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Gisborne men start up their own prostate cancer support group to provide opportunity for men to talk, share experiences.

Members of the Gisborne Prostate Cancer Support Group back each other on their different journeys. They speak to The Gisborne Herald’s Wynsley Wrigley about their experiences with the support group and how they are keen to attract and help new members.

Checking, screening and early detection is vital in the fight against prostate cancer.

Men need to be proactive against a disease which kills 600 Kiwis each year

Several men in Gisborne have gone a step further — they started their own Gisborne Prostate Cancer Support Group two years ago.

But they want to lift their profile and attract new members.

Group spokesman Darrington Slater said there had recently been nine prostate operations in Gisborne but “we haven't seen those guys”.

Darrington, who has been a member for a year, said he had found great support in the group.

You are diagnosed by the doctor and are given much information to absorb, he said.

“You have all of this information, where do I go for help?

“At the end of the day it comes down to personal contact — talk to someone, ring them up or go and see them.”

The support group meet at the Gisborne-East Coast Cancer Society rooms on the second Tuesday of each month with the meetings starting at 4.30pm.

The meetings are an opportunity to share their different experiences.

“We all have different journeys,” said one member.

The men discuss issues such as diagnosis, treatments, diet, exercise programmes and offer one another support.

Darrington said men could experience “mind games” after being diagnosed.

Others spoke of the impact of losing friends and “good men”.

The support group invite guests to the monthly meetings.

Darrington said the group was trying to establish a connection with hospital specialists.

“We put names to faces.

“We are lucky we are such a small community.

“When an issue comes up, you have reasonable access to the right people.”

There were various forms of treatment such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

People needed help to make an informed decision.

Darrington said there was misinformation in the community including how doctors test for prostate cancer.

“All it takes is a blood test (a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test).

Darrington said another major issue was what he called “wilful blindness” concerning prostate cancer which he described as “many men get it, few die from it, do you want to know about it?”

There was “a mighty warrior” problem.

'Desperate need for men's support group'

Other members spoke of friends who “didn't want to know” — in some cases, not even when diagnosed.

Group members agree men need to be aware of the signs of the potential disease and of the checking and screening tests that are available from their doctor.

They are disappointed doctors do not refer newly diagnosed patients to the group.

“You come out of treatment and you are entirely on your own,” said one group member.

Group members told the Herald they only found about the support group by word of mouth.

One man said he only found out about the support group after being told of the group's twice-a-week exercise class, while another said he saw a Herald article.

“You don't get referred (to the group) by your GP.

“You don't get alerted by the Cancer Society.

“We started the support group out of nothing.”

A foundation member said the support group had been desperately needed.

He had made several phone calls and discovered such groups existed in Palmerston North and Christchurch.

The Cancer Society helped in the group's formation and the support group still uses their facilities on the campus of Gisborne Hospital.

Gisborne Prostate Cancer Support Group

Meeting: Every second Tuesday of the month.

Starts at 4.30pm.

Gisborne-East Coast Cancer Society rooms.

Gisborne Hospital.

Take the entrance to the site of the former maternity hospital, turn right at first intersection.

■ Support group exercise classes

Primal Fitness

420 Childers Road

Tuesdays and Fridays, 10am-11am

EXERCISE IS KEY: Gisborne Prostate Cancer Support Group members (from left) Robert Thompson, Darrington Slater, Richard Bernstein and Dan Patuwai at their twice-weekly support group exercise classes. They are looking for new members to offer support to as they progress through their cancer journey. All men need to be aware of the checking and screening tests that are available, they say. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell