'I did the worst thing, I used Dr Google'

Last updated 10:49 22/07/2014
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CUTTING THE RUST OUT: Gary says he looks at life differently now, with a renewed focus on his family and friends.

Has a health scare changed your life?

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Waitangi Day 2012, probably one of the worst of my life.

I was supposed to be enjoying a BBQ with friends and their kids. We were there but I was only there in body. My mind was somewhere else.

Rewind one week before, I had just changed doctors since one had retired, we had moved and we were dealing with some health issues for our wee man who has special needs. All my bloods had come back great, apart from one.

That one was for PSA.

Suddenly there I was, 46 with two wonderful kids and a great wife, but now I possibly had cancer.

I did the worst thing possible. I used Dr Google. Suddenly I didn't have much time left and I couldn't stop thinking about leaving them all behind. Not a good place to be in.

Of course it wasn't for sure, I'd had no symptoms, no family history and felt great. I'd just finished my third Olympic-length triathlon, loved running and swimming and felt in great shape.

So we monitored the PSA levels for four months. After the third blood test the level had gone up so we made the easy decision to have a biopsy done. One week later it was confirmed. Prostate cancer.

Being an engineer, we cut rust out to get rid of it. So after a real quick chat with the specialist it was all decided, in two months I'd have a radical robotic prostatectomy. It was my best option considering my 'youngish' age.

So on August 31 I had the surgery. It ended up going ok. The 'rust' was cut out and now I had to recover. We had a couple of emergency trips back into Christchurch hospital after some internal bleeding that set things back (the hospital staff were amazing) and I managed to get back to work after eight weeks.

Not everything has gone smoothly. I have nerve damage that has stopped me doing the exercise that I'd like to and at times I must have been like a bear with a sore head when the pain wasn't under control.

But it is slowly getting better. Very slowly though. Even now I have dark days when there is an unexpected pain or ache. I still tend to worry about the future, especially for my kids. I'll work on that in the future.

Some good has come from it though, we got on to the problem before I had any symptoms and so far things are ok. I've been able to help other mates through the same diagnosis.

I've meet some of the most amazing people who are going through much worse than I've had to face up to, and I'm lucky to be able to help them now and for as long as I can in the future.

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I look at things differently now. Sunsets are more amazing, being able to play with the kids is so special. Having a quiet coffee with the better half is so much more special. Friends and family are even more important - they were anyway, but it refocuses the priorities - and experiences are way more important than what we own.

If I can pass on anything it's these small things.

1) Don't use Dr Google - find a specialist and believe what they say.

2) If you have some symptoms get them checked out.

3) Don't ever judge anyone by what they look like. Sometimes the pain is on the inside and they hide it well.

4) Talk... Talk with anyone who will listen.

Perhaps I got lucky? How does this end? I don't know. Hopefully a long time in the future and after a couple more triathlons.

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