17 March 2023

When Bert Alesich was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2011, he wasn’t expecting the journey ahead of him – nor was he expecting to become a Support Group leader. But 12 years on, Bert is thriving as Leader of the Box Hill PCSG, and has no plans to slow down anytime soon.

“I was first diagnosed with prostate cancer through a biopsy with a Gleason score of 3+4. I decided against having a prostatectomy and I wanted to do more research first. I decided on brachytherapy, however, I delayed treatment too long and a subsequent biopsy showed a Gleason score of 4+5,” Bert shared.

“The radiation oncologist said the risk of getting all the cancer tumours with brachytherapy was too great and he recommended to combine this with beam radiation, as well as hormone therapy for two years.

“I was treated with brachytherapy combined with beam radiation in late 2012 and early 2013.”

Months later, he found himself facing bowel surgery and a run in with septicemia.

“It took many years to bring my health back to near normal.”

Around this time, Bert discovered the Box Hill Prostate Cancer Support Group (PCSG), a “great group” of men who provided him with support and a clearer understanding of his condition.

Little did he know that just two years later he would be spearheading the Box Hill PCSG as its leader.

When the current leader stepped down in 2016, and no one else put up their hand, Bert thought he’d give it a shot – and has been passionate about his role ever since.

Bert maintains a vision of giving back, keeping the group active to “attract men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, offer them understanding and the chance to hear and see men with prostate cancer”.

“I also encourage our group to spread information about prostate cancer to other men in our community and the importance of getting tested, particularly for men who are over 50 years old,” he said.

Apart from the group’s scheduled monthly meetings, the blokes of Box Hill are gearing up to host another information night, inviting members of the public to come along to learn more about prostate cancer and early detection. 

“The brainchild for our information night was Roger Grigg, our previous most active secretary, who passed away after 13 years of battling with stage IV prostate cancer, just at the beginning of Covid.”

These biannual information nights are held at the Box Hill RSL and attract around 200 visitors, and feature urologists, prostate cancer nurses and other guest speakers.

“It’s a fairly casual night with refreshments and snacks,” Bert said.

“We advertise it in shopping centres, local radio stations, in gyms and anywhere our signs can be placed in clear view for men and their partners.”

And that’s not all that’s on the group’s busy agenda for 2023.

“We also expect to take part in the local Whitehorse Festival again, to distribute information in English and Mandarin, as this is the second-biggest language group in our community.”

The City of Whitehorse Spring Festival, run by Whitehorse City Council each year, features a jam-packed day of performances, stalls, food and activities. For Bert and his fellow members, it’s a way to say g’day to the men and women of their community and make prostate cancer a part of everyday conversations.

When asked for his top tip for running a successful Support Group, Bert kept it simple – make people feel welcome and keep them involved.

“My main motivation to ‘give back’ to our group and to all the men we can communicate with, is because of the support I received when I first joined,” he said.

Box Hill PCSG meet on the third Tuesday of every month at 9:30 AM in the Box Hill RSL.

For more information about the Box Hill PCSG, visit https://www.pcfa.org.au/support/find-a-support-group/box-hill-pcsg/