Tempe detective’s family, friends, carry on fight against prostate cancer - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Tempe detective’s family, friends, carry on fight against prostate cancer

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Mike Sakal’s column runs on Fridays. Contact him at (480) 898-6533 or msakal@evtrib.com, or write to Mike Sakal, East Valley Tribune, 1620 W. Fountainhead Pkwy., Suite 219, Tempe, AZ 85282

Posted: Friday, August 24, 2012 5:56 am | Updated: 2:54 pm, Mon Aug 27, 2012.

“It’s not what happens to you; it’s what you do with it.”

It was just a year ago that Tempe police Detective Tim Barber was in the battle for his life, living that mantra, passionately spreading the word about prostate cancer.

The cancer would claim his life, two days after about 1,000 people attended a barbecue fundraiser, “Bustin’ Perps and Fighting Cancer,” hosted by the Tempe Police Department in Tim’s honor. Barely able to speak, Tim attended the event and spoke about the dangers of the disease and the importance of young men getting checked for it, before he had to be taken back to the hospital.

But today, the passion of spreading the word lives on through Tim’s family and friends. They are galvanizing “Tim’s Team” for the upcoming 4th Annual Prostate On-site Project (POP) Walk to be held at Tempe Kiwanis Park Sept. 22. That event will consist of a sea of people wearing yellow T-shirts with Tim’s picture on the back of them. This year the walk is named for Tim.

Tim Barber of Chandler, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer at age 40 in June, 2010, battled it for two years before he died on Aug. 27, 2011 at the age of 42 in the midst of experimental Provenge treatments that had been recently approved by the Federal Drug Administration. The treatments didn’t work for Tim as the cancer already had spread to his other organs and his brain. Before he was diagnosed with the cancer, it was believed he had a urinary tract infection as he was urinating frequently. However, doctors then realized something else was wrong after medication for a urinary tract infection wasn’t working.

Tim left behind a wife, Autumn, who is raising their twins Tim never got to see — Anson Timothy and Ayla James, who were born in January. He also is survived by his daughter, Brittany, 21, a senior at Northern Arizona University who moved back home from Flagstaff a year ago to help take care of her father, but now is completing her degree in education. Tim also was survived by his parents, Jim and Barbara Barber of Cottonwood, his brother, Ted, and sister, Liz who both live in the Valley.

Autumn also has replaced Tim on POP’s board of directors, continuing to share his story and get out the message about prostate cancer prevention.

“Obviously, you don’t heal all the way, but being able to continue to tell Tim’s story and that it can help others has been helpful,” Autumn Barber said of the one-year mark of Tim’s passing. “It’s been a deeply personal thing for me, and I think it has been beneficial and therapeutic for me to spread his message. Having the babies has been such a blessing. It gives me something to look forward to every day.”

Autumn also will be going to Washington, D.C. next month for the Zero Prostate Cancer Summit where people will meet with members of Congress pushing for better legislation involving prostate cancer and screening regulations.

Tim’s mother, Barbara Barber said, “It has been a difficult year for all of us. We don’t know how people can handle it when they lose a child and no one knows about it or pays attention to it. People are still talking about Tim. We know he didn’t completely die in vain. We’d rather have him here with us, but one thing we can be proud of, if he had to die at such a young age, Tim got the word out about prostate cancer, and it has mushroomed.”

About 1,000 people are expected to turn out for the Prostate On-Site Project Walk, with many of the participants being on Tim’s Team.

Anson Timothy and Ayla James also will be participating in the walk, wearing T-shirts with their father’s picture they’ll undoubtedly get to know through stories from family members and Tim’s friends who grew up with him on West Le Donna Drive in Tempe.

The twins are part of the Barbers moving forward with their mission.

Tim’s father, Jim Barber said it was an act of providence that Tim became involved with the Prostate On-site Project as the nonprofit organization was looking for someone to help them get the word out about its mission.

“Tim got hooked up with POP when he decided he was not going to die sitting around at home,” Jim Barber said. “Tim had no idea that POP existed, and they didn’t know about him. They found each other. Because of Tim’s personality, and him speaking to many organizations, he saved lives. He moved forward with his message right up to the last minute.”

The Barbers also hope for better regulations for PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) screening. Although most insurance plans cover prostate checks for men, most insurance companies do not recognize mobile prostate screening units at events. Also, numerous doctors still use outdated methods for screening by starting to check prostates of men 50 and older, when they should begin checking men at age 40 and in some cases, at age 35 due to family history and environmental factors, Autumn Barber said.

“If checks would’ve been permitted for men at 35, Tim would still be here,” Autumn said. In Tim’s case, 40 was too late. “The current PSA testing methods are highly criticized, because they’re not 100 percent sure, but not too many tests ever are. But, it’s the best tool we have.”

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