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Cancer MP's plea to all men: Think of your family

Tony Phillips

"THINK of your wife and children".

That's the simple message Mark McArdle has for Sunshine Coast men after his shock diagnosis with prostate cancer.

The Caloundra MP, who holds the Energy and Water Supply portfolio in the Newman Government, will undergo surgery this month and wants other men to think of their families when it comes to their health.

Mr McArdle announced his diagnosis in a statement last week. He said he had been assured he would make a full recovery and would be taking six weeks of leave from July 25 to undergo medical treatment.

"My wife Judy and I are very pleased with the treatment plan and the care I have received to date," he said.

It was a very formal release, typical of the matter-of-fact man who has been the Member for Caloundra for eight years. Speaking candidly yesterday, Mr McArdle was quick to promote the importance of regular medical checks which he credits with possibly saving his life.

"There were no signs I had any problems at all," he said.

"This was picked up in a routine medical check with my GP in February and if I had not taken that step, in five or six more years it could have been a lot more serious."

During three years as the shadow health minister, Mr McArdle said his eyes had been opened to the necessity of health checks.

"I was exposed to some of the most brilliant minds we have in the medical field and they highlight the fact that while your body may be physically fine, it could be starting to make cancer or combat other illnesses you are not yet aware of."

The 56-year-old admitted his "realistic" approach to dealing with his diagnosis this year was the result of combating a perceived melanoma threat six years ago.

"I had a mole removed off my back and about three months later, a lump occurred on my neck and I was concerned it might have been something derived by the removal," he said.

"The doctor thought it was a low-grade melanoma, so I had biopsies into the lump on two separate occasions and they both showed positive for cancer."

He was admitted to hospital to have all the lymph nodes removed from his neck in January 2007 but two weeks later was informed the tests had given "false positives" and thee lumps had in fact been benign.

"So I had a sense of what it was like to be told I had cancer," Mr McArdle said.

"Having been there in that tiny portion earlier, this time I knew the doctor was right and I had to accept the reality or risk the possibility of creating problems for myself or my family.

"I had to take steps to ensure it didn't get any worse and get the proper medical treatment."

With such an early detection and no associated symptoms, Mr McArdle has been told to expect a full recovery following an operation on July 26.

While the initial testing could be unpleasant, Mr McArdle said it was important for men to have one focus - their families.

"If you need inspiration, look at your wife and children and that should be enough," he said.

"They want you there forever."

Since going public with his diagnosis, Mr McArdle has received hundreds of calls and emails of support and has heard the personal stories of many men who have battled with the disease.

"One man stopped by our doorstep to offer me support and I had a phone call from a friend of mine I haven't seen for some time and I didn't know he'd had it," he said.

"I think men are becoming more aware of the fact they have to open up and talk to their wives and families about their health concerns, but I understand we are far away from where women are in that field.

"Communication is very important as is living a healthy lifestyle as best as we can in our society with a healthy diet and exercise."

While there are only a few weeks to go before Mr McArdle heads into surgery, he maintains his positive outlook and cannot stress enough to all men to have regular medical checks for moles, blood pressure, and of course, prostate cancer.

Topics:  caloundra cancer editors picks health mark mcardle politics wellbeing



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