It’s a blood test that can save your life
IN 2018 MICK VANDERMEER THOUGHT HE WAS A PERFECTLY HEALTHY 50-YEAR-OLD, BUT A SIMPLE CHECK-UP DETECTED HE HAD PROSTATE CANCER
It’s sheer luck – and thanks to some light persuasion – that Mick Vandermeer can speak about his experience with prostate cancer.
Because four years ago, his life was potentially saved by a routine check-up.
The then-50-year-old was told by wife Rachael to get a check-up – for no other reason than the half-century milestone.
“I let it go for about four or five months – maybe six,” Mick admitted.
But after a blood test – more specifically a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test – Mick found out he had prostate cancer.
“A week went by after my check-up and I get a phone call – Dr Simon Sneyd says I better come back and see him,” Mick said.
“I thought ‘here we go, you drink too much, don’t get enough exercise, don’t do this and don’t do that’.
“He hits me with ‘how is everything working, you feeling alright?’
“I think, well, I’ve got a stuffed knee and not a very good left ankle from football, but other than that, I’m fine.”
“He said ‘well, you’ve got the prostate of a 75-year-old prostate cancer-ridden man.
“It stopped me in my tracks. “People at my age in about 2018 had no idea what a PSA was. There are so many people from the 40 to 60-year-old mark who wouldn’t know what it is.
“It’s not a horrendous prostate test, it’s a blood test – simple as that, and it saved my life.”
Mick was referred to the GV Health urology team for additional testing in the following months.
“Every three months I had a test and everything just went up and up,” Mick said.
“It got to the point where my urologist Ming Wong said, ‘you need to get this out’. I had a biopsy, it was stage three prostate cancer.”
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among Australian men, and while survival rates are at 95 per cent, Australian men in regional areas face a 24 per cent higher rate of dying from prostate cancer than their city counterparts.
The Prostate Cancer Foundation recommends men with no family history of prostate cancer undergo testing every two years from age 50 to 69, depending on any symptoms.
Meanwhile men with a family history of prostate cancer who have a higher risk may start PSA testing earlier — every two years from age 40-45 to 69.
“I had no idea if I had a family history of prostate cancer,” Mick said.
“I lost my dad to cancer 22 years ago, he had lung cancer. And I found out three of his brothers have all had prostate cancer.
“It’s in our family and we didn’t know. You could have knocked me down with a feather.”
A year after his surgery, spurred on by his luck of early detection and wanting to encourage more men to have a PSA test, Mick decided there was something he could do to at least have his mates take notice.
“I grew a mullet – the dirtiest mullet you’ve seen in your life,” he said with a laugh.
“I wanted to raise money for prostate cancer and make people aware how easy and non-intrusive it is to get a PSA test done.”
The fundraiser then grew as Mick’s friend Gavin Hall joined the cause.
“Gavin had some good contacts. Our fundraising went from $5000 to $7000 really quickly with a couple of generous donations by a couple of businesses that really got behind it,” Mick said.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Mick and Gavin were able to donate $7000 to support the prostate cancer nurses at GV Health.
“(Prostate cancer specialist nurses) Sonia and Nicole are absolute angels, Ming Wong and Peter Mortensen and all those guys – that urology group – was brilliant to work with and we’re still talking. It’s fantastic and I wanted to support that through the fundraising,” Mick said.
“It’s amazing to have that service locally and Shepparton should be proud to have it here.”
As well as raising money to support blokes accessing care closer to home, Mick was able to encourage more people to have a PSA test.
“With all of this, I’ve had about 40odd mates have the test since we started fundraising and that is an achievement on its own,” he said.
“It’s a thing with blokes, and I’m one of the worst going around, I just keep going about stuff and don’t pay much attention to it.
“But somewhere along the line you’ve got to realise you have to take care of yourself, get a check-up and get that test done.
“If I can save one person by having that message out there, that’s a success in my book.”