80-year-old Central Coast local Jerry Zarb is passionate about living life to the fullest… and having fun while he’s at it! A local Community Radio presenter at Lake Macquarie FM, Jerry’s happy-go-lucky attitude has helped him get through every obstacle he’s faced throughout his life, including a prostate cancer journey which began in 2002.
Unlike many men with prostate cancer, Jerry’s diagnosis didn’t come through an abnormal PSA reading – he first realised something was wrong when he began having issues with his sexual function. After seeing a GP and being sent to a clinic to investigate further, he was told the news which changed his life in an instant.
“I was young – when I started having issues I thought hang on a minute! I explained to the doctor at the clinic what was going on and she said ‘I think you have prostate cancer’. I’m so grateful, she saved my life,” Jerry said.
After being referred to a specialist in December of 2002 who confirmed his prostate cancer diagnosis, Jerry’s treatment was put on hold until January because of the holiday period.
“I couldn’t believe it, the diagnosis shocked the hell out of me. It was the worst Christmas I’ve ever had. I didn’t tell anyone but my wife; I couldn’t tell my kids – I didn’t want to ruin Christmas.”
Jerry went on to receive surgery to remove his prostate and decided to quit smoking at the same time to improve his health.
“My daughter mentioned that she always thought I would die of lung cancer, not prostate cancer. I said I’ll show you, I’m not going to die of any cancer! I had one final cigarette before I entered the hospital for my surgery – and that’s the last one I ever had.”
Following his surgery, results and blood tests showed that the cancer had been completely enclosed in his prostate and Jerry was now cancer-free. However, 16 years later, his PSA levels began to rise – a sign that his cancer had returned.
“Prostate cancer grows over time and my first concern was that this cancer is going to kill me. I decided you’re not going to kill me, I’m going to kill you! I saw my doctor who referred me to a urologist, and then to a radiation oncologist at Icon Cancer Centre Gosford. My radiation oncologist told me exactly what would happen during radiation therapy and that the treatment was worth doing – I thought, of course it is!”
Jerry went on to receive hormone therapy followed by 33 sessions of radiation therapy across six weeks at Icon Cancer Centre Gosford, located just 25 km from his home in Bateau Bay. He says he can’t imagine having received treatment anywhere else.
“The team is fantastic, from the reception to the nurses and doctors. Their number one priority is the safety and wellbeing of their patients. To have gotten in fairly quickly and not had to be put on a waitlist or travel to Sydney made things much easier.”
For Jerry, the most difficult part of treatment involved ‘empty bowel, full bladder’ – a mantra prostate cancer patients come to know well during their treatment which ensures their radiation therapy is as accurate as possible.
“The worst part was drinking the litre of water before visiting the centre for my appointment and getting stuck in peak hour traffic, I would turn up busting to go to the bathroom! It was a pain having to do this every day Monday to Friday for six weeks, but like everything else it comes to an end and this was how we were going to beat my cancer.”