Community members who choose to support the hundreds of thousands of Australians affected by prostate cancer will see their dollars stretched even further thanks to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia’s annual Giving Day on Thursday (23 November).
Advocate, spokesperson and survivor Don Hahn is still dedicated to raising awareness around the disease a decade after he was diagnosed.
“I was 52 and completely clueless,” the Dapto grandfather said.
“I used to have a yearly medical for the obvious stuff, then my brother-in-law died of pancreatic cancer in 2012, so my wife and sister did some quiet coaching and got me to go to the doctor, and that’s when they found out that things weren’t so good.”
Don was diagnosed in February 2013, had his prostate removed the following April and underwent 35 sessions of radiotherapy from August.
“I had no idea, and the more and more I found out about it, I was actually a target case because my grandfather had prostate cancer, which I only found out the day after I was diagnosed.”
But because he was young and fit, he could continue to live a full life and be there for important family milestones.
“It meant I was able to see my daughter get married and see the birth of my two grandkids,” he said.
Don initially became an ambassador for PCFA and has helped others by spreading his story and breaking down the stigma.
Then, he organised a local support group for patients and survivors to seek support in the Illawarra until it was no longer feasible due to the pandemic.
“I didn’t have much to reference when I was first diagnosed, all I had were people who were going to make money out of me and I couldn’t talk to anyone,” Don said.
“It’s more along the lines of trying to give someone something that I didn’t have.”
Now, he’s part of the PCFA Life Force program, helping spread awareness by speaking to community groups and workplaces.
About 18,000 men across the country are diagnosed each year, and despite having one of the highest survival rates of all cancers, more than 3300 die from the disease annually.
But since Don was diagnosed he has seen the support, research and access to information come leaps and bounds, much of which is thanks to the PCFA.
He said among the best developments the organisation has helped bring about is improved access to nursing prostate cancer specialists through telehealth and advocacy, which has made life-saving treatments affordable.
“On the research side of things, they’ve found a new drug, and at the moment it’s not on the PBS so it’s $42,000 a year for people to access it,” he said. “After PCFA lobbying they’ve now got it on the PBS and it will cost $30 a month.”
“What’s a person’s life worth? It’s as simple as that.”
Thursday is PCFA’s annual Giving Day where the organisation matches all donations to double the impact and help improve outcomes and quality of life.
“There’s been a lot of work done not only on the physical support but also the wellbeing of people.”
“And a little-known fact is that men with prostate cancer are at a 70 per cent higher risk of suicide.”
Concerns around prostate disease and cancer can now be initially detected by a simple blood test and an ultrasound if the results are abnormal.
All men over 50, and those as young as 40 with family history, are urged to test annually as part of their usual medical checkup.
To donate on Giving Day or to find out more visit the PCFA website.