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Prostate cancer survivors Wayne Eyles and Keith McNab have taken the bold step of dying their hair bright blue, in an effort to "open the conversation" among men locally.
The Prostate Cancer Foundation’s annual awareness and fundraising campaign, Blue September, begins tomorrow.
Mr Eyles (67), a Balclutha engineer, said men were still shying away from potentially "awkward" conversations, when it could be a matter of life or death.
"I’m grateful to be around to talk about my story because I know plenty of others who didn’t get that chance.
"It’s always better to talk about irregularities. Nothing is too personal, especially when it involves your health and wellbeing.
"Have yearly blood tests, be vocal with your peers, talk to professionals and make others comfortable with talking about it. It’s scary but it isn’t off-limits."
His cancer journey began in 2017, when a doctor spotted elevated prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels during a regular blood test.
An initial biopsy was inconclusive.
He received a call three months later for a second biopsy, where a diagnosis was confirmed.
"It was such a shock to be walking into an office, knowing nothing and smiling, and walking out with a Cancer Society booklet in my hand and a head swirling with information and thoughts."
Mr Eyles had keyhole surgery at Invercargill Hospital, where his prostate was removed.
Mr McNab (64), a retired Owaka farmer, said men taking ownership of their own prostate health was critical.
He began yearly PSA tests and physical exams from his 50th birthday.
At 57, he passed his regular exam, and continued to get checked up "every time he was near a doctor".
He assumed his last blood test was normal and did not actively seek the results, although in fact it was 5.7.
Above 4 is regarded as elevated, and can signal an increased likelihood of prostate cancer.
"At my 58th birthday, I had yet another blood test. Once again, I was asked to go back for a physical exam, to which I replied, ‘Stuff that, I’ve had enough of them over the last 12 months’."
On this occasion a nurse called back to inform him his PSA reading was more than 11.
"My gut sank. Unbeknownst to me, 12 months earlier it was 5.7. The physical checked out fine, but I was sent to a urologist, given a biopsy and informed I had cancer."
Mr McNab opted for hormone treatment and radiation, but learnt of "robotic surgery" as an option while undergoing treatment.
"I rang urology, organised a referral and within two weeks I had my prostate removed.
"It was full of cancer, with three areas where the edge was too close to call. All I could think to myself was, ‘Oh wow’."
He said he wanted to share his story if it could help others.
"I had good knowledge of the system and still missed the signals — I never asked for my blood results back. I wasn’t aware you could have prostate cancer and not have lumps that would otherwise be picked up by a physical examination.
"Men need to know the definition of a PSA and always, always ask for results.
"Knowledge and acting upon it is the only way to protect yourself."
By Evelyn Thorn