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We need to have a crappy korero if we want to live

Image: Matthew Tukaki on his weight loss journey - 43kgs down!

Let’s face of it, and I think many of you might have picked up on this recently, I have been sick (don’t worry it gets more positive!) – you see it all started when I made the conscious decision to get my weight down (which I have and am now down 43 KGS) but to understand why you need to come with me on a little journey.

Firstly, the reason why; at 45 years old I had already had two heart attacks and my blood pressure continued to be through the roof – if I didn’t do something on that front I would most likely have been in a box by now. But it gets a little worse before it gets better. Then there was that obvious close call with diabetes - yes the scourge of Maori! Kicked that one to the curb! The next thing I needed to tick off the agenda was the prevalence of both Prostate and Bowel Cancer. Yes, my fellow Tane I and we are at the age where those seventies and eighties anthems, if we are not careful, could be played at our funerals! Professor Ross Lawrenson has said that Māori men are less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than non-Māori men, but when diagnosed are twice as likely to have metastatic disease. Survival at 2 years for men diagnosed with metastatic disease is less than 40% and almost all these men have died from their cancer. Why are we less likely to be diagnosed? Because we don’t get checked. When it comes to Bowel Cancer; at present, just over half of bowel cancers in Māori present before the age of 60 years (58 per cent in females and 52 per cent in males), whereas just under a third of bowel cancers in non-Māori are diagnosed before 60 (27 per cent in females and 29 per cent in males). There is a movement on to reduce that age range so whanau can be tested earlier because of a range of health dispositions.

For me knocking those two things on the head early and getting my mind into regular testing at regular intervals not only gave me peace of mind but gave me a routine. It also helped to inform my weight loss journey and the things that I was putting into my body that so obviously didn’t help (and no I haven’t bought into the korero that a few glasses of red wine a day are great for the heart). I have added some tips below that people can follow – but in the main, if detected earlier the survival rate is obviously much better. In fact, and according to research it could be as high as 90%.

Now the relief I felt with the knowledge having been tested that I do not have those cancers gave me great strength. But it’s the preventative things I have been doing that also give me power and control over my life - and that is to live longer and in doing so probably give people like David Seymour a little more grief! My point to sharing with you an insight into the journey so far is that when you are lying in that box and everyone is mourning you and telling tall stories its too late - so every opportunity we have to do something about our unhealthy living has got to be a good thing. More time with your tamariki, your moko and your whanau. So come and join me - ill be doing more posts and musing, sharing more stories of the things we dont really want to talk about it or are afraid to.

PS - i was once like you - didnt want to go to hospital or the GP in case i came out in a box! but trust me; the feeling of knowing, and routinely, that you are on track is so empowering it literally changes the way you approach your life. So get checked, stay safe and get well!

Symptoms of Bowel Cancer:

  • A persistent change in your bowel habits

  • Blood in your bowel movement or rectal bleeding

  • A change in appearance of your bowel movements

  • Abdominal pain, especially if it is severe

  • Unexplained anaemia (iron deficiency) causing tiredness

Symptoms of Prostate Cancer:

  1. Trouble urinating

  2. Frequent urination

  3. Decreased force of urination

  4. Difficulty starting or stopping urine stream

  5. Blood in semen

  6. Pain or discomfort in the pelvic area

  7. Bone pain

Some tips for around prevention of Prostate and Bowel Cancer:

  • Choose a low-fat diet. Foods that contain fats include meats, nuts, oils and dairy products, such as milk and cheese. In some studies, men who ate the highest amount of fat each day had an increased risk of prostate cancer. This doesn't prove that excess fat causes prostate cancer. Other studies haven't found this association. But reducing the amount of fat you eat each day has other proven benefits, such as helping you control your weight and helping your heart. To reduce the amount of fat you eat each day, limit fatty foods or choose low-fat varieties. For instance, reduce the amount of fat you add to foods when cooking, select leaner cuts of meat, and choose low-fat or reduced-fat dairy products.

  • Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat each day. Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins and nutrients that are thought to reduce the risk of prostate cancer, though research hasn't proved that any particular nutrient is guaranteed to reduce your risk. Eating more fruits and vegetables also tends to make you have less room for other foods, such as high-fat foods. You might consider increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat each day by adding an additional serving of a fruit or vegetable to each meal. Consider eating fruits and vegetables for snacks.

  • Reduce the amount of dairy products you eat each day. In studies, men who ate the most dairy products — such as milk, cheese and yogurt — each day had the highest risk of prostate cancer. But study results have been mixed, and the risk associated with dairy products is thought to be small.

And where can I get tested?

The New Zealand Prostate Management and Referral Guidelines recommend that men aged 50 and over discuss prostate testing with their doctor (usually GP). For men with a known family history of prostate cancer this discussion should begin at 40 years of age, as they may be at higher risk. There is no easy way of diagnosing prostate cancer.

For bowel cancer to a look at this information link: Bowel Cancer Screening - Bowel Cancer New Zealand ( and in both Prostate and Bowel cancer cases see your Hauora and local GP for further advice.


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