Men supporting men to ease the burden of cancer

23 Aug 2023

This Father’s Day you can help ease the mental stress for patients going through prostate cancer treatment.

Prostate Cancer Support Nights at St Vincent’s Hospitals provide vital support for men dealing with the shock of discovering they have prostate cancer.

In his mid-40s, Paul Cronin, became motivated to get healthy. He started embracing hiking and tennis, improved his diet, and as part of his commitment to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, he decided would also do a yearly full health check with his doctor. The full physical included a routine PSA test, a blood test to screen for prostate cancer.

Despite being the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, prostate cancer generally affects men aged 50 to 70, so Paul didn’t think he’d be at risk.

“I was surprised to learn that I had a slightly abnormal PSA level, especially given I’m at the young end of the typical age spectrum.”

PHOTO: Paul on a hike in South America.

The following year, the doctor repeated the PSA test and Paul’s levels had risen a bit higher. It was at this point that Paul was referred to a specialist at St Vincent’s in Melbourne.

Paul’s bombshell moment happened when he had a follow up appointment with his specialist after an MRI. He was told he had a sizable tumour that would need to be removed via surgery.

Paul gets emotional thinking about that moment. “The news was a shock. I remember being faced with my mortality. I have three beautiful children. My youngest was only one. I started to think about how I want to spend my last years with my family.”

Thankfully, the moment of pure dread passed fairly quickly as Paul came to realise that the statistics were in his favour.

“I knew nothing about prostate cancer but after doing a bit of research I discovered that the vast majority of men who go through prostate cancer are low grade, meaning their cancer is treatable.”

The emotional impact of his diagnosis did however take its toll.

PHOTO: Paul with wife Hattie and two of his three children, Anthony and Daniel. 

After being connected with external supports as well as the prostate cancer nurses at St Vincent’s, Paul found the support he needed to help him work through the shock of discovering he had cancer. “I knew I could pick up the phone if I needed to.”

“All the supports I’ve received have helped me so much. I’ve avoided google. It’s always been better to hear from people who are experienced in this area. The cancer nurses have given me the best level of comfort, especially around dealing with the uncertainty of dealing with cancer.”

Paul appreciates the value of attending Prostate Cancer Support Nights.

“I think Prostate Cancer Support Nights are a great idea, I would definitely attend them. It would be so valuable to meet people who have gone through similar experiences. Even just to ask them practical questions about recovery and how they’ve coped would be really helpful.”

Help us establish Prostate Cancer Support Nights to support patients like Paul

Facilitated by St Vincent’s Prostate Cancer Nurses, the nights will be a chance for patients and their families to connect with their peers, helping to ease the mental burden of going through treatment for prostate cancer.

We need to raise $10,000 to establish and run our Prostate Cancer Support Nights to ensure everyone can access the best possible advice and support.

Click here to Donate

PHOTO: Associate Professor Lih-Ming Wong with Prostate Cancer nurses Molly and Gail. 

Prostate cancer nurses play a very special role

St Vincent's has two prostate cancer nurses on staff, Molly Trethewey and Gail Tzounos. Prostate cancer nurses provide support to men and their families following a prostate cancer diagnosis. 

Molly says, “We stay with patients throughout the entire process, which can be years. We provide counselling, information about their treatment, side effects they may experience and survivorship care. Ultimately, we focus on the overall health and wellbeing of patients to optimise their quality of life.

“We also have a large regional co-hort. We work with regional care teams to ensure patients are linked into their local prostate cancer nurse.”

Both Molly and Gail agree the most rewarding element of their job is making a difference to people’s lives.

Molly explains, “Patients are often quite distressed when we first make contact with them. We’re able to provide them with comfort and reassurance that they’re not alone. You can literally see them relax before your eyes. We get to see that almost every day.”

Gail says, “We’ve been called angels – patients say they wouldn’t be where they are if it wasn’t for us. That means so much to us.”

The numbers are growing…this year St Vincent’s prostate cancer nurses had contact with 1400 patients. Currently, there are between 400 to 600 metro and regional patients who are being cared for by St Vincent’s.

Associate Professor Lih-Ming Wong, a urologist and surgeon at St Vincent's Private and Public Hospitals says, “Prostate Cancer Support Nights will play an important role in helping to improve patients' lives.

“Going through cancer can be a daunting experience. Our prostate cancer nurses do a wonderful job. This will help them to expand their ability to provide support and education to our patients when they are particularly vulnerable. And just as importantly, it’s a chance for men to connect and talk to other men to learn from each other’s experiences.”

How can you help?

We need to raise $10,000 to establish and run our Prostate Cancer Support Nights to ensure everyone can access the best possible advice and support.

Click here to Donate


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