Prostate Cancer survivor Pat Coughlan now campaigns for greater awareness of the disease with the Northern Rivers Prostate Cancer Support Group.
Prostate Cancer survivor Pat Coughlan now campaigns for greater awareness of the disease with the Northern Rivers Prostate Cancer Support Group. Cathy Adams

Pat lives to tell story of 'big C'

PAT COUGHLAN remembers when his doctor told him he had the 'big C'.

"His mouth said the word 'cancer', and while he continued to talk for 10 more minutes I couldn't hear a thing. All I could see were his lips moving."

Pat, of East Lismore, was pushing 70 when the announcement arrived, like a bolt out of the blue, and five years on his prostate cancer is in remission.

But one is never free of the haunting thought that it could flare up again.

He was well supported by his wife, Veronica, and his family, but the trauma was hellish.

He started a support group for men with prostate cancer and that activity has helped him focus on the future.

But for many men the struggle to deal with the affliction is huge.

"Men can be quite healthy when they are diagnosed with cancer," he said. "That can be quite scary, not that blokes are good at recognising when they are scared ..."

A dose of hormone treatment to reduce testosterone levels, followed by 32 doses of radiation treatment, seemed to do the trick.

Transport to and from treatment was a hurdle, but that was overcome thanks to kind family and friends.

However, until Lismore's own radiotherapy treatment centre is completed in early 2010, many cancer patients will struggle.

Depression is a big factor in overcoming cancer, which Pat understands after taking hormonal treatment to reduce testosterone for three months prior to radiation treatment.

"The hormone knocks your energy levels, which obliges you to lie on the couch and think gloomy thoughts," he said.

But the lasting legacy of having prostate cancer is often the straw that breaks a strong man's back.

Sex life can suffer. Although Pat sometimes wonders was it the treatment or just old age creeping up on him!

Bodily functions are compromised too, like being able to urinate or defecate with grace.

And there is nothing worse than an overgrown nappy to bruise a big man's ego.

Dealing with these new challenges requires help and Pat's prostate support group is just the ticket.

On the third Monday of every month, about 30 men with prostate cancer meet for support and information at the Alstonville Bowls Club.

Phone Pat on 6622 1545.


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