Buck has se­ri­ous health mes­sage

Central Leader - - NEWS -

It’s time for men to front up about their health.

For­mer All Black cap­tain and rugby hero Buck Shelford has sur­vived cancer and re­gained his health af­ter a mas­sive weight gain, both ex­pe­ri­ences that have prompted him to reach out to Kiwi men to take charge of their own health.

While his book Buck Up, The Real Guide to Get­ting Healthy and Liv­ing Longer doc­u­ments Buck’s per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences, his big mis­sion now is to guide New Zealand men to bet­ter qual­ity lives.

The book is full of sta­tis­tics that make som­bre read­ing. And the main thing that stands out is that men are not stack­ing up com­pared to women in the mor­tal­ity rates, es­pe­cially Maori men who are dy­ing 10 years ear­lier than their non-Maori mates.

The man-to-man ad­vice man­ual is ‘‘men’s stuff’’. Show it to women, but only if they are tem­po­rar­ily sworn in as hon­orary men, he says, tongue in cheek.

It’s great read­ing, a com­bi­na­tion of un­der­stand­able sci­en­tific facts helped along by highly re­garded sports sci­en­tist Dr Grant Schofield – in­ter­spersed with Buck’s per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences and tips for a health­ier life – ex­er­cise, sports nutri­tion, los­ing weight, men­tal tough­ness, lead­er­ship, go­ing to the doc­tor, grow­ing old, stress, man flu, sex and women.

Buck played 48 games for the All Blacks, 31 as cap­tain, in­clud­ing 14 tests – all of which were un­de­feated.

He has faced more than his fair share of bat­tles on the field – he’s got an arthritic knee, his neck’s never been the same since a front-on hit in a game against Ire­land and his right trapez­ius doesn’t work any more.

When he sought med­i­cal help for a con­stantly weepy eye, he was in for an ever big­ger bat­tle. By the time the mass be­hind his eye was di­ag­nosed as non-Hodgkin lym­phoma, the cancer had al­ready spread through­out his body.

But in the same de­ter­mined man­ner he had led his beloved rugby teams to vic­tory, Buck faced his ill­ness head-on.

It was ‘‘time to front’’, he says.

He re­mem­bers 2007 as the year he fought cancer and af­ter six months of a com­bi­na­tion of chemo- ther­apy, natur­o­pathic treat­ment and good food, the tu­mours were shrink­ing. By Christ­mas he was feel­ing bet­ter and look­ing for­ward to ‘‘nail­ing it com­pletely’’.

At the time of writ­ing his book, re­leased last month, the cancer has been gone for five years.

Lym­phoma can be treated if caught early enough, but he says a lot of peo­ple don’t go to the doc­tor be­cause they’re scared of find­ing out.

‘‘But at the end of the day you need to know what you’ve got and move on – rather than too late and not go­ing to live.’’

He has the same phi­los­o­phy about weight loss, deal with it and move on.

The for­mer su­per-fit rugby hero piled on 25 ki­los in the time he was a pub­li­can.

His wife Joanne re­calls: ‘‘(He was) tired, grumpy, un­mo­ti­vated and prob­a­bly sick of hear­ing me say, ‘come for a run, let’s go to the gym, what about a bike ride’?’’

A life-chang­ing phone call from a ma­jor weight loss com­pany changed every­thing and since he ac­cepted the chal­lenge to lose weight, Buck has never looked back.

He’s pas­sion­ate about fitness and get­ting the word out to men that they don’t have to die young and they can have a good qual­ity of life if they eat well and ex­er­cise.

‘‘When we get into our 50s it be­comes harder to shift weight and do ex­er­cise. I think we just have to be a lit­tle tougher on our­selves – once we’ve knocked the first brick wall and the sore­ness is gone from the gym, the weight starts to drop.’’

He says af­ter com­pet­i­tive sport most peo­ple put on 1.5 to 2kg a year, which over their life­time means they can be­come 20kg heav­ier than they were in their 20s.

‘‘Peo­ple think it’s the norm but it’s not, we need to train our­selves to stay the same weight.’’

He says ex­er­cise is medicine.

‘‘Thirty to 40 min­utes a day is good for the body, spirit and soul. It’s your in­vest­ment in health and if we have got health then we can have a good life.’’

He urges men to go to the doc­tor on a reg­u­lar ba­sis – ‘‘once a year and do the tests’’.

‘‘And eat healthy whole­some food that your grand­mother would recog­nise.’’

Photo: BRUCE JARVIS/PHO­TO­SPORT

Top form: At the peak of his fitness, Buck leads the haka for the All Blacks against Ar­gentina in Dunedin in 1989.

Man up: Buck Shelford wants men to man up about their health, get fit, eat well and go to the doc­tor once a year.

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