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Tim Baker: The Pincer Move

Community Manager
Community Manager
2 0 115

By Tim Baker

I have a plan.

And as I am pursuing this plan in the hope of benefiting men living with prostate cancer, I thought I’d better present my plan before I fully execute it, to get your approval.

It works like this.

Over the past 12 months, I have spoken at writers’ festivals in Byron Bay, Ubud in Bali, Newcastle, Margaret River, Kyogle in Northern NSW and Williamstown in Melbourne. I’ve spoken in men’s sheds, libraries, theatres, halls, large marquees in open fields, on the radio and TV, to newspaper journalists, podcasters and documentary film crews.

I have become, it has recently occurred to me, a kind of travelling, old-style preacher going from town to town spreading the good news about, well, not so much the Lord as the benefits of sensible self-care and supportive therapies for men with prostate cancer.

It has been deeply enriching, if occasionally exhausting work.

And in the next six months I will be speaking at three cancer conferences, in Melbourne, Cairns and Brisbane.

So, the pincer move. There are, as the name suggests, two components to the pincer move.

  1. Patient empowerment. Encouraging men to have the audacity to demand of their health care providers better supportive care. Find out if you qualify for a care plan under Medicare. Request referrals to exercise physiologists, physiotherapists, nutritionists, men’s sexual health specialists, psychologists, oncology massage therapists if that’s what you require.
  2. Doctor education. Encouraging medical specialists to prescribe exercise, nutrition, to discuss erectile dysfunction, mental health, partner distress, with their patients.

Now, I figure, if I can reach enough men with prostate cancer and enough medical specialists, then in each doctor/patient exchange that occurs around prostate cancer, the better chance there is that one or other of them will be alert to the critical importance of supportive care.

And where a doctor and a patient both have this awareness, we have the best possible chance of the optimal outcome for that patient, the best shot at quality of life, mitigation of side effects, perhaps even survival times, where the synergy of all this supportive care meets effective mainstream cancer treatments.

I’m not a doctor. I’m not here to give medical advice. Though I guess I am here to give medico’s some advice. Look at the evidence, the medical science, around the benefits of, say, exercise and nutrition, for starters. And where there is clear and compelling evidence of benefit, you won’t let your patients walk out of your office without referring them to the relevant health professionals to give them the best care and guidance in these key areas.

I’ve thought a lot about what I want to say at these upcoming cancer conferences, and I think it is essentially this: You cannot prescribe Androgen Deprivation Therapy to men with prostate cancer and just send them back out into the world to cope with the devastating side effects of treatment without putting some supportive therapies in place. And that doing so is akin to amputating someone’s leg and not offering them crutches, a wheelchair or a prosthetic, as well as some dedicated rehab.

So, there it is. The pincer move. Patient empowerment. Doctor education. What do you think? It’s a simple plan but, I think, a solid one. There are lots of more highly qualified people than me who have been working more diligently in this space for longer than me. So, it seems a little presumptuous for me to think I have all the answers. But this is the bit I can see that I can help with. If you can see any issues with this, any weaknesses or blind spots, please let me know.

My main qualification is that, eight years on from a metastatic prostate cancer diagnosis, I am still fit and well and have a great quality of life. And I wish that for as many people living with PC as possible, and their loved ones.

So, assuming we have some consensus here, I’ll get back to it.

About the Author


Tim Baker is an award-winning author, journalist and storyteller specialising in surfing history and culture, working across a wide variety of media from books and magazines to film, video, and theatre. Some of his most notable books include “Occy”, a national bestseller and chosen by the Australia Council as one of “50 Books You can’t Put Down” in 2008, and “The Rip Curl Story” which documents the rise of the iconic Australian surf brand to mark its 50th anniversary in 2019. Tim is a former editor of Tracks and Surfing Life magazines. He has twice won the Surfing Australia Hall of Fame Culture Award.

Tim was diagnosed with stage 4, metastatic prostate cancer in 2015 with a Gleason score 9. He was told he had just five years of reasonable health left, but eight years on, at 58, he’s still surfing, writing, and enjoying being a dad. His latest book, Patting the Shark, also documents his cancer journey and will be published in August. Tim will be sharing weekly insights into his journey to help other men who have also been impacted by prostate cancer.

Help is Available

Prostate Cancer Specialist Telenursing Service

If your life has been impacted by prostate cancer, our Specialist Telenursing Service is available to help. If you would like to reach out to the PCFA Prostate Cancer Specialist Telenurse Service for any questions you have about your prostate cancer experience, please phone 1800 22 00 99 Monday - Friday 9am - 5pm, Wednesday 10am-8pm (AEDT).

Prostate Cancer Support Groups

PCFA is proud to have a national network of affiliated support groups in each state and territory of Australia consisting of men and women who have a passion for assisting others who encounter prostate cancer. This network is made up of over 170 affiliated groups who meet locally to provide one-to-one support, giving a vision of life and hope after treatment. Call us on 1800 22 00 99 to find your local group.

MatesCONNECT Telephone-based peer support

MatesCONNECT is a telephone-based peer support program for men affected by prostate cancer. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer, our MatesCONNECT service can connect you to a trained volunteer who understands what you’re going through. All of our volunteers have been through prostate cancer. Simply call us on 1800 22 00 99 to be connected with a volunteer.

Newly diagnosed? or need to find more information? Access the PCFA resources here.

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