John Allison was taken aback at how difficult and lonely his ordeal was when dealing with the process of prostate cancer treatment. He knew it would be a long slog, which included often travelling to and from treatments alone, sitting in sterile hospital waiting rooms and receiving his ministrations as another in a herd of cancer sufferers.
But when he began to attend the innovative Prostate Cancer Centre in North Melbourne, a new ‘one-stop shop’ created specifically for the treatment of prostate cancer, his days began to get a little brighter.
“It’s extraordinary to be looking forward to going there,” said Mr Allison. “The team work is astonishing. I must say I feel extraordinarily well cared for.”
Along with the Prostate Cancer Centre’s team of doctors and specialists, including oncologists and physiotherapists, the centre aims to support, treat and generally make the process of dealing with prostate cancer a bit more ‘blokey’. It even has a dart board, golf balls and putters in the waiting room – with wood panelling on the way.
Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, but support and treatment for the disease can often leave a lot to be desired. This ‘lapse’ in the health system isn’t helped when men often ignore their own health, choosing to grin and bear it. In Mr Allison’s case, he put off his own treatment for two years so he could care for his sick wife.
Bill Guest from Guests Furniture was a little more fortunate after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the end of 2010. Although Mr Guest benefited from being “well connected”, he knew that there could be a better way to go about treating prostate cancer, which, if detected early, can quite often be successfully managed.
So Mr Guest, after conversations with Professor Tony Costello and urologist Dan Moon, spawned the idea of a prostate cancer centre for men. The first major hurdle to jump was funding, but that was helped by a $6000-a-head dinner hosted by Eddie McGuire at Mr Guest’s home, which raised more than $650,000.
Next mission: finding a location. The chosen site for the centre is in Blackwood Street, North Melbourne, the fit-out of which was generously provided by building firm, Marben, which supplied almost $1 million of labour and materials free of charge.
The centre opened early this year, in partnership with the Royal Melbourne Hospital and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, featuring bulk-billed services and much-reduced waiting times. All of this was achieved without any government funding.
Professor Costello believes the new centre has made a huge difference for men dealing with prostate cancer, and when compared with hospital treatment, “They look more relaxed,” he said, but when in hospital, “They looked like they were in a detention centre in the zoo of outpatients.”
John Allison’s story may not have been necessarily the happiest of endings, but at least he now has the specialised support to help him deal with his condition, as will many more men who have prostate cancer.
“The prognosis is that this will kill me. I might have five years, but I’m not going to be cured and I’m not going to die of old age,” said Mr Allison. “I love these guys at the centre, because I said, ‘I really want you to be honest’ and they’ve been really clear and honest with me.”
What do you think of this idea? Do you want to see a centre such as this in your state? Is this a new template for prostate cancer care that could be introduced Australia- and, indeed, world-wide?
We tip our caps to The Age for first publishing this fantastic article.