Gary Larson: Blokes need to think about prostate health
FORMER Australian rugby league star Gary Larson has one short, succinct message for all blokes - "make sure you get checked every year."
He is talking about prostate cancer - a condition that is diagnosed in more than 20,000 Australian men every year.
He knows all about it and is happy to talk about it - to anybody.
That's why he is the ideal person to have been named one of this year's Gladstone Relay for Life "faces".
Mr Larson was diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer in January 2013. His
journey since has been a rocky one, but he's coming out the other side, happy to be still with us.
And he mostly puts that down to early detection.
"It's not rocket science," he said. "It's just about looking after yourself. Annual checks are the key - and that was how my cancer was diagnosed at an early stage."
The now 48-year-old decided at 40 he would have annual checks, after he had become involved in Movember - the prostate cancer awareness program where blokes grow moustaches in aid of the cause.
"Now I'm really happy that I did make that decision," he said. "It meant that I still had a chance to do something about it."
That "something" was the decision to have his prostate gland removed.
"I talked to heaps of people who had battled with prostate and had made all manner of choices - and there are a lot of choices. I decided that the best chance for me to still be here was to have the gland removed," he said.
Mr Larson had surgery in September 2013 at Brisbane's Greenslopes Hospital.
The result of that surgery is that his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests are negative. The consequences of the surgery have changed Mr Larson's life, and he's still working his way through parts of that, but the fact that he is still with us, he says, comes down to that one factor - early detection.
It's not something many blokes think about doing.
"We all think we're 10-foot tall and bulletproof - how often do we think to check ourselves out? For many of us it's never," he said.
"If it's not detected until too late, there's very little chance of survival. I know I want to be around for a little bit longer and so I'm very happy that I had the checks done on a regular basis."
Mr Larson has nothing but huge respect for Relay for Life and the Cancer Council.
"The Cancer Council is funded solely through fund
raising and yet it does such a huge amount for people with cancer and their families," he said.
"The council offers such a huge number of services and can put people in touch with the right people - people such as counsellors who can help us make those big decisions and provide us with support."
He has a special affinity for the Gladstone people - all volunteers - who organise Relay for Life every year.
"It's a wonderful group of people - Janelle Syddall, Sarah Martin, Reagan Fletcher, Stacey Joseph, Hollie Hall, Prue McConnell, Fiona Stevens-Smith, Ros Newberry, Col Chapman, Linda Irons, Ashleigh Smith Arthur Kelly, Leaonie Gleeson, Kathy
Andrew, Maddi Condren and Paul Webster - they do some wonderful work to make the event happen, and raise a lot of money to help the Cancer Council help us."
Mr Larson plans to spend a lot of his time helping to promote the relay. The team will be at BAM this weekend and also set up in Stockland to get the message across, not only to raise funds but also encourage people to form a team and take part in the event.
Mr Larson will be there when he can to spread his own message and share his experience.
About Gary Larson
Brought up in Miriam Vale
Played 240 rugby league games for the Sydney Bears and one season with the Parramatta Eels
Played 24 State of Origin games
Played nine Tests for Australia
Of rugby league players in general: "The only thing they tend to do to check their health is when checking their tattoos in the mirror."