MEMBER WELLBEING – The President’s health message

I want to share with you my recent can­cer diag­no­sis in the hope that my per­son­al sto­ry will moti­vate you to tack­le your own health con­cerns. I want you to hear this straight from me rather than whis­pers, and I want you to be able to freely speak to me about it.

I’m not telling you this for sym­pa­thy – I want this sto­ry to encour­age you, and I want you to think about our club’s Well­ness Pro­gram with a renewed inter­est.

My issues start­ed short­ly before Christ­mas when I strug­gled to uri­nate and so I went to the doc­tor. He pre­scribed antibi­otics that failed to do any­thing and then I was sent to a urol­o­gist. She also pre­scribed antibi­otics and when that didn’t work she arranged for a “scope test”.

It was late Jan­u­ary – the busi­ness end of the sea­son when Coun­try Car­ni­val had been and gone and almost every com­ing week­end includ­ed a com­pe­ti­tion – and I found myself in a hos­pi­tal with a cam­era broad­cast­ing the inner work­ings of my blad­der on to a screen. Ini­tial­ly, the cam­era did not detect any­thing abnor­mal, but as the device turned around the enor­mous “bun­dle of coral” appeared on the screen.

It was a tumour. A big one.

I have strug­gled to find the words to tell this sto­ry as I’m a log­i­cal thinker and this diag­no­sis still seems com­plete­ly illog­i­cal – this sim­ply makes absolute­ly no sense to me what­so­ev­er.

I’m 45-years-old – which the spe­cial­ists say is a young age for this type of tumour. I am fit and I lead a healthy lifestyle, and in the sim­ple terms used by the doc­tors — I’m unlucky.

But we don’t choose the hand we are dealt, we can only play it as best we can.

The diag­no­sis was unex­pect­ed and came as a com­plete shock, with one ques­tion burn­ing in my mind – what does that mean? The test was com­plete and surgery was planned for 18 Feb­ru­ary to remove the tumour. I walked out of the hos­pi­tal to my wife Michelle, but would not share the diag­no­sis until we were alone togeth­er in the car.

She was fright­ened. This was the most alarm­ing health issue I had faced in my life to date. Telling my teenage sons was also an extreme­ly dif­fi­cult task.

The sub­se­quent surgery suc­cess­ful­ly removed the tumour which the doc­tors described as “high-grade” but “non-inva­sive”. Oth­ers words includ­ed “self-con­tained” and “fast-grow­ing”.

All of this trans­lat­ed into the best pos­si­ble news for this par­tic­u­lar type of tumour.

I’m not yet out of the woods and I cur­rent­ly have a ureter­al stent from my kid­ney which is a con­stant source of pain that I will be liv­ing with for the next few months.

In addi­tion to the pain, the stent pre­vents me from train­ing. This is my main source of frus­tra­tion at the moment – exer­cise is a big part of my life at our surf club.

I was in peak phys­i­cal con­di­tion just before this in readi­ness for the WA Mas­ters Surf Life Sav­ing Cham­pi­onships at Sor­ren­to in March and, despite being two weeks post­op­er­a­tive (much to Michelle’s hor­ror), I was amazed and proud to take away a Gold in the Beach Sprints and Sil­ver in the Beach Flags – a goal I had to achieve.

Aussies are on but I could feel my phys­i­cal form suf­fer­ing through the lack of train­ing and I, there­fore, can­celled our fam­i­ly trip in favour of pro­gress­ing my treat­ment.

In April I will com­mence immunother­a­py – once a week for six weeks deliv­ered direct to my blad­der which car­ries its own risks, and may con­tin­ue month­ly after that for up to three years, but I know the alter­na­tives are far worse.

Fur­ther to this, I will under­take quar­ter­ly scope tests. The prospect of this tumour return­ing is gen­er­al­ly regard­ed as high giv­en the nature of the tumour that was removed.

I don’t want peo­ple to treat me dif­fer­ent­ly. It is what it is and you have to get on with it.

I want to remind every­one that every­one has some­thing going on in their lives – even though it may not be obvi­ous on the face of things.

I want to encour­age our won­der­ful surf club com­mu­ni­ty to take the time to ask oth­ers how they are going, it doesn’t take much.

I have seen this Club pull togeth­er in a very spe­cial way this sea­son. I have seen it in com­pe­ti­tion – with ath­letes from dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines jump­ing in to assist their fel­low club mem­bers at car­ni­vals.

I have seen it on our incred­i­ble beach each week­end dur­ing club days with the old men­tor­ing the young, and the young re-ignit­ing the pas­sion of the old.

I have seen it with major events such as the Nip­pers Car­ni­val host­ed at Mul­laloo in Jan­u­ary.

Club mem­bers have pulled togeth­er in sup­port of me since my diag­no­sis and this has been tru­ly heart-warm­ing – it’s also a major rea­son I want peo­ple to talk about their own issues. There’s always some­one there to lis­ten, help or to speak to, you don’t need to go through things on your own.

It is impor­tant to ask oth­ers if they are ok but it is equal­ly impor­tant to lis­ten to what they are say­ing and how they are say­ing it as com­mu­ni­ca­tion takes many forms. Fur­ther, it may encour­age anoth­er to care­ful­ly con­sid­er their own health and, where nec­es­sary, take action.

For me – I am going to con­tin­ue serv­ing as your Pres­i­dent, albeit with a small break now the sum­mer sea­son is com­plete to recov­er from the ini­tial treat­ment. It’s a role I feel priv­i­leged to have and in this role, I con­sid­er it my duty to share this mes­sage to help oth­ers. Men, in gen­er­al, are extreme­ly poor at deal­ing with health issues or ask­ing for help and I’d like this to change.

Do not suf­fer in silence.

Thank you to Luke Eliot and Pam Bubrzy­c­ki for your con­tri­bu­tion to this mes­sage.

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