13 October 2022

Meet Dennis Ellis, Convenor of the Ipswich Prostate Cancer Support Group! Dennis first got involved with the group after his own diagnosis in 2014 and took over as convenor in 2019. He’s a PCFA champion and continuously goes above and beyond to help those in the community impacted by prostate cancer. This September for Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, Dennis and the group held a major awareness charity lunch, bringing together over 100 members in the community and raising nearly $7,000 for PCFA.   

How long have you been involved with the Ipswich PCSG?

I joined the Ipswich Prostate Cancer Support Group in August 2014 because I wanted more information. It was the best thing that I could have done. I found the group to be a great source of information and support. It was good to be able to talk with other members about their different experiences. It was also beneficial to speak to someone one on one to avoid feeling isolated and alone.

When were you diagnosed with prostate cancer?

I was diagnosed in August 2014, aged 68 and referred to urologist Dr Teng. After seeing the urologist, it was decided to have a biopsy and 22 samples were taken with - PSA 2.80 Gleason score 3+4. Dr Teng rang me with the results of the biopsy. Three were positive for prostate cancer. 

After the shock of the diagnosis, where to from here? The things that I worried about were, will I be around to look after my wife and sons and see my grandchildren grow up? I could not sleep for two nights worrying about those things.  After speaking with my family and my local GP about what I should do it was back to see my urologist about my options. I had a small but aggressive tumour. Fortunately, it had not spread beyond the prostate. I decided to go with the advanced Da Vinci robotic surgery to remove the prostate which is a radical prostatectomy. My PSA reading has been 0.008 for the last 8 years. I still had light incontinence, so I decided to have the operation with the advanced male sling in 2016 for the incontinence. I have been dry ever since.

What did you find most challenging after your diagnosis?

I did not face too many challenges – the biggest challenge was incontinence which I had for two years. But the support from my wife when I was first diagnosed was tremendous. I don’t know how I would have gotten through this without her support along with all of my friends. I received many phone calls asking how I was going. You don’t know how much those phone calls helped me before and after my operation. The support from fellow volunteers at Meals on Wheels was also reassuring. 

What role has the Ipswich PCSG played in your recovery?
I have been a member of the Ipswich Prostate Cancer Support Group for seven years. Why did I join?  When I was diagnosed, I didn’t know who I should speak with until I was told about the Ipswich support group. At my first I meeting I met Convener Terry Carter and Len Lamprecht. After my first meeting, I was feeling a lot more at ease with the difficult time I was experiencing prior to my operation.

Since taking on the role of convener in 2019, what motivates you to give back?

I was motivated to give back and support other men and wives/partners about prostate cancer when Convener Len Lamprecht had to give away the roll. Len was still there steering me in the right direction when I become the convener.

Why is it so important to have local Support Groups?

If we did not have a support group in Ipswich, men and their partners would not have any assistance or support.  That is why the Ipswich Support Group is here to help men and wives/partners and be a guide for gay men with prostate cancer. For men who are experiencing a difficult time with prostate cancer, the group provides an ear for them to talk to. 

How does the Ipswich PCSG raise awareness locally?

With the help of other members in the support group, we hold awareness information talks and fundraisers in the country areas to inform men and their partners about prostate cancer. The areas that we visit include Rosewood Markets, The Lions Club, The Men’s Shed, Walloon Markets, Kalbar Show Grounds and other meetings with Men’s groups, including in Boonah, Beaudesert, and at the Kambu Riverview Community Centre. Our most recent fundraiser this September was a ‘Project Blue’ luncheon at Club Services Ipswich to raise funds for prostate cancer and ovarian cancer research. The event was attended by over 100 people!

What’s your advice to other group leaders?

Any group that is looking at starting up needs a good secretary and treasurer, and a good number of men/ladies to help run the support group. Without that help, there will be too much work on a few people to run the support group and it may not last long.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I have enjoyed delivering Meals on Wheels for 14 years. It is rewarding to chat with the people we deliver meals to, as some have limited company and community interaction. I also enjoy fishing with my grandsons on the reef off Cairns and taking my wife on cruise ships.

What’s on the agenda for the remainder of 2022?

Plans for 2022 include attending the Rosewood Markets to raise awareness, Bunnings in November and Coffee and Chat at CSI club. In 2023 we are looking at doing a trip out west to talk to the farmers about prostate cancer – awareness is an important part of our work.