Des is 78 years old. Before his retirement Des was employed as Engineering Manager at Pilkington Automotive Safety Glass, North Geelong. In October 2008, aged 69 years, unaware that he had prostate cancer, Des attended a men’s breakfast meeting at his church where Geelong Prostate Support Group convener Bill Rebula spoke about prostate cancer. “I got more information on that day than at any other time.”
Less than a week after hearing Bill speak, Des had an appointment with his GP on an unrelated matter. However, at that appointment Des was informed that a recent blood test indicated that he had an elevated PSA level of 12. Des was referred to a urologist for further investigation.
Des, together with his wife Jill, attended the urologist’s appointment. He was advised that a biopsy of the prostate was needed, and a hospital appointment for that procedure was made.
At a subsequent visit to his urologist Des was informed that the biopsy revealed a Gleason score of 7, with 5 of the 12 samples being cancerous. Des was provided with information to take away covering the various options he had of surgery, radiotherapy and brachytherapy.
Des decided that the most appropriate option for him was a radical prostatectomy. He had laparoscopic surgery in mid-February 2009. Des spent five nights in hospital before returning home with a catheter.
At the post-operative appointment with the urologist, Des recalls “I heard those magic words ‘the pathology shows that your margins are clear, and your blood test shows PSA is undetectable.” – a situation which has been maintained to the present time.
Des experienced fairly severe incontinence following the surgery. He worked with a continence physiotherapist and attended a program at the McKellar Centre to improve the situation. Despite this, there was little improvement. Des’s urologist suspected that there might be some damage around the point at which the urethra joins the bladder. A day-stay hospital appointment was made for some exploratory procedures to assess the situation. There was still no improvement.
From 2009, “… for the next six years I just had to adapt to and manage that level of incontinence” says Des. “The incontinence never really prevented Jill and myself from engaging in the activities we really enjoyed, including overseas travel.”
However in September 2015 he attended a Bellarine Prostate Support Group meeting where the guest speaker was a representative of a supplier of surgical implants available for men affected by incontinence and erectile dysfunction following prostate surgery. Des decided to investigate one particular option for his incontinence, the Advance Male Sling, and had this fitted in 2015. “It was a vast improvement. I was averaging 250ml leakage a day, and this was reduced to a quite manageable less than 50ml.”
Des began attending the Bellarine Prostate Support Group following his surgery in 2009. When that group ceased having met the local needs, he transferred to the Geelong Group. He attends most Group meetings. “The influence of the support groups was really great from day one. Throughout the whole journey I have been influenced by the Groups, and the people in them. I was never affected by ignorance.” and “The loving support of Jill and our six daughters has always sustained me”.
Des and Jill lead a very active retirement. He and Jill have travelled extensively throughout North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Asia and more recently Des with his brother visited Antarctica. They also use their camper trailer to spend time exploring within Australia.
Des is a member of the Rotary Club of Geelong and for the last eight years has participated as a volunteer for a day a week at Oberon High School in a boat-building program. He joins with others in teaching a group of students the skills required to make Heron sailing dinghies.
Des and Jill, through the Leopold Probus Club, volunteer in the summer months in the Sailability program at the Royal Geelong Yacht Club which introduces persons with physical and intellectual disabilities to sailing.