RACING INTO TOMORROW
He's 80 years young, but Bilgola Plateau's Dave Bennett has the joie de vivre of someone 60 years younger. When he's not working out in the gym three times a week, jogging or tap dancing, Dave can be found teaching seniors how to use computers through the Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association (ASCCA), which Is he a director of. But when the sprightly Pittwater local was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1995, he had no idea what the future held.
"I was running a computer manufacturing company and was extremely worried, so I took early retirement and spent my time researching and talking to doctors," Dave tells Peninsula Living.
He says treatment options are far better today, and that he chose three weeks' worth of radical radiotherapy instead of removal out of "sheer fear".
"I asked the doctor what the risks were of having the prostate removed, and he looked me in the eye and said, 'You could die'," he reveals.
"So, I was like, 'Ummm, not that one then!' But it doesn't have to be a death sentence - I'm living proof. There's no need to rush into surgery unless it's really urgent or aggressive, and the doctors give you several options.
" Four years after the all-clear, Dave joined the Northern Beaches Prostate Cancer Support Group. He also sees urologist Dr Graham Coombes, based at the Royal North Shore Hospital every six months.
"I'm his longest surviving patient," he adds. "I go twice a year and he checks my prostate-specific antigen level to see if it's rising, and when it gets to a higher level - last time it got to 7 or 8 - I have a Leukeran injection, which is a chemotherapy drug."
He's only needed the injection three times in 20 years and luckily hasn't suffered any side effects, so barely gives having prostate cancer a second thought.
Unfortunately, prostate cancer can be hereditary, and one of Dave's sons, Steven - a world arm wrestling champion -was recently diagnosed with it. Luckily, like his fathers, it's not aggressive. "He's currently weighing up his treatment plan," says Dave. "Because there are so many more options nowadays, it's really important to do your research. I also advocate finding a local support group."
The Northern Beaches Prostate Cancer Support Group meets on the first Tuesday of each month (except in January) at the Cora Adcock Facility (The Cottage) at Mona Vale Hospital.
Affiliated with parent body Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, it currently has 130 members and provides support to men and their families who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer or want to learn more about the disease. Guest speakers educate on the latest technology, treatment and research information.