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    Patrick Dempsey: Cancer Caregiver

    You may know him as 'Dr. McDreamy,' but the real Patrick Dempsey is a supportive son who has twice helped his mother face down ovarian cancer.

    Patrick Dempsey: Role Model continued...

    These days, Dempsey is as skilled at being a real-life patient as his TV character is at being a neurosurgeon: “Everything I can get screened for, I screen for. And if it comes back questionable, I look into it further. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

    He’s right on track with his regular physical exams. An avid race car driver and cycling enthusiast, Dempsey gets a full physical before each new season of the show. Experts agree that the most important thing you can do for your health is to get screening early and take daily steps to maintain your health. Most doctors recommend men get a baseline physical at age 18, then one every two to three years if they are healthy. Talk to your doctor about what applies to you and how often you should be tested.

    Dempsey takes care of himself in other ways, too, and strives to stay fit. “Yoga is great for everybody,” the actor says. “It improves flexibility and immunity and adds to longevity. But,” he adds, “whatever attracts you, you should go out and do.”

    Even during tough days on the set, when there isn’t much time for exercise, he does sit-ups or push-ups in his trailer. (Look for those picture-perfect abs on display in Made of Honor, a romantic comedy scheduled for release in early 2008.)

    As for the rest of his family, maintaining good health -- physical and emotional -- is a priority. Married for eight years to stylist and Avon color consultant Jillian Fink (whom he met when he walked into her Los Angeles salon for a haircut), Dempsey is the father of 5-year-old daughter, Talula, and twin sons, Darby and Sullivan, born in February of this year. “It’s really hard with the sleep deprivation,” he admits with a laugh.

    But for couples, the secret of surviving the travails of parenthood is simply making time for one another, Dempsey says. “Date nights are very important.”

    One thing is clear: When it comes to good health, emotional and physical, Dempsey puts his family first. And the passionate dedication that shines through every week on Grey’s Anatomy -- the same caring spirit that inspired a legion of fans to collectively sigh and dub Dempsey “McDreamy” -- is definitely no act.

    Patrick Dempsey: Raising Cancer Awareness

    Last fall Patrick Dempsey signed on to become the official spokesman for Breakaway From Cancer, an initiative created by pharmaceutical company Amgen, Inc., to raise awareness and funds to support free services and programs for people living with cancer.

    For example, Breakaway has raised more than $1.5 million since 2005 to support The Wellness Community, a nonprofit organization that sponsors free professionally led support groups, educational workshops, nutrition and exercise programs, and mind/body classes. “Support groups can be so important for people living with cancer,” Dempsey says.

    Since 2006, the initiative has also supported the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, the oldest survivor-led cancer advocacy organization in the country.

    “The greatest thing about the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship is that it offers a toolbox on its web site that shows you how to navigate through paperwork and bills when dealing with cancer,” Dempsey says.

    “This is a big stumbling block. When you or someone you love has cancer, you want to make their life as simple as possible, and when you are thrown curveballs from hospitals or individual doctors in regard to bills, it’s very difficult.”

    Breakaway also sponsors cycling events to benefit cancer care. It’s the perfect fit for Dempsey, who tells WebMD he rides “at least 25 miles a day” when not putting in long hours on Grey’s Anatomy.

    As part of his involvement with this initiative, Dempsey is now researching how to give back to the Maine community where his mother was treated. “We are trying to find out what Lewiston needs,” he says. “If it’s a wellness center, great, but if that is not what they need, we want to find out what their need is and fill it.”

    One possibility is a hotline to help guide Lewiston’s senior citizens through the medical milieu. “They can be put into contact with the right doctors and followed,” the actor says. “We are moving forward and working with a local hospital.” -- Denise Mann

    Originally published in the September/October 2007 issue of WebMD the Magazine.

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    Reviewed on July 30, 2007

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