MEMBER WELLBEING: Movember — Supporting Men’s Health Month

It’s been just over six months now since I wrote my ini­tial arti­cle on my own health jour­ney and with Movem­ber now well under­way I felt it time to pro­vide an update.

My ini­tial can­cer diag­no­sis back in Feb­ru­ary now seems like a very long time ago as there have been many oth­er things tak­ing over my life, pos­i­tive­ly.

Since April I have been through six week­ly immunother­a­py treat­ments fol­lowed by a biop­sy which iden­ti­fied fur­ther high grade tumour polyps in my blad­der. It was explained to me that this may be new growth or have been rem­nants of the orig­i­nal tumour which were missed — obvi­ous­ly I hoped for the lat­ter! As a result, I was pre­scribed three fur­ther weeks of treat­ment.

Now all of this takes time. Between each course of treat­ment and sub­se­quent check is a wait of about six weeks. If noth­ing else, this process has taught me to be extreme­ly patient! It’s just over six weeks now since I went in for my lat­est biop­sy. The good news is the sur­geon found no new growth and noth­ing vis­i­ble that war­rant­ed a biop­sy. The down side was she now want­ed me to under­take a fur­ther course of what they term ‘main­te­nance treat­ment’.

I wasn’t told how long the main­te­nance would be but assumed it was anoth­er three weeks of fun. When I received the call from the Oncol­o­gy team to book in, I was shocked to learn that my main­te­nance treat­ment was now a once a month event for the next twelve months. Well that was kind of a blow to the sys­tem! For sev­er­al days I felt defeat­ed that the jour­ney was now going to be extend­ed by a fur­ther year…not what I want­ed to hear! As the days passed, I slow­ly let it sink in. I spoke with Michelle and the boys along with my very under­stand­ing boss, and it all fell into the thoughts of ‘it’s only twelve ses­sions’.

What I’ve learnt about this treat­ment is how much it actu­al­ly takes its toll on the body. First­ly, the anx­i­ety and stress of actu­al­ly going through it — I’m not going to lie, catheter­i­sa­tion is not a pleas­ant expe­ri­ence, and the after effects of treat­ment are becom­ing cumu­la­tive. For those of you who have expe­ri­enced cys­ti­tis, the day of treat­ment is effec­tive­ly that all day…on steroids! After that, because I am being giv­en a dose of live BCG vac­cine (used against tuber­cu­lo­sis), the immune sys­tem kicks in the next day and I then get flu like symp­toms for some days after that.

On the pos­i­tive side I’ve had a great year keep­ing my mind busy. I have final­ly fin­ished my Grad­u­ate Cer­tifi­cate in Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion that I start­ed through Surf Life Sav­ing Australia’s lead­er­ship path­way, and which I sank plen­ty of time into (thanks for your patience Michelle). Work has cer­tain­ly been busy and chal­leng­ing, and not for­get­ting my role of Pres­i­dent of this won­der­ful Club which has allowed me to have many con­ver­sa­tions with many awe­some and sup­port­ive peo­ple. Add to that nor­mal home life with my eldest son Josh going through his ATAR ‘expe­ri­ence’ and my youngest Aron choos­ing his sub­jects for his upcom­ing year 11 jour­ney. Life has been busy but extreme­ly reward­ing.

Any­way, my first two month­ly treat­ments are now com­plete with the next two booked in, fol­lowed by my next check in January…not my pre­ferred birth­day present, but nec­es­sary!!

The point of my mes­sage is this. In what has now been termed men’s health month, if I can save one per­son, help some­one face their health fear or just sim­ply start a con­ver­sa­tion about some­thing that is trou­bling them, then I’m glad to have shared my per­son­al sto­ry. There are oth­ers going through much worse than me, and those who have already endured some­thing and come out the oth­er side. It’s easy to tell some­one you’re there for them to help but how many of us actu­al­ly ask for that help when we need it? Men espe­cial­ly are extreme­ly stub­born, and some feel it a weak­ness to seek help or advice from oth­ers. With this mes­sage I’d like to chal­lenge that and say it’s ok to speak out.

My own con­tri­bu­tion to Movem­ber is to take part and raise mon­ey to assist in the sup­port of men’s health, much to the dis­gust of Michelle who hates me with any facial hair! It’s only for 30 days in total which is a very short time in the scheme of things. My ask of you is to sup­port your fel­low Club mem­bers who are par­tic­i­pat­ing this month and we’ll check out the mo’s on Fri­day 29 Novem­ber.

Alis­tair Cook

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