Back in the saddle and on the case for cancer

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ADAM Visser is starting conversations about early testing for prostate cancer.

Adam Visser… “People think prostate cancer is an old-man’s disease, but it’s not always the case.”

Following his own diagnosis in May, the 67-year-old created an initiative called Ask Your Father to encourage men to get checked, and has been approaching people while on his daily walks and cycle rides around Lake Burley Griffin.

“I thought, I’m seeing all these old guys while I’m out. So I started to go up to them and tell them my story, and ask them, ‘are you getting yours checked?’” Adam says.

“People think prostate cancer is an old-man’s disease but it’s not always the case. We should be getting checked from 50 up, or younger if there’s cancer in the family.

“Ask Your Father is about raising awareness of early warnings and getting checks done.”

Adam wants everyone to know about the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood test that can be an early detector of the disease.

“In chatting to people I’ve found that many men are all over it but there are just as many who haven’t been checked,” he says.

“I’ve had a mainly positive response, there’s only been about four people who haven’t wanted to talk to me and they’ve had their reasons, which they’ve been polite about!

“I give people a printed flyer with a QR code linking to information and ask them to look at the Facebook page and share with friends. The further it goes the more people we can reach.”

Adam says the PSA test is controversial because it can give false readings, but says it’s important to know that a high reading doesn’t mean a disaster and that it’s not necessarily going to be cancer.

“The bottom line is for me that if they’d got to it earlier they could have removed the tumour without risk of it escaping,” he says.

A keen cyclist, Adam was unable to ride after his surgery so he had to walk for exercise instead, which was when he started approaching people.

The idea for Ask Your Father came when he chatted to a man he thought was in his target age range of 50-65, who was actually under 30.

“He had early grey hair so he was a bit put off by my assumption!” says Adam.

“But then I asked how old his father was, and I got the idea to get younger people to ask their fathers, uncles and brothers if they’re getting checked.”

Adam was diagnosed with prostate cancer in May and had a prostatectomy in August.

“I had no symptoms at all so it was a shock,” he says.

“I had a PSA done in 2010 when I was 59, as part of a regular blood test and it came back on the high end of normal. I had bloods done when I was 62 and 63, neither of which included the PSA, and I had just assumed it was on there.”

When Adam had a routine blood test earlier this year, he asked for the PSA to be included and it came back with a high score of 10.5.

Scans then showed an “anomaly”, which turned out to be a large and aggressive tumour and he was booked in for surgery immediately.

Adam says he now needs further checks to see if the cancer has been successfully removed or if he’ll need more treatment.

Ask Your Father is a way of channelling his energy into something positive. He reckons he’s spoken to more than 500 people so far and is trying to get to 13,500, which was the cost of his surgery.

“I’m trepidatious about what’s next, of course,” he says.

“Ultimately, I’m trying to help people catch this earlier so they can avoid my situation.”

Visit the Ask Your Father Facebook page at facebook.com/prostateworrier/

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Kathryn Vukovljak
Kathryn Vukovljak is a "CityNews" journalist with a particular interest in homes and gardens.

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