RETIRED firefighter John Anderson was prepared to stand up in a room full of men to speak openly about his prostate cancer journey because he felt he owed them, of sorts. John felt the Western Bulldogs-led Sons of the West health program helped prepare him, physically and mentally, for the experience.
He had support.
When tests showed John still had residual cancer, he felt he had the tools for what he was about to tackle next. But he also had the confidence to speak up to Wendouree and Sebastopol members.
John's candid leadership was a key reason he was named the Ballarat Sons of the West club champion this season.
It was about time I gave back to something I am proud to be part of.John Anderson, Ballarat Sons of the West graduate
"For me, I've got so much out of this program. It was about time I gave back to something I am proud to be part of. I wanted to share my experience with other men," John said. "(Club champion) was a very humbling experience...Everyone comes with a story and valuable experience."
In sessions focusing on prostate cancer and care, Ted Whitten Junior spoke about his father's short and aggressive battle. John also appreciated the practical, positive outlook from Ballarat Health Services prostate care nurse Gay Corbett.
John had prostate surgery in January. The 10-week Sons of the West program, which finished last month, offer John a couple hours' reprieve from radiotherapy and hormone therapy each week. A physical component each week also allowed him a chance to "blow some energy".
Sons of the West has also helped John through a key transitional period in his life - moving into retirement. Colleague Paul Roughead, whose son Jordan played AFL for Western Bulldogs at the time, organised a group of men from work to sign up for a challenge.
John said it took about one week to realise this program was going to challenge him far more than he ever thought.
A lot of my life has been working for the CFA - it's all-consuming work...(This) gave me opportunities to interact with a lot of people at Wendouree and listen to their views on society.John Anderson, Ballarat Sons of the West club champion
"A lot of my life has been working for the CFA - it's all-consuming work. Topics challenged us to think about how we looked at things in society and the issues concerning us in society," John said.
"It gave me opportunities to interact with a lot of people at Wendouree and listen to their views on society. I'm an individual with my opinions but it made me realise there were quite different opinions out there.
"Work is a very closed bubble. I finished in charge of a fire station with a tight network of people and we had become a cohesive body."
Sons of the West sessions explore a different men's health topic each week with Ballarat experts in each field. Fitness components are also tailored to different abilities and fitness levels.
For John, this helped prompt him to get moving when, after retiring in 2018, a health scare he realised he had become too much a "lounge lizard". John returned to a rehabilitation gym in Ballan he had used near work but was now happy to travel because he enjoyed the environment.
What happens after Sons of West for John is still something John is exploring. He has completed all three seasons and hoped to continue to find ways to keep meeting up with other graduates.
Sons of the West is part of a suite of Ballarat programs led by Western Bulldogs.
CLICK on the image below to meet Malcolm Burns. the 2018 Ballarat Sons of West club champion
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