Tony Coombe
Tony prior to a run in Malaysia Image by: Tony Coombe
Tony Coombe
3 November 2022

Tony's Story: Marathon Man

3 minutes read time

1 in 9 men in New Zealand will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. Across New Zealand, there are more than 15,000 men living with and beyond prostate cancer and many are dealing with serious side effects from treatment.

Tony was 55 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer back in 2020. This was obviously a huge shock for someone so healthy & active and Tony has shared a little bit about his story and how running marathons helps him deal with it all:

‘’Movember for me feels very personal having been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Ever since I turned 40, I have regularly checked my PSA levels given a family history where my dad suffered from the disease in later life. Through the course of my 40’s I watched my PSA levels slowly rise, until it hit 4.0 in early 2020. My GP referred me to a young Urologist, Dr Simon van Rij, a skilled robotic surgeon. From there I underwent various tests and PET scans cumulating in a biopsy in July 2020. The biopsy confirmed that I had a high grade form of prostate cancer (a 4/5 on the Gleason scale) a form that was likely to spread quickly.’’

‘’I was still young, 55, fit and healthy so it was all a bit of a shock to be given this diagnosis as I had naively believed that cancer was what “other people got”. From there we worked on treatment options including radiation or surgery. Given that I had a high-grade cancer I elected to go with surgery or a radical prostatectomy in November 2020 (one week after completing the Auckland Marathon for the 5th time). I recovered quite quickly and was delighted to register a 0.0 on my next PSA test. However, since that test until September my PSA readings slowly returned registering a 0.9 last month. Surgery is no longer an option so I will undergo 4 weeks of targeted radiation treatment a week after completing the Queenstown marathon on the 19th November 2022. This will be my 15th attempt at that distance in which I will be helping to raise funds for Movember.’’

" The biopsy confirmed that I had a high grade form of prostate cancