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  • Life after cancer with Roy Garreffa

    Life after cancer with Roy Garreffa
    14 March 2018

    Roy is a prostate cancer survivor and radio announcer with Coast FM. During an interview with Cancer Council SA nurse Polly Baldwin for his show he learned about Healthy Living after Cancer, a program designed to help people like him to return to a healthier lifestyle after successful treatment. Roy shares his journey, and his messages about speaking up for men’s health. 

    I received my diagnosis of cancer five years ago after my concerned GP took a blood test and sent me to a specialist, who in turn performed a biopsy of my prostate. While it’s never an easy thing to hear, I felt like it was just one of those things that life throws at you. My medical team was incredibly open, giving me the choices of doing nothing at all, going through radiotherapy and seeing how we go, or the slightly more radical prostatectomy to nip it in the bud. I elected to have the surgery, and I’m glad to say that it was a complete success—they got it all. 

    The diagnosis came just as I was ending my career where I ran my own business for 40 years, and taking up my lifelong dream of radio presenting. When you come to the end of your career and start thinking about retirement, it’s the perfect opportunity to find a way to give back to the community, and radio was that for me. I really enjoyed the training and seeing how my confidence grew. I started out with an overnight shift, and have been doing Monday mornings for four years or so now. My favourite part is being able to talk to interesting people each day and keeping the mind active. 

    One of these people was Polly Baldwin from Cancer Council SA. I’ve always been upfront about my diagnosis, and keen to use my position in radio to promote it and normalise talking about it. Particularly among men, I think there’s still a bit of hesitation to talk openly—even a ‘would rather not know’ mentality. It was when Polly and I got chatting on air about my experiences that she suggested I might fit the criteria for the Healthy Living after Cancer program. 

    Polly Baldwin is the lead nurse for the program and as part of her role identifies people who may benefit from the program.  Engaging survivors, while simultaneously improving their lifestyle, is exactly what the Healthy Living after Cancer program achieves.

    Research shows that getting back to a healthy lifestyle is one of the most important things cancer survivors can do for their future.  It reduces the impact of treatment-related side effects, reduces the chance of cancer recurring and boosts overall health and wellbeing.  

    The program involves our experienced cancer nurses providing free health coaching via the phone over six months, making it accessible regardless of location in South Australia and the Northern Territory. We set goals for physical activity and healthy eating, and will help participants achieve these goals by providing support, tips and motivation. The program is available to people over 18 years of age who have completed cancer treatment and who would like support to become more active and eat more healthily.

    Almost at the end of the program now, Roy looks back on his past six months. 

    I’d sum it up as just encouraging you to consider your choices. I play golf two or three times per week, so I’m already getting some exercise, but for me it really opened my eyes to getting to know what I put into my mouth. You tend to take it for granted that something is healthy if it says diet or low fat, but in actual fact we’re consuming so much sugar and not drinking enough water. As well as getting the information to make informed choices, you have someone calling you up to keep you accountable.  

    My recommendation for others would be to just give it a go, because you might learn something. It moves at your own pace, and it’s not a significant commitment. It’s designed to help you come out the other side of cancer, when you’re faced with reassessing every aspect of your life. 

    The way I see it, surviving cancer is like being given a second chance at life. Healthy Living after Cancer helps you make the most of it. 

    Roy Garreffa - cancer survivor. 

    Healthy Living after Cancer is a six-month, phone-based health coaching service for people who have completed cancer treatment, providing tips, support and motivation to help participants reach their next health goal. Further information and support is available from our cancer nurses on 13 11 20.  You may also be interested in downloading or ordering a hard copy of our Living Well after Cancer booklet. This publication covers topics like treatment side effects and understanding emotions, as well as nutrition and exercise.

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