By Russell Bennett
Look after yourself and look out for your mates.
That message came across loud and clear when close to 500 men came together for the fifth annual Cardinia Casey Biggest Ever Blokes Lunch at the Cardinia Cultural Centre on Friday, 17 August.
The record crowd posted a record profit for the event, with $130,000 raised in the afternoon for prostate cancer research and awareness, as well as local men’s health initiatives.
That takes the total raised over the event’s five-year history to $460,000.
Organising committee chairman Garry Howe was thrilled with the success of the event.
Mr Howe said it was not all about the money and that attracting that many men in the room to talk about their health issues was a greater achievement.
“Blokes are generally not good at looking after themselves and getting to the doctor to have a check-up,” he explained.
“I think a lot more are aware of their health now that we’ve been lecturing them for a few years and hopefully the local clinics are seeing a bit more of them now.”
The huge crowd – the biggest to ever attend the event at the Cultural Centre in a sit-down format – heard from Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia’s state chief executive John Strachan, Berwick-based urologist Shekib Shahbaz and local prostate cancer survivors Roger McGill and Troy Apthorpe.
Mr McGill, in his 70s, spoke about just how close he came to losing his life through his battle with the disease, and emphasised the importance of regular check-ups.
“I was a bit unlucky – they did lose me on the (operating) table but that doesn’t happen to everyone, don’t worry about that, and they brought me back,” he said. “I did have a very aggressive cancer.”
Mr Apthorpe also spoke of his own battle, having been diagnosed in his 40s.
“The biggest thing I was told after I was diagnosed was to get the message out there, and the message is we all find time to catch up with our mates, or go to work, or get our kids to footy – please take the time once a year on your way home or on your way to work, or even take a sicky, to go and get a check-up,” he said.
“It’s that simple. I’m 50-years-of-age in November, and I’m pretty lucky … I probably shouldn’t be sitting here today.”
The men’s health message was also rammed home by keynote speaker, Essendon Football Club legend James Hird.
He spoke of his mental health struggles through a particularly tumultuous past five years as football’s ‘supplements saga’ engulfed not only the game and the club he loved, but also his own private life.
“I don’t know how many people here have been through depression, or had a brother, a sister, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a father or a friend who’s been through it – but it’s the worst illness you could get,” he said.
“I got my face smashed in Perth and got 10 metal plates through here and I almost lost my eye in 2002 from this knock, and I thought that was the most horrendous pain I could go through.
“I’d go through that every day of the week before I’d go through the depression I went through.
“If you know anybody (battling mental health issues), or you’re there yourself, you’ve got to rely on people and if you know people in that position go and help them – talk to them. They probably won’t ring you back. They won’t respond to you because they’re in such a dark place, but you have to help and keep contacting, and contacting, and contacting them.”
Mr Howe said the bulk of the money raised would to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia for research and some put aside for men’s health grants through the Casey Cardinia Foundation.
The group will also facilitate the supply and installation of prostate cancer awareness signs throughout Cardinia Shire, in partnership with the Pakenham Racing Club through its community grants program.