Getting men to be more proactive about their health is a lesson Ivan Burrowes cannot emphasise enough.
The immediate past president of the Richmond Lions Club has battled bowel and prostate cancer in the past 18 years, and says he is lucky to be alive to tell the tale.
“The message is that it can happen to anybody, anywhere at any time. You should get a checkup, and it’s worth talking about any concerns you have.”
When the Richmond club, along with the Nelson Host Lions Club, decided to stage a men’s health seminar, Burrowes was well placed to find the right speakers. He had met urologist Andy Malcolm and general and colorectal surgeon Adrian Secker in their professional capacities.
They were happy to give insights into two of the biggest health threats for men and outline preventive measures.
The seminar, held at the Nelson Suburban Club in March, also featured former All Black Buck Shelford, who spoke about his fight with cancer, heart health facilitator Glenis Bell, and diabetes educator Bee Williamson.
The evening, which included an auction run by Jeff Rackley, had a sequel this week when Burrowes presented $500 cheques from the Lions clubs to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa and Nelson Bays Primary Health for diabetes and heart programmes.
He said he hoped the wider benefits of the seminar would include raised awareness among the 120 men who attended and in the community.
Burrowes’ first brush with cancer – while on a business trip in England in 1996 – came with little warning. He ended up in hospital with a blocked bowel, requiring immediate surgery.
“I was one of the lucky ones . . . [the cancer] had not gone elsewhere.”
During his recovery in the United States, where he was living at the time, his oncologist advised him to have regular prostate checks.
When he returned to New Zealand in 2006, PSA prostate tests showed a worrying trend.
Burrowes said that despite the controversy over the test, it led to a diagnosis of prostate cancer in his case, and ultimately a prostatectomy.
He said the main message was that men should eat well, exercise and, most importantly, visit their doctor.
“If you have got an issue, don’t moan about it – do something about it.”