‘It makes you re­alise what’s im­por­tant’

A para­medic the im­por­tance of health checks – but, writes Sara Meij, it took a car crash be­fore he got a prostate-can­cer di­ag­no­sis and he learned the im­por­tance of early test­ing.

Sunday News - - NEWS -

Their an­nual Christ­mas hol­i­days travel is a high­light, when they ex­plore dif­fer­ent, beau­ti­ful corners of New Zealand.

Duan is ex­cited about the po­ten­tial for po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship in trans­form­ing New Zealand from an agri­cul­ture-based coun­try to a more ad­vanced de­vel­oped na­tion.

Com­mu­ni­ties like Botany and Ep­som fea­ture in the Neigh­bourly sur­vey as the most up­beat – and well they might be. They are wealthy, suc­cess­ful and in­flu­en­tial. Ep­som vot­ers, in re­peat­edly re­turn­ing ACT to Par­lia­ment, have had an in­or­di­nate say in en­sur­ing Na­tional leads the Gov­ern­ment. And the Chi­nese restau­rants of Botany host many of the big po­lit­i­cal fundrais­ers that prop up Na­tional, Labour and ACT.

It’s not hard to see that those in the prov­inces might look at these pow­er­ful met­ro­pol­i­tan com­mu­ni­ties with some re­sent­ment.

Whangarei lo­cal Cherry Daly has been un­der­whelmed by the main par­ties’ re­sponses to her friends’ and neigh­bours’ con­cerns. She’s at­tended can­di­date meet­ings and doesn’t be­lieve they un­der­stand the is­sues par­tic­u­lar to her town. Gangs and P, she says, are the big ones. If the Gov­ern­ment ad­dressed those, it would solve the down­stream is­sues of hous­ing, poverty and tru­ancy.

‘‘It’s al­most like the can­di­dates are fight­ing the bat­tles in the big cities and the re­gional ar­eas are be­ing over­looked.’’

Daly points out the pro­posed rail­way to Mars­den Point is a huge is­sue for North­land but none of the par­ties ap­pear to be com­ing with spe­cific plans for the area. They’ve been com­pla­cent over the years, she says, as­sum­ing North­land to be an unas­sail­able Na­tional strong­hold. That changed when NZ First leader Win­ston Peters took the elec­torate in the 2015 by-elec­tion.

In the past fort­night, both Bill Eng­lish and Jacinda Ardern have cam­paigned in North­land – but are they lis­ten­ing, or are they just talk­ing?

Daly’s not con­vinced by the new Labour leader. Too young. Daly de­scribes it as a tide of youth ma­nia, with vot­ers en­ticed by per­son­al­ity rather than look­ing at what the party is of­fer­ing. MIKE Hooper was on his way home on a rainy evening in March 2014, tired af­ter fin­ish­ing a 12-hour shift at St John, when he fell asleep be­hind the wheel of his car.

‘‘I ended up drift­ing across my lane, woke up just in time to see I was head­ing straight for an­other car so man­aged to swerve to avoid them with­out do­ing too much dam­age, just nipped them,’’ the 47-year-old fa­ther of two said.

‘‘In hit­ting them I then ended up fly­ing off the road and putting the front of the car into the back of a digger that was parked in some road works on the side of the road.’’

Hooper said he was ‘‘pretty bashed up’’ with a frac­tured ster­num among other in­juries, and was taken to Auck­land City Hos­pi­tal.

There he was told they had found ab­nor­mal­i­ties in his blood work and pushed him to get it checked with his GP.

‘‘Be­ing a typ­i­cal male, I had been in­volved in the prac­tice but I had never ac­tu­ally been to the doc­tor.’’

Both Hooper’s fa­ther and grand­fa­ther had prostate can­cer, but he wasn’t show­ing any symp­toms. But the tests came back pos­i­tive.

‘‘I had surgery in March 2015 to re­move the prostate gland it­self and all of the lymph nodes around that just in case,’’ Hooper said.

‘‘I was all clear for about a year af­ter that ... ev­ery­thing looked re­ally good.’’

But the joy from be­ing de­clared clear of can­cer didn’t last long, be­cause soon af­ter, the reg­u­lar check-up blood test showed ab­nor­mal­i­ties again.

Af­ter fur­ther scans, hor­mone re­place­ment ther­apy and 71⁄ weeks of ra­di­a­tion ther­apy that ‘‘didn’t seem to re­ally do a heck of a lot’’, Hooper was told the can­cer had spread to his lymph nodes.

‘‘There’s no cure any more so es­sen­tially I’m ter­mi­nal with the prostate can­cer now.’’

Hooper said time­frames were ‘‘a pretty ir­rel­e­vant thing’’, but that in gen­eral peo­ple with a

It’s al­most like the can­di­dates are fight­ing the bat­tles in the big cities and the re­gional ar­eas are be­ing over­looked.’ CHERRY DALY Be­ing a typ­i­cal male, I had been in­volved in the prac­tice but I had never ac­tu­ally been to the doc­tor.’ MIKE HOOPER, ABOVE

ter­mi­nal di­ag­no­sis of prostate can­cer had any­where between two and five years to live.

‘‘I’m sort of lean­ing more to­wards the five years. Just try­ing to live life to the max for that time and mak­ing the most of it.

‘‘A big fo­cus for me since be­ing di­ag­nosed has been to raise as much aware­ness of prostate can­cer as I can.’’

Hooper said his di­ag­no­sis of the can­cer has been ‘‘a bit of a jour­ney too’’ for his 17-year-old daugh­ter and 12-year-old son.

‘‘But it also brings you a lot closer and makes you re­alise what’s im­por­tant in life.’’

Hooper said he won­ders ev­ery day what his si­t­u­a­tion would have been had he not had the ac­ci­dent that led to the di­ag­no­sis.

‘‘I’ve al­ways had this the­ory that out of ev­ery­thing bad that hap­pens in life some­thing good comes from it.

‘‘And you might not see it at that point in time, that’s ex­actly what hap­pened in that si­t­u­a­tion ... we found the can­cer.’’

Hooper said it was ‘‘cru­cial’’ for men to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for them­selves and get checked for prostate can­cer early on.

‘‘The party line has al­ways been around 50 years old, but I think that’s chang­ing so a once a year blood test from when you’re in your mid thir­ties wouldn’t do any­body any harm and could pos­si­bly save your life.

‘‘The sooner the bet­ter.’’

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