A Giving Story: Prostate Cancer Survivor Aims to Make Far-Reaching Impact at Duke

Faithful Duke Health Fund supporter motivated by early childhood lessons in giving back.

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When Eddie Locklear was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in August 2006, his doctor recommended surgery. “Without it, he said I’d be dead in three years,” Locklear recalls.

The news was a shock to the Pembroke, North Carolina, resident, but Locklear had no doubt what his next course of action would be. A close friend had received the same news not long before. Fortunately, the friend’s prostate cancer was successfully treated with surgery at Duke.

Intent on following his friend’s lead, without hesitation Locklear told his local doctor that he would have his surgery at Duke too.

A few months and several consultations later, on December 26, Locklear and his wife made the two-hour drive to Durham for his surgery. “It was terrible that I couldn’t have Christmas at home,” Locklear says. But he admits missing Christmas with his family that year was a small price to pay. His wife has since passed away, but the decision to come to Duke for surgery has given Locklear many more Christmases—and counting—to spend with his son and two grandchildren.

When he returned to Duke for a checkup five weeks after surgery, doctors gave him the good news that the surgery had been a success. Full of gratitude and a firm believer in giving back, Locklear didn’t think twice about making a donation to Duke less than two months after surgery.

But what he originally thought would be a one-time gift has turned into something more. Locklear has added Duke Health to a short list of organizations that he supports faithfully every single month without fail. In addition to supporting his church and alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, Locklear has written a $100 check to the Duke Health Fund every month since February 2007.

“I am thankful there is a world-class hospital within commuting distance to my house,” says Locklear. “If I can have world-class service, I feel everyone is entitled to it too. That’s why I will continue to support Duke.”

Gifts to the Duke Health Fund support medical research, innovations, and programs that assist patients and educate future doctors and nurses across Duke Health.

Locklear says he feels good knowing that his giving impacts not only cancer patients like himself but also patients with other conditions.

“I’ll let you all at Duke decide which areas to give it to,” he says of his contributions. “You know where it belongs. I don’t. All I know is that I like to give to organizations where you can see that they’re doing a good job. I want Duke to remain a world-class hospital that does a lot of good for a lot of people.”

One of 11 children raised on a farm in Pembroke, Locklear says his father, who never learned to write his own name, stressed early on the importance of getting an education and giving to others. His father always made sure Locklear and his siblings—seven of whom went on to earn either bachelor’s or graduate degrees—had coins to put in the collection plate at church on Sundays.

Those early lessons in generosity stuck with Locklear throughout his life, not only when it comes to his church but also other areas of the community, particularly education and health care.

“I’ve always followed the 70/30 rule,” says Locklear who spent much of his career in education, including 26 years teaching and working as an administrator at Robeson Community College. “When you get paid, give yourself 10 percent, invest 10 percent, donate 10 percent, and live on 70.”

Locklear’s generosity extends beyond financial contributions. Now retired, he volunteers at a local hospital, selling coffee and giving patients rides to their appointments.

As for his health, he is doing well and continues to receive regular checkups. Locklear’s doctors tell him he isn’t cured of prostate cancer, but his outlook is good, especially considering he hasn’t had any problems in the nine years since treatment. “Because of Duke’s good medicine, I’m what they call a double lifer,” he says. “I will have lived twice as long as 80 percent of people who were diagnosed at my stage of cancer.”

And because of his experience, he will continue to give to Duke in the hope of helping others like him.

“It’s a blessing to be able to help,” he says. “I find the more I give, the more I receive.”