Ron Myler has survived cancer three times.
Ron Myler has survived cancer three times. Mike Knott BUN100317CANCER2

Meet Ron! The bloke cancer cannot kill

COULD Ron Myler be Bundaberg's greatest fighter?

The 79-year-old great-great-grandfather has defeated cancer twice and is lining up to give the disease the boot for the third time.

After overcoming bowel cancer in 2000 and prostate cancer in 2007, Mr Myler learned last March that the latter had returned.

Unable to have normal radiation therapy or to have his prostate removed, the Cancer Council Queensland hospital support volunteer had wires inserted into his prostate to administer internal radiation.

"Everything is going really well," Mr Myler said of his outlook.

"I have to go to Brisbane for a check-up in a few weeks time but I'm pretty confident it will be gone."

Mr Myler said the initial bowel cancer diagnosis was "extremely shocking" for himself and his wife Beryl but they refused to let it get them down.

"We're both the kind of people who believe you have to be positive," he said.

"So we just decided 'We're going to beat this'."

Mr Myler is putting his experience to good use by providing support for others as they navigate their cancer journeys.

"I go to the hospital and speak to the patients," he said. "I encourage them not to give up.

"They love to have me come and talk to them.

"A lot of them say it makes a big difference having someone to talk to besides the nurses.

"It's good to see them laughing and sometimes they have a few jokes.

"I just want to try and encourage them to not give up even though we know not everyone will get through it."

Mr Myler said cancer changed his perspective on life.

"You don't know how well off you are until you get something like this," he said.

"You realise how lucky you are when you beat it.

"It also means that I get to help others and that's all that I want to do."


Cancer Council Queensland calls for more public investment in research and other initiatives to improving healthcare across our region

CANCER is our region's biggest killer.

ARM Newsdesk can reveal that cancer was behind 16% of the 3850 deaths in Bundaberg between 2010 and 2014.

Of the 615 people who died from cancer, the 2016 Social Health Atlas of Australia shows lung cancer claimed 163 lives, colorectal cancer killed 56 residents and breast cancer ended the lives of 37 women in the five years.

Circulatory system diseases were our region's second biggest killers, with 250 lives lost. Heart disease killed 130 residents and strokes cost 47 people their lives.

With 179 deaths, external causes were our region's third biggest killer.

These  included 41 people dying in traffic accidents and 61 lives lost to suicide or self-harm.

Respiratory diseases were our fourth biggest killers, with 98 deaths over the five years.

Bundaberg residents were least likely to die of endocrine, nutritional and metabolic diseases, with only 33 lives lost to these between 2010 and 2014.

The Cancer Council Queensland says 13% of Bundaberg cancer deaths can be prevented and cancer patients in regional and disadvantaged areas suffered "significantly worse" outcomes than urban patients.

"Possible reasons for these disparities include reduced access to health care and diagnostic or screening services as well as differences in cancer risk factors such as tobacco smoking, diet, alcohol consumption and physical activity," CCQ executive manager Katie Clift said.

"Those who live outside the reach of major health centres are more likely to die within five years of their cancer diagnosis.

"More research is needed to identify the reasons for the disparities and to develop targeted strategies that help close the gapfor regional and remote Queenslanders.

"Additional public investments in regionally specific research and translational initiatives are vital to improving healthcare for regional Queenslanders.

"It's crucial that all cancer patients, no matter where they live, have the best possible prospects of detecting cancer early and surviving their diagnosis."

Regional residents will benefit from an upgrade of CCQ's Herston lodge, which provides accommodation for people travelling to Brisbane for cancer treatment.

Breast Cancer Network Australia chief Christine Nolan said her organisation was investigating the gaps in cancer services and care across regional Australia.

"The experience of being diagnosed with breast cancer can differ greatly depending on where you live - and that shouldn't be the case," Ms Nolan said.

"As a society we have come a long way in breast cancer research, treatment and support services but there is still more to be done.

