Mountain climber and cancer survivor Peter Dornan.
Mountain climber and cancer survivor Peter Dornan.

Sports physio pioneered support in Queensland

A SUCCESSFUL Brisbane sports medicine physiotherapist for close on 50 years, author, sculptor and mountain climber, Peter Dornan is a man of many fine achievements.

Ask him, however, about the challenge that has most influenced his life and he will tell you - dealing with prostate cancer and setting up a support movement that now has 4000 members throughout Queensland.

Close on 20 years ago Peter was diagnosed with the disease. For him the news was "pretty overwhelming and, at the age of 52, devastating.

"I didn't even know what my prostate was and what it did," he told Seniors. "I wanted to learn but there were no support groups to talk to. I rang the Queensland Cancer Fund people thinking they could help me but they didn't have a group. Men didn't talk about it or approach anyone. They just sat in a corner by themselves and tried to get over it. It was taboo.

"My life suddenly deteriorated from being a healthy, fit, in-control, positive individual to one experiencing incontinence and erectile dysfunction, seriously depressed and bordering on suicidal because I couldn't find a way out of it.

"One year after surgery I decided there had to be other methods of going through this so I put an ad in the paper saying, that, if there were any other men out there diagnosed with prostate cancer and having trouble, I would like to meet them.

"Í set up a meeting at Wavell RSL club and about 70 men and their partners came. From that moment we started what was to become the Brisbane Prostate Cancer Group and it is now the largest local support group in Australia of any sort.

"We now have 32 groups and 4000 members in the Queensland Chapter and we are affiliated nationally with 170 groups in Australia that form the Prostate Cancer Foundation, Australia. The Foundation raises about a million dollars a year for funding, advocacy and support."

"We discuss psycho-social issues, all the problems with treatment side effects, diagnosis and the horrendous decisions that go through a man's brain when he receives the news."

Peter admits the process of readjustment took time. It wasn't until seven years after his diagnosis and treatment that he felt the need for a sense of closure in 2003 by climbing Mt Kilimanjaro-at almost 6000 metres, Africa's highest peak. Ostensibly it was to test his theories on incontinence, but it was also to celebrate his new life and the elation of living.

Since then he has tackled two more giant peaks-the 6549m Mt Aconcagua in the Andes in Argentina and the 5642m Mt Elbrus in the Caucasus in Russia.

A Member of the Order of Australia (AM) and State finalist for Senior Australian of the Year in 2007, Peter has used his skills as a physiotherapist to write a book on men's urinary problems, "Conquering Incontinence, A new and physical approach to a freer lifestyle" which has become essential reading for pros

tate cancer groups.

"There are no free get out of jail cards but if men follow a precise fitness program before and after surgery and, provided there are no post-surgery complications within six months of the operation, less than three to four per cent need have ongoing incontinence.


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