We all have our metaphorical mountains to climb. They tax us physically, toy with us emotionally and ultimately test our resolve.
At 42 I’d been around the world, returned home, worked at my career, married my beautiful wife and together created a home for our 3 gorgeous daughters. Fit as a buck rat and twice as dangerous, I was on top of my game. At 42 years young I was in charge and charging.
In the winter of 2015 a routine ‘blokes’ checkup revealed I had an elevated PSA. A subsequent MRI revealed some startling abnormalities and 17 biopsies later, not only did I have a prostate that looked like a second hand dart board, I had early stage prostate cancer.
No time is ever right for any bloke to get this news but this is the sort of news that few young blokes are prepared for. You have sympathy when it’s someone else but you never expect to have to process it yourself. Words can’t accurately describe how I felt at the time but the tears from my wife Renee told me it was a bit serious. How were we going to explain this to the kids when I didn’t even understand myself? Feelings of disbelief, shock, fear and anger were among some of the feelings in those early weeks. Suddenly I was desperate to learn about this unwanted climbing partner I’d never invited while teaching and guiding my family on this very confronting challenge. Many discussions around the dinner table revealed we were barely at our base camp, the mountain climbing journey that is prostate cancer was just beginning.
Sherpa through all of this is Waikato Urologist Dr Michael Holmes who has become a much needed partner guiding us all through the climb with a healthy dose of reality, medical reasoning and genuine support. As we built our mateship over numerous awkward downstairs inspections I began to understand Michael’s frustrations around the disease. I came to share these frustrations as the overwhelming sense of ‘unfairness’ is visceral.
“One of the many issues relating to prostate cancer is that it is largely misunderstood as an aged-only cancer that is ‘half expected’ for blokes over 60”, says Dr. Michael Holmes. “The reality is that, while we detected the condition early in Tim, cancer doesn’t discriminate and in some blokes the conditions for cancer to take hold are perfect much earlier in life”.
So here I am.
I’ve taken pretty good care of myself my entire life with exercise, healthy diet, a few beersies (nothing extraordinary about that) and a career that’s had stressful times but again, nothing out of the ordinary. The reason prostate cancer has struck my life a lot earlier than most is pretty simple. I got checked early.
Blokes are pretty useless when it comes to fronting up to the medics, this is Michaels frustration and has become my message. So much so that when a mate suggested we tackle The Pioneer Challenge in November I already had my inspiration, motivation and intention of building awareness of Early Detection to take with me on the ride.
Training has been brutal. I’ve had the benefit of an amazing friend and coach in Bob Tuxford, who’s had me riding numerous times mid week, scaling Mt Te Aroha multiple times every weekend in preparation (see our training programme on FB) with gym work, street rides, the Whaka 100 and a 4 hour endurance sprint around Hampton Downs for the Prostate Cancer Foundation piled on top.
Time in the saddle gets you thinking about what’s important when you’re scaling a mountain like prostate cancer. Family, friends and those relationships that flourish when the chips are down. I’ve been lucky, I guess, in that my business life has introduced me to some good roosters and when those same roosters heard we were taking on The Pioneer and taking the Early Detection message along for the ride their immediate reaction was magnificent.
Now we have sponsors but no riding kit.
What we needed for the sponsors and to get our profile moving were publicity pics. What we didn’t have in the very early stages was a team uniform. This is where some lateral thinking, committed friends and New Zealand’s top body artist came to the rescue.
Publicity shots consist of me getting nude but for the briefest of briefs and my Yeti SB100 on Mt Ruapehu surrounded by photographers, advertising agency folk and arguably New Zealand’s most amazing landscape. To say it was cold is an understatement, it was brass monkey stuff, I felt pretty exposed but to be honest, I’ve been feeling pretty exposed since the diagnosis but the warmth of my supporters gives me strength.
Now just days out from The Pioneer Challenge, a gruelling event that provides more actual mountains to climb. 15,000m to be precise, crikey, Everest is 8,848m, it’s time to reflect on why.
Healing is a huge reason for me and while it sounds a little insular it comes from a good place. It comes from a place of doing a good thing for other blokes, helping them take action and get their own downstairs checked early and to be proactive about their health.
The Pioneer will reveal how prepared my Blublokes team mate Grant Shackleton and I are for this challenge but the climb to The Pioneer has already uncovered how important this message is for blokes everywhere. Too often this disease does not present symptoms until it is too late. A simple blood test will either alay any anxiety or lead to a slightly uncomfortable introduction to an index finger. But even that discomfort fades as the realisation of getting ahead of the disease sets in. Catching prostate cancer at base camp dramatically increases your chances of “knocking the bugger off”.
Remember, early detection saves erections fella’s, get yourselves checked.
Follow Blublokes mountain biker Tim Beere as he climbs The Pioneer and the Prostate challenges that delivered him to the mountain
Words & Images: Tim Beere & Mark Hamilton
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