SEPTEMBER 30: Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee recently opened a Blue September event at the Auckland Sky Tower. Here’s his account of being diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer:
Prostate cancer is, of course, a man’s disease – in many ways the equivalent of breast cancer in woman.
But though it has never had the same publicity or political attention as breast cancer, it is a major killer. Some 2500 New Zealand men develop prostate cancer every year and some 600 die of prostate cancer every year.
So, 600 fathers, grandfathers, husbands, brothers – every year – gone. Causing enormous grief and dislocation for families.
Yet these deaths could have been avoided had the cancer been detected and treated in its early stages.
And the people worse affected are working class men, who tend to hate going to the doctor…and I’m one of them
Just over a year ago, I was diagnosed with moderately aggressive prostate cancer.
When my PSA levels started to climb to 5 then 8, I ignored it, despite being nagged by my doctor, Steve Culpan.
But after my PSA went over 10, I finally agreed to go and get a biopsy.
All the time, I was absolutely confident (for some peculiar reason) that I was somehow invulnerable and that the tests would come back negative.
Much to my surprise, the test came back positive – I had cancer!
After recovering from the shock, I realised it was still early enough for me to take some time to ask around and get the best of advice.
It was my very great fortune to be given the name of Dr Lee Nelson. Lee is an international expert in prostate cancer, who has written a best-selling book, Prostate Cancer – prevention and cure.
So I went out and bought a copy and read it from cover to cover. They say information is power and for me reading this book was enormously empowering for me and really helped me deal with my situation.
Then I arranged to have a consultation with Lee, who flew up from Nelson. We actually met in the lobby of the Sky City Hotel almost exactly one year ago.
Lee, as we have heard, is also a champion poker player and he’s written books on that, too, so I guess this (Sky Tower) is his second home.
After getting advice from Lee, we formulated a treatment strategy. I immediately changed my diet: I changed to a low carb, high fish and vegetable diet, and fruit, with supplements of anti-oxidants and selenium.
I started doing a lot more exercise and over a period of three months I lost about 6kg. Straight away, before I had any formal medical treatment, my PSA level started to come down.
I ran a half marathon in March, and in May I went to Peter McCallum Hospital in Melbourne to undergo treatment, something called high dose level brachytherapy.
I completed follow-up treatment at Auckland Hospital in June and my PSA level is now so low it can’t be measured.
In some ways, in terms of all round health, in a funny sort of way getting prostate cancer was good for me.
But, had I not been screened and treated, my PSA levels would be up in the 20s by now and the cancer most likely would have migrated to my bones and I would have been technically dying.
So, I’m here to express my thanks to Lee Nelson and to lend my support for the cause of mandatory screening for men that the NZ Prostate Cancer Foundation is leading.
Thanks to the Auckland rugby and Warriors players who have given their time and mana to support this event, and for everyone else who has been involved in what I believe will be a very successful annual event.