Men share the burden

THERE are three types of men at the Ballarat Prostate Support Group, according to secretary Michael Bird. 

Men just diagnosed with prostate cancer looking for answers, those who have had it and still come to the group for ongoing support, and those who have passed the worst of it but are still monitored closely. 

“We’ve had about one new guy a week, this year,” said Mr Bird, who has been clear of cancer since 2005, but is dubious of doctors’ claims he’s “cured”. 

Life-changing: Michael Bird is a survivor of prostate cancer.

Life-changing: Michael Bird is a survivor of prostate cancer.

“Peter Mac has told me I don’t need to come back in for check-ups, but it’s always good to be sure,” he said. 

Mr Bird is also an ambassador for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, and is attending a training conference in Melbourne next week for support group leaders, which will look at better supporting minorities with cancer, as well as overall awareness. 

He said education was important for health professionals as well as men over 50, because early diagnosis can make a world of difference. 

“I was getting up to go to the toilet once a night, and mentioned it to my fantastic doctor. She did the digital examination as well as a blood test, and while the digital test came up with nothing, a follow-up blood test a few months down the track came up with some odd values, so we stuck with it and found something there,” he said.

During treatment, he said the need for wider support was clear because his friends and family didn’t know how to handle it. 

“They would ask my wife how I am, not me, like I was going to die,” he said. 

The Ballarat support group has 40 people on the mailing list, and about between 14 and 18 men – sometimes with their partners – come along every month. 

The support group offers speakers, including medical specialists and even a politician leading up to the state election, and talk about different treatments. 

Mr Bird said men were often reticent to talk about how they were going emotionally, but members do share their stories. 

“For me, it was a realisation I wasn’t going to live forever. There’s a guy in the group whose two sons have got it,” he said. 

Meetings the first Tuesday of every month, at the Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre. For more information, email michael46@inbox.com.

alex.hamer@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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