In my first speech in Parliament I told the story of my grandfather – Athol Neate.
He was a garbage man, a soldier and a prisoner of war.
He was captured by the Nazis in Crete in 1941 and he spent the next few years as a prisoner of war, until he was released in 1943 as part of a prisoner transfer.
He lived an extraordinary life – and he died an excruciating death.
He died of prostate cancer.
I will never forget how the drugs made his face and feet and hands puff up. Or visiting him in the nursing home just before he died and seeing him then so withered away.
I remember the pained look on his face. And his courage in the face of all that. And how much he loved my grandmother and all of us.
He deserved better. He deserved better than to suffer an awful death ant to be taken by this terrible disease.
So many Australian families have a story like this.
Everyday 9 Australian men die from prostate cancer. More than 3000 a year.
More Australians die from prostate cancer than breast cancer. But awareness of this disease and funding for research are tiny by comparison.
Today another 54 Australians will be told that they have prostate cancer.
20,000 will get this news this year.
For some it will be too late. The cancer will be too advanced to stop.
But for others, those who find out early this is important information – its information that could just save their lives.
Early detection is the key.
In the early stages of prostate cancer you might have no symptoms at all.
That’s why if you are a bloke in your forties or fifties it is important to talk to your doctor and get tested.
If you have a family history of prostate cancer it is recommended you talk to your doctor about getting checked from the age of forty.
If you don’t have a family history of prostate cancer, then you should start talking to your doctor about this when you turn 50.
The most important thing is to go to the doctor. Men are terrible about this. We tend to put off going to the doctor.
We don’t like getting a check-up. And we don’t like asking questions about all of this.
But we have to. It’s too important not too.
And if you are not a bloke in your forties or fifties, but you know someone who is – then tell them to go and see their doctor and get a check-up.
That’s what this month is all about.
This month is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month – and as part of that the Prostate Cancer Awareness Foundation is encouraging all of us to organise a “Big Aussie Barbie” to raise awareness of prostate cancer and to raise funds to help the 120,000 Australian men and their families who are currently living with prostate cancer.
I am running my own Big Aussie Barbie at this Saturday morning at Bass Hill Plaza.
And this Wednesday my colleague Karen McNamara (the Member for Dobell) and I are also hosting a Big Aussie Barbie here at Parliament House.
There is no better way to get a lot of politicians and staff and journos together in the one place here in this building than the smell of steaks and sausage and onions cooking so we will be doing that on Wednesday at midday in the House of Reps Courtyard and I encourage everyone here in Parliament House to come along.
Grab a snag. Get a brochure. Get some information. Read it. And give it to someone you love and tell them to read it and have a talk to their doctor.
And if you are watching this or listening to this and you want to run your own Big Aussie Barbie or just get more information then go to www.prostate.org.au
You might just save your life.