22 December 2023
The Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA) is casting light on the impact of prostate cancer on families at Christmas, with some men lucky to have received a clear bill of health, while others are left to mourn loved ones who didn’t make it.
“This Christmas period is a chance to remind everyone of the importance of prioritising our health and wellbeing,” says Anne Savage, CEO of the PCFA.
“We urge men to take charge of their future, through regular PSA testing, ensuring more families can experience the joy of togetherness rather than the tragedy of loss,” Ms Savage says.
Rick Bennett was diagnosed with prostate cancer four years ago and is about to mark his first Christmas since 2019 with a clean bill of health. It's been a challenging journey for the 51 year old, who underwent a radical prostatectomy last year.
“It hasn’t been as straightforward as I had hoped - I’ve been taking one day at a time and rebuilding my strength and functions,” he says.
“I was lucky to have a proactive GP who started testing me at 40 - when my PSA started rising we got the diagnosis. It was low risk at the time, but then started to spread.”
Despite the highs and lows of his recovery, he has turned a significant corner. One of his great passions is cycling and he’s back on the bike, tackling Melbourne’s ‘Around the Bay’ event in October this year. He attributed part of his comeback to the love and support from his wife Linda and his two sons.
"Heading into Christmas, my diagnosis has given me a greater appreciation of what family is all about,” he says. “Every day I fight is for them. My message for other men out there is that we only get one shot at life, so please get checked. It’s really simple - be invested and get tested."
Michelle Bishop, an ambassador for the PCFA, shares the heartbreaking story of losing her father, Allan, to prostate cancer this year.
"As families prepare to gather around the Christmas table, there will be an empty place at our house,” she says. “My dad, Allan, will not be joining us. It's our first Christmas without him, and it's a reality I'm still trying to come to terms with."
Michelle recalls her cherished Christmas memories with her Dad and reflects on the mission she has embraced as a PCFA ambassador.
“As a little girl, I remember Dad helping me pour the milk for Santa and trying to convince me Santa would much rather a cherry ripe rather than a cookie - my dad loves cherry ripes”
"Since my father's passing at age 68, I want to ensure that no other family goes through the pain and loss we’re experiencing. Early detection is crucial to improving survival rates, and it's a message I want to spread far and wide."
PCFA urges eligible men to commit to regular testing. There has been a 25 percent increase in the number of deaths from the disease since 2007. Early detection is the key to survival, with only about 36 percent of prostate cancers in Australia detected at Stage 1.
As Michelle concludes, "Let us work together to ensure that next Christmas, no one will be missing at this special time."