How Radiation Therapy Helped Mick Keep On Running
No-one knows better the importance of being informed about all treatment options for prostate cancer than inspirational Mick Bendeich.
The 74-year-old is due to line up in Sydney’s City2Surf in August – the 44th time he will have taken part in the world-famous fun run.
Mick, of Baulkham Hills in Sydney’s north-west, underwent successful radiation therapy to treat his prostate cancer four years ago.
The treatment hasn’t stopped him leading a hugely active life – and helping motivate fellow runners taking part in the event.
“I have advertised on the back of my T-shirt how old I am and the number of runs I’ve done,” he said. “I know it’s sort of ‘showing off’ but it gives me a bit of a buzz.
“Last year a woman came up behind me. She said she had taken a photo of me and was going to put it on her wall.
“She’d look at it every time she needed motivation to go for a run.
“Hearing that is marvellous – it makes me feel really good.”
Mick was diagnosed with prostate cancer In September 2014 after a routine medical check-up revealed high prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels and biopsies showed cancer.
“My first thought was total panic as I knew nothing about prostate cancer,” he said. “I thought it was something that happened to other people.”
Although he was initially told that surgery was the quickest and most effective treatment available, Mick soon discovered this wasn’t necessarily the case.
After being sent by his GP to a radiation oncologist and discussing non-surgical options, he decided that curative radiation therapy was the best treatment option for him.
“At first there was no other option put to me (apart from surgery) – I didn’t hear of anything else – but the more I learned about radiation therapy, the more I thought it sounded right for me,” he said.
“Although it wasn’t as quick as having the actual surgical procedure, I didn’t like the option of having my prostate removed possibly unnecessarily. Also after surgery it takes several weeks to recover, for instance to drive or get back to normal activities”
Mick received testosterone-reducing injections (hormone therapy) before undergoing short week-day visits for radiation therapy over eight weeks at a western Sydney hospital over eight weeks.
“Although it was time-consuming having treatment every day, it had little bearing on my everyday life.
“The fact I was relatively fit helped me cope with treatment, I think. Everything still worked the same and I was able to carry on with my daily life.
“The only side effect for me was that I would get tearful for no apparent reason. I’d be sitting in a chair and all of sudden I’d be crying – it was very strange. But I know that can happen with the hormone therapy sometimes.”
“I had wonderful support from everyone at the hospital – I take my hat off to them all.”
The treatment was successful, allowing Mick to continue his favourite activities of vintage car racing, walking – and taking part in the City2Surf each year.
Mick, who is also a keen motorbike rider, is now preparing for yet another crack at the 14km fun run.
While he may not hit his former best race times, he is happy to be among the expected 80,000 participants this year.
“Once I hit 64 or 65 I went downhill time-wise but I still enjoy it,” he said. “I thought when I got to 20, I would stop, but it’s like a drug – you want to keep carrying on.
“It’s a terrific day and I just plod along and enjoy it.”
Mick said he would encourage other prostate cancer patients to explore all possible treatment options, including radiation therapy, before deciding on the best step for them.
“I know a few people who had surgery and maybe now they regret it,” he said. “My advice would always be to talk to the all the different types of specialists about your options.
Don’t just decide that having surgery is automatically the best option.
“I’m happy as Larry with how radiation therapy helped me, so my advice would be, ‘don’t rush to have surgery’.”
It is estimated there will be about 18,000 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed in Australia in 2018, with approximately 3000 cases expected in New Zealand.
For more details on how radiation therapy works, possible side effects and how it can help treat prostate cancer and many other cancers, click here.
For other patient stories featured on the Targeting Cancer website, click here.