Health messages are generally a complete turn-off for us blokes because we’re always in denial; the “it won’t happen to us” philosophy.
It’s why we shouldn’t expect a sea of balloons when we celebrate Men’s Health Week from June 9-15, the 20th anniversary since it began in the United States of America, and 12 years after Canada, European countries and Australia joined the cause to heighten awareness of preventative health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys.
Fortunately, these days more men are taking notice thanks to brilliant television commercials featuring Dr Brian Ironwood in his Man Therapy campaign, using blokey-type terminologies to promote the fact there is help out there, particularly through the linked outstanding BeyondBlue organisation that tackles anxiety and depression.
Such is Dr Ironwood’s popularity that last year Victoria’s Eastern Football League invited him to perform the National Anthem at its grand final. He might not be a real doctor and merely a character developed in the U.S., but he is a genuine classic singer and he entertained the thousands of fans with his dulcet tones while again getting his message through.
He commands attention, much like the very real story of an ageing doctor, who shortly before retiring in 2011 referred one of his last patients – we will call him John – to a specialist because his Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) reading was slightly up.
The specialist told John the rise was so insignificant that he should come back in 12 months, but thought it best to at least organise an ultra sound simply to appease “old Jerry” and allay his concern.
“Something is not right,” the specialist told John upon receiving the results. Then it was a complete bone scan, and that night the specialist rang John and told him he needed a biopsy at 10am the next day.
According to John, the biopsy was like a pop-rivet gun going off up his rectum. Of the eight samples, five indicated aggressive cancerous growths. The discomfort no longer mattered.
The specialist feared the cancer was too advanced for radiation therapy, and said da Vinci Robotic Surgery at Royal Adelaide Hospital was the best option. There was then a four-month waiting list for this type of surgery, but the specialist used his one dispensation case per month to perform the surgery on John two weeks later.
The prostate is like an egg, and if there is cancer and the “egg” cracks open cancerous cells head straight for bone, which is generally a death sentence. However, if detected early and the prostate is removed before it cracks open, there is usually complete recovery. It is why this cancer is a case of “all or nothing”.
The specialist had performed this operation more than a thousand times throughout the world, and for the first time the prostate cracked right before his eyes. The prostate was quickly removed, and tests over the next three years fortunately confirmed no cancer cells had escaped. The specialist told John that, had the operation been done just two weeks later he would have been dead within three months because the cancer was so aggressive.
Incredibly, John’s wife had breast cancer only months earlier, and also survived because of early detection. Doing just fine, thank you.
This was July, 2011, and what of John now? Several months after the operation he decided to start a community magazine so that, among other things, one day he could tell this story. It was not to be about him, merely the importance for other men to listen to someone like Dr Ironwood and go to their doctor and be tested.
How do I know all this? John is the middle name; and the publication is Coast Lines. – Ashley Porter