91 and thriving: Meet Darwin’s living legend

PCFA

INTRO: At 91 years young, Don Lockley knows all about prostate cancer survivorship. Diagnosed in 2004, he underwent radiation treatment during a two-month hospitalization and parlayed his experience into joining, and ultimately leading, ‘Prosper’, the Darwin Prostate Cancer Support Group. And the former RAAF man has important health advice for Australian men: “Don’t be so macho and bullet-proof.”

He added, “Men can be their own worst enemy and a lot of men would be under the ground if it wasn’t for their partners pushing them to make an appointment with their doctor or health practitioner. Early detection is key and men need to be aware of what’s happening with their bodies. It’s important to talk about these things particularly with partners, family and workmates.”

Fostering an environment for men living with prostate cancer to open up about their survivorship journey and their experiences has been central for Don’s role as leader of Prosper Prostate Cancer Support Group, meeting the second Monday monthly – except for January and any meeting night falling on a public holiday – in the Harbour Room at Christchurch Cathedral, Smith Street, Darwin at 7.30pm.

Undergoing two months radiation treatment at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, his recovery journey brought him to ‘Prosper’, the Darwin Prostate Cancer Support Group. Unable to attend after a work transfer to Katherine, retirement saw Don return to Darwin in 2013 where he re-joined the support group due to the great fellowship experience. During that year, he was invited to take over the leadership role.

And nine years later, Don has offered his advice for a future support group leader. “You’ve got to be interested in people and you’ve got to be able to listen and let them open up. For many, this is the only space where they can truly be frank about their prostate cancer journey.

“Make sure you follow up – pick up the phone and call people to see how they are going. You also need to keep up to date with PCFA’s activities and research. The group needs a younger leader who is up to date with modern technology and social media.”

An inspiration to all, Don’s zest for life is astounding. A varied work experience included twelve years in the RAAF, he established the Northern Territory YMCA in Darwin in 1965 and spent twenty-two and a half years in OH&S along with over 50 years as an active leader in scouting.

Sporting activities include rock climbing, lawn bowls and hockey with Palmerston Saints Hockey Club, enjoying his final competitive game at age 85. And just last year, he celebrated his 90th birthday with a sky-dive.

So what’s next for the adrenaline junkie? “Ice skating,” he laughed. “I haven’t had a chance yet to give it a go, because it’s something I want to do with some of my grandkids and great grandkids but COVID-19 has put it on hold.”

No bungee jumping then? “I would never do that. I do not believe that the body is meant for that kind of jolt.”

Remarkably, Don’s once again taking on The Long Run over Prostate Cancer Awareness Month this September, which challenges participants to run, walk or wheel 72kms to raise funds for research and support services.

“While I’ve always been sporty, I’ve never been into athletics but these days, I keep fit with walking for pleasure, lawn bowls and helping my eldest son do gardening jobs. And in September, I make a special effort to create awareness about prostate cancer and hopefully get donations for research.”

At his extraordinary age, what’s Don’s secret to long life?

“I’ve never smoked, I enjoy a glass of wine with my evening meal. If I am going to drive, I do not drink! I do not worry about things I cannot control. Remember – keep your body and mind as active as you can because if you don’t use it, you lose it!”

Don has also joined The Long Run this September for Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and aims to talk 72km to mark the occasion and raise funds for research and support services.

You can join him by registering at www.thelongrun.org.au.

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