OUTGOING Gus Barry freely admits he “got the shock of my life when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer”.
The retired teacher knows that if it had not been for his wife’s persistence, “I would not be here today”.
“I was diagnosed after I went to a Wellman clinic run by Action Cancer in 2005.
“At that time I went because I am married to a nurse and I had noticed a decreased flow in urine. I wasn’t running to the toilet a lot but just noticed the stream was a little reduced. I did not feel unwell at all. I went to get checked out in February 2005. I didn’t think I needed to go at all.
“After I was examined I was sent to get a biopsy done at the City Hospital in Belfast and then I had an operation done.
“And it was obviosuly very successful because I am still here today and feel great.”
But Mr Barry’s younger brother did not have the same luck. He, like so many other men in Ulster and across the globe had ignored his symptoms and left it too late.
“When I was diagnosed my youngest bropther who lives in Australia also went for the test and he found out he had protate cancer as well,” he said. “He was ten years younger than me and he died from prostate cancer two years ago because his was more advanced. It tends to go from the prostate gland into the bones.
“I call myself a prostate cancer survivor. I still go for a check-up to the PSA test - in fact I went for one earlier this week. I am told to go every six months but sometimes I am almost afraid to go in case I get bad news. But I just have to do it.”
Mr Barry said since his diagnosis he has “changed my life dramatically”.
“My story is a good news story because I took control and I now look after myself,” he said. “I have changed my lifestyle and watch what I eat and exercise. I also took early retirement from work and I am enjoying my life.
“Getting a diagnosis like that makes you take a different view of things.
“I have two children who are both married and I have three grandchildren - so you could say I am pretty busy. I also take quite a bit to do with Action Cancer as an awareness campaigner.
The charity helped me a lot.
“When I initally got the diagnosis it was very bad news, as you would expect. But I pulled myself together and said well that is the bad news - the good news is that I am going to get better.
“I am just positive abouit it. I did not feel sorry for myself and crawl into a corner.”
However Mr Barry admits he “never actually felt ill” adding that other men could enjoy his success by “getting tested before it is too late”.
“You need to go for check-ups before you feel ill, because by the time you know something is wrong it could be too late,” he added. “Men are so bad at taking care of themselves. Women are much better at it - I suppose because they have to.
“So many men have died out of their own ignorance. But there is really nothing to it. It is just an examination - and it will save your life like it did mine. Men think it is embarrassing but there is no point dying of embarrassment.
“I am really appealing for men to give themselves an early Christmas present and get themselves checked out. There’s nothing to it.”