Australian of the Year: Peter Dornan, Men’s health activist #AOTY2020 #ausoftheyear

Leading up to 1996, I was healthy,
fit, an enthusiastic physiotherapist. Pretty invincible. But then at that stage when I was 52
I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. The shock was pretty intense
and I opted to have surgery because I wanted to save my life. But the side effects
were pretty horrendous. I wasn’t coping well with being
incontinent or impotent or suffering depression,
very serious psycho-social legacies. I got to a stage where I wasn’t getting
anywhere at all. So I said ‘there’s gotta be some men out there
who’d been through this before’. I needed to talk to a male
or anyone else somewhere but I couldn’t find one anywhere,
no one put their hand up, and that’s where my little inner self,
my deep inner self, said ‘we can get out of this,
we have to change things’. So I put an ad in a paper and on that day and time 70 men
and their partners turned up and from that, we formed the
Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia in 1998. That then led to me writing
a book about it. It was called
‘Conquering Incontinence’. The book covered all the legacies
or side effects of prostate cancer. It was the first book written on
prostate cancer and on incontinence in Australia at the time. It’s still used in every one of the
170 support groups around Australia. But that then also
started me thinking ‘why don’t men think more
about their health? Why didn’t we, why couldn’t I find
another man to talk to?’. I had spoken to no other man at all
about his experiences. There was none available. The obvious truth was that
we were invincible, we’re not allowed to be
seen to be invulnerable. We’re not allowed to show
any weakness at all. Are we lost in a tower of
invincibility of manhood? How do we get out of this? Clearly, we needed to
change who we were, we needed to think about
why this is so. We have to learn how to connect,
how to cry, how to talk to our doctors, how to talk to anyone
that could help us and not put up with anything. So what I was wanting to do
was to change the culture of men’s health.
In the process, I want to remove
the mantle of machoism.

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