for promoting men’s health and has over 30 years' experience of working with black, Asian and minority communities in Leeds.
"I joined the Cancer Alliance community/patient panel to raise awareness of the specific health issues and considerations that affect those communities.
"My own experience having brachytherapy treatment has given me a unique insight into the diagnosis and prevention of prostate cancer and enabled me to help other men in similar circumstances.
"My inspiration comes from working in partnership with others. I believe my strongest skill is to galvanise people around a range of ideas, to find new ways of overcoming problems that might present themselves as barriers to accessing services."
Claude currently works at the Leeds West Indian Centre Charitable Trust (LWICCT) as a project manager for Boyz2men Health, a local initiative that empowers young adults to take responsibility for their own health needs.
In his own community in the Chapeltown area of the city, Claude's work brings him into contact with individuals and groups from all walks of life and he takes an informal approach to encouraging people, especially young men, to take responsibility for their own health. This includes helping them to engage with local health services and to build up a relationship with their local GPs.
Claude confirms: “A lot of young people, especially men, won’t even consider visiting a GP because they are often indoctrinated during their upbringing to believe they should just brush off any health concerns and carry on.
"Through having casual conversations with them and getting them to complete a health questionnaire, I get them thinking about their own health and wellbeing. I work through Boyz2men to get these young men to visit their own GP regularly and, at the very least, once a year for an annual check-up. This ensures they start to develop a relationship with their doctor and build a medical history that can in tandem help them to support early diagnosis of serious conditions that may run in the family."
Claude is acutely aware that as a black male, the risk of developing prostate cancer is 1:4, compared to 1:8 for other ethnicities.
From 2012, Claude has been involved with the Black Health Initiative as a men’s health champion, he is a patient representative on the Leeds Patient Advisory Group and is the lead health and wellbeing ambassador for the Leeds West Indian Centre Charitable Trust.
In 2013 he joined the Leeds Men’s Health & Wellbeing Network, to promote men’s health across Leeds City, and he is currently Chair. In 2016, whilst carrying out a health study for this network, Claude decided to get his health checked and had his blood tested by his local GP.
His prostate specific antigen (PSA) tested very high and whilst not having a conclusive diagnosis for prostate cancer, further tests indicated he was high risk. Over the next six months, Claude underwent a low dose brachytherapy, a type of radiotherapy whereby tiny radioactive seeds are placed into the prostate and radiation from the seeds destroys any cancer cells or stops them from developing.
Whilst going through the brachytherapy, Claude dedicated his time to learning as much as he could about prostate cancer, including speaking to clinical experts, to ensure he had as broad an understanding as possible (as a lay person) of the condition, treatments and potential side effects. He now uses his own knowledge and experience to help other men and acts as an ambassador for raising awareness of prostate cancer.
Sadly, in 2011, Claude also lost his younger brother, aged 46, to stomach cancer. In 2013, Claude became an Ambassador for the Leeds-based charity, St Gemma's Hospice.
In addition to the Boyz2men project, Claude has led a community self-build housing project that provided homes for the homeless in his local area; been a role model for the Route2Success programme which helps young black men succeed in gaining employment, and also worked as a project manager for ‘Race Card’ which engages and challenges racism and social injustice.