14 November 2022

This month we caught up with John Dowling, member of the Moreton Bay Regional Prostate Cancer Support Group committee.

“You have an aggressive prostate cancer. It needs to be removed or it will kill you,” – those were the first words that John Dowling heard from his Urologist in 2013 after he was referred for an MRI.

It is a sentence he said he will never forget, and it marked the start of the most difficult journey of his life. But, now, he said it’s an experience he’s learnt to be thankful for as it led him to where he is today.

John is an advocate for positive mantra’s and said one of his favourites is, “Sometimes, the rocks life hurls at you turn out to be diamonds.”

John, who is on the committee for the Moreton Bay Regional Prostate Cancer Support Group, has been involved with the group for over eight years.

Since then, he has played a leading role in supporting hundreds of men, through promoting the group and managing their fundraising and awareness activities locally.

“My prostate cancer story started when I had a PSA test in April 2013 – I had a reading of 6.8. I was told it was likely nothing to worry about, but I should see a urologist anyway.”

Turns out it was something to worry about and was a high-grade prostate carcinoma, with a Gleason score of 9 (4+5).

“And just like a stock market crash – my emotions went south. There was a lot of fear, uncertainty, doubt, anxiety, and moments of depression.”

What followed was an array of tests from a CT scan to a biopsy, and finally a radical prostatectomy in July 2013.

“Unfortunately, I was then told that they couldn’t remove all the cancer, so I went on to do seven weeks of radiation and have been on ADT (Eligard®) ever since.

“It was the hardest thing I have ever confronted but what really got me through in the end was a personal mantra. It was, ‘Today I’m just as alive as anyone else, so today I’ll live my life just like everyone else’.”

From there, John decided to use his story and experience for the positive – and be a beacon of hope to others going through the same journey.

“Paradoxically, prostate cancer has now changed my life in so many positive ways. I have met and enjoyed the company of so many wonderfully talented doctors, urologists, oncologists and allied clinicians. And it does not stop there.

“There are so many other great people active within this prostate cancer space who have shared so much with me, and I feel compelled to give back to them the fullness and quality of life I have enjoyed these past years.”

John said he would encourage all men to join a Support Group when going through prostate cancer, as the benefits were second to none.

The poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself...”  When confronted by the fact you have cancer, you soon realise just how small you are in the scheme of all things, and you naturally revert to the age-old, human condition of wanting to belong.

“Yes, you have your team of medical experts. Yes, you have your family and friends to support you and they do such a wonderful job. But you do not have those making the same journey, on the same Camino, who can truly share a common and, uniquely, a reassuring experience.

“Here is how a Prostate Cancer Support Group can help – where you can find like-minded people who you share a common journey with. We can all benefit from that.”

With the backing and support of people like John, and the entire committee, the Moreton Bay Regional PCSG has gone from strength to strength and this year celebrated its 10th anniversary.

They regularly hold fundraising events, including their annual Fun Run, and social activities including picnics, luncheons, and coffee catch ups to build camaraderie within the group.

We asked John what he thought was the key to a successful group? He believes it’s about knowing your purpose, your raison d’etre.

  1. Your members - ensuring their individual welfare and a positive, living with PC experience.
  2. Your community - creating awareness of your group within the wider community; social groups, sports clubs, business groups, the public and naturally, the medical and allied professions.
  3. Your legacy - ensuring your group is a well-organised and enduring entity to pass down to those who will need the group in the future. 

Thank you to John for sharing his story, and to the entire Moreton Bay Committee for your efforts locally. Because of your support, men do not need to go through prostate cancer alone.

For more information about the Moreton Bay Regional PCSG, visit prostatesupportgroup.org

Image credit: Moreton Daily News