For Patients / 12 Oct, 2018

Finding a pal through prostate cancer

Icon Writers

Mackay patients walk the cancer care journey together

A cancer diagnosis is often described as a rollercoaster of emotions, so having people look out for you can make all the difference. For Mackay residents, Allan Paranthoiene and Paul Doolan, finding friendship during their prostate cancer treatment was a blessing.

Allan and Paul were perfect strangers, both diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2017. Paul was diagnosed in June 2017 just one day after he and his wife sold their local business. Allan is a retired floor tiler who was enjoying the caravan retired lifestyle with his wife when he received the news he had cancer. For both Allan and Paul, the diagnosis came as a shock, both showing little to no symptoms. After their respective surgeries, they were recommended radiation therapy treatment.

The pair become the first few patients to receive radiation therapy at Icon Cancer Centre, the first centre to offer radiation therapy treatment in Mackay. On their first day of treatment their appointments were back to back, and a few greetings later a long-term friendship began.

“On my first day at the centre I said hi to him in the waiting room and we got chatting. We found out we had a few things in common, we both liked football, and obviously, we were both going through cancer,” said Allan.

“We had similar interest, so we’d talk about the footy a lot and we were also able to compare what we were going through. It wasn’t always about the cancer, it was just nice being able to talk to someone about all sorts of things,” said Paul.

For Paul, the new Icon centre felt familiar as his wife was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2016 and received treatment at the Icon centre in Townsville and was grateful to be able to continue her treatment locally in Mackay.

“Walking into the centre, I knew the service would be the same as what we had experienced in Townsville. It was so nice to see familiar faces, in a way it feels like home. Being told that I would be able to receive treatment In Mackay was such a relief. The expense and sheer factor of having to leave your home is something you would rather not worry about,” said Paul.

Allan followed suite and saw the good in what was a fairly awful time.

“The radiation was initially a little daunting, but it’s all over in 10 minutes … and you got to know the staff, and they made an effort to know you; it felt like one big family,” said Allan.

For the next seven weeks, the two saw each other every day, where they got to know each other more and more and shared jokes that kept everyone at the centre in high spirits.

“You have to have a full bladder for the radiation treatment, so you are always dying to go to the toilet after. Paul’s appointment was always after mine, so every day, I would walk out of the bathroom and say to Paul ‘I left the seat-up for you!’ We always got a laugh out of it. Its little things like that that make the process easier,” said Allan.

From the beginning through to the very last appointment, Allan and Paul got to celebrate their last day of treatment together. The staff surprised them with party poppers, speeches were made and tears were shed.

“We had a disco party in the treatment room and Paul and I both rang the bell together. Sharing this with him was nice, as the weeks went by, it made it feel like I wasn’t alone,” said Allan.

For both, this journey has been as positive as it can possibly be, and both are making an effort to raise awareness and to let men know that talking about these things is important.

“Talking to each other really helped. We knew what we were each going through, we had different side effects but it was good to talk about it. It’s nice to be able to stay positive and to share that with someone else going through it as well. It can be a scary outcome. So now I always ask my friends if they get their regular checks. It’s important to talk about these things, and to know that something can be done,” said Paul.

“I immediately told my son he needed to get regular check-ups, especially now that I was diagnosed. There is no good trying to hide from it,” said Allan.

Allan and Paul continue to meet regularly for lunch, and are often joined by their wives who have also formed a meaningful friendship.

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