Illinois Scouter credits BSA health exam to saving his life

Greg Bedell had prostate cancer. He didn’t know, though. It was discovered thanks to the BSA physical exam that eventually led to the diagnosis.

“Scouting saved my life,” he says. “This is not an exaggeration.”

Before joining his son on a Philmont Scout Ranch trek in 2019, Bedell, a committee chair with Troop 55 of Glenview, Ill., went to his doctor for a pre-participation exam. Any BSA event lasting 72 hours or longer requires that youth and adult participants undergo an exam prior. For shorter events, an exam is encouraged, but everyone needs to complete the Annual Health and Medical Record. (An extension for exams was made last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that isn’t in effect this year. Click here for more details relating to the pre-participation exam.)

The exam is for everyone’s safety, making sure you are fit for the sometimes-strenuous activities, especially during a high-adventure trek. In Bedell’s case, it also alerted his doctor to something serious.

Part of Bedell’s physical involved blood work, including a prostate-specific antigen test. Although his results were in the normal range, they were on the high end. Bedell’s doctor recommended he see a urologist after the Philmont trek.

“Philmont was amazing,” Bedell says. “It was an experience with my son that I will never forget — the clean air, the ‘Red Roofs’ [outhouses], the beautiful sites, the terrain that our Scoutmaster observed ‘always goes up,’ the wonderful activities like rock climbing, the endless tease of the switchbacks on the last day of the trek to finally the triumphant walk into base camp.”

Those feelings of elation were replaced with concern a few weeks later, following another blood test and a biopsy on the urologist’s recommendation. The results revealed that Bedell had prostate cancer. It was in an intermediate stage and had not spread. A surgery was planned.

Bedell felt like giving his doctor a hug, thanking him for his cautious approach and recommendation that he get more testing done. The surgery went well and he’s back to his daily routine.

“Maybe I would have gotten a physical if I were not an active Scouter,” Bedell says. “I know that I did get the exam because I am active with my troop. I will forever be grateful to the Boy Scouts of America.”

Bedell had done the prostate-specific antigen test every year for the past few years; this time, the results were different. He urges that all men get these tests done and discuss with their doctors when the right age would be for them to start.

If your health has changed significantly since your last physical exam or you are at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, it’s highly recommended to get approval from your health care provider prior to attending camp.

Philmont was closed last summer because of pandemic precautions, but invited crews in the fall. Click here for information about planning a trek to Philmont or any of the other BSA high-adventure bases and to find COVID-19 updates.


About Michael Freeman 442 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is an associate editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines.