The 1st of April 2012 was, literally, one of the high points of my life.
After struggling up to the top of Gokyo Ri (5,360m) in the Nepal Himalayas, one gasp per footstep in the thin air, I am rewarded by what has to be one of the best views on the planet! Four of the world’s top six mountains, including Everest, are visible from here amongst a jumble of massive peaks.

The village of Gokyo sits far below me, next to the semi-frozen Gokyo Lakes. Through all this, like a great slash through the landscape, runs the Ngozumpa Glacier, the largest in the Himalayas. Truly awesome!

The 1st of April 2014 was memorable for another reason altogether. It was on this day, at the age of 60, that I was told that my Prostate Cancer biopsy had returned a positive result – no fooling!
Having not been in a hospital since having an ingrown toenail removed when I was 16, this came as something of a wake-up call, a realisation that OLD AGE was setting in!! However, there was nothing else to do but to “suck it up‟ and deal with it in the best way possible.
I’d started out like many others in this group: a routine check-up had revealed a rising PSA of around 8.5 so my GP suggested I have it checked out. The biopsy followed, with the results proving positive for low-grade prostate cancer. After the subsequent appointment with the Urologist, himself a surgeon, a radical prostatectomy was recommended, and I was sent away with a handful of literature.
Upon reading the printed materials, followed by a lot of Internet research, I thought – why not Brachytherapy? This would be expected to have fewer side effects without involving a prolonged period off work which, being self-employed, I was keen to do without. I also fitted the typical profile for this procedure, being in otherwise good health and having a low-grade cancer. Unfortunately it was by far the most expensive procedure, largely because of the cost of the brachytherapy “seeds‟ which have to be ordered from Chicago.
I think it was in the course of my Internet research that I came across the Geelong Prostate Support Group, so I thought I’d go along to one of the meetings. Subsequent discussions with members of the GPSG gave me a valuable insight as to what to expect and helped guide my decision.
This decision was conveyed to the Urologist and a couple of pre-tests (urine flow and a prostate scan) were undertaken. I passed these without any problems so the procedure took place in August 2014.
Because of the less invasive procedure my immediate post operative recovery was swift: I was able to walk out of the hospital the following day with very little pain (the catheter I’d had in the hospital was responsible for most of that) and I even did a bit of work that afternoon! About six weeks later I had no problems doing a strenuous overnight hike of 22km to Mt Feathertop.
Follow up tests went well, with PSA levels dropping markedly, eventually stabilising at about 1.5. This pleased the Urologist, so I then asked him, had he been in my shoes, whether he’d have chosen the same course of action as I had. His reply was in the affirmative – despite his initial recommendation!
That was unfortunately only one part of the second wake-up call I’d had, which relates more to the medical “industry‟.
While I cannot fault the level of care that I received, the subsequent administrative nightmare I had to contend with bordered on incompetence. Invoices and other essential paperwork from a Melbourne specialist took months to obtain, only after several phone calls (the excuse that he’d some problem with his office staff didn’t cut it). The hospital tried to impose their own charges for the very expensive seeds after some confusion as to who was responsible for what – and the two prices didn’t match. Worse still, I was sent for a post-operative scan, and actually fronted up at the relevant clinic only to discover that no referral had been lodged. It was about then that I noticed that the clinical history on my paperwork didn’t match mine at all – I’d actually been sent someone else’s paperwork for a procedure which in my case would have been totally inappropriate!!
So there were a few lessons to be learned out of all this:
1. I can’t stress enough the importance of EARLY DIAGNOSIS. Guys, look after yourself and don’t put off that check-up; if things are picked up early they’ll cause a lot less drama further down the track. In my case, it allowed me to choose from a range of available treatments instead of just the most “radical‟ one.
2. It’s OK to question anything you’re told. Do your research and confirm that the suggested course of action is the right one for you, not just because a medical professional happens to be a surgeon, for instance.
3. Check all your paperwork thoroughly. If procedures or charges don’t seem right, find out why, and don’t be afraid to be persistent!

It’s the 1st of April 2016, and I’m on a train from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, coming back the long way from Kathmandu after completing another trek in the Himalayas. This time I’ve gone to another area – the Annapurnas – a very scenic and diverse part of Nepal. We’re “only‟ getting to about 4,000 metres this time, but there have been quite a few challenging sections in this 17-day trek of about 200km all up.
Yes, I’ve had a reality check in the last few years, and the experience certainly made me look at life in a somewhat different way – but I’ve been fortunate so far, and life goes on!