"We know there are considerable variations across the country in terms of what services and treatment people are able to access."


PA Research Foundation says about one in three men will be diagnosed with a cancer by the time they celebrate their 75th birthday.
PA Research Foundation says about one in three men will be diagnosed with a cancer by the time they celebrate their 75th birthday. Contributed

Death divides the genders

HEART disease and cancers are among the key reasons why more Bundaberg men die than women and why our male residents don't live as long as females.

Analysis of five years of death data for Bundaberg reveals 2132 men died during 2010-2014 compared to 1718 women.

Males, on average, died at 77 years old while women generally reached 82.

PA Research Foundation's Dr Sandro Porceddu said about one in three men would be diagnosed with a cancer by the time they celebrate their 75th birthday.

Dr Porceddu said with men smoking and drinking more and experiencing obesity at higher rates than women, the easiest way to reduce the life expectancy gap was as simple as changing lifestyle choices.

"Men need to get serious about managing their cancer risk because their risk is higher than women and their life expectancy is shorter," the radiation oncologist said.

"Men need to reduce their smoking rates, aim for an ideal body weight and reduce their alcohol intake."

As men are less likely to go to their GP than women, the PA Research Foundation is urging employers to give their male workers an afternoon off to have their health assessed.

"The idea here is that there are risk factors that are preventable, men are more likely to be impacted by those risk factors but they are reluctant to go to their GP," Dr Porceddu said.

"It's the inherent issue of maleness. Men are generally workers who find it difficult to find time and who have the 'she'll be right attitude' approach to their health."

"We want to close the gap and most cancers are preventable by changing lifestyle factors and most cancers are curable if detected early, but the problem is getting men to go to see their GP."

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Mary Lou Houston is battling cancer and her husband Dennis is a great support for her. She is also taking part in a special palliative care support service that may be rolled out across regional Australia.
Mary Lou Houston is battling cancer and her husband Dennis is a great support for her. She is also taking part in a special palliative care support service that may be rolled out across regional Australia. Sherele Moody

Health insurance giant trials palliative care program to make life better for chronically ill

PRIVATE health patients across our region are expected to benefit from a new palliative care program being tested in Brisbane.

Insurance giant Bupa has joined forces with St Vincent's Health Australia to offer in-home intensive specialist medical services for people who have chronic illnesses or are in the last few days of their lives.

As well as practitioner visits, a nurse can stay with the patient and their family overnight to ensure the patient remains comfortable at all times. If the two-year trial is successful, Bupa says it will "explore" opportunities to extend the service to customers in regional centres.

This means more of our region's residents will have the option of dying at home as their private hospital supports them and their families and carers though home visits from doctors, specialist nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and counsellors.

If it is rolled out here, the program would also mean private palliative care patients could get direct access to a hospital bed instead of having to first present at an emergency department.

Ovarian cancer patient Mary Lou Houston said the in-home palliative care support was keeping her healthier and happier than she would be if she was hospitalised.

The 66-year-old mother and grandmother was given a five-year life expectancy in 2007.

Her body is finally caving in to the impacts of ongoing treatments, including irreversible damage to her kidneys and heart.

Mrs Houston spent 16 weeks in hospital last year.

"While we were in hospital my readings for my heart and kidneys weren't flash hot," she said.

"They asked me how I would feel if they called in the palliative care team.

"They said the team would help me a lot more than being in hospital."

Mrs Houston said she felt her physical and psychological well-being were much stronger thanks to the in-home support.

She said it also meant and her husband Dennis was better able to care for her.

"The nurse and doctor come in and ask me how I'm going, they're always caring," she said.

"It's easier on me, it's easier on Dennis.

"It has helped me stay out of hospital," she said.

St Vincent's Private Hospital Brisbane chief Cheryle Royle said it made sense to offer at-home palliative care support was because it was cheaper than hospital admissions and much better for patients to be in their own surroundings.


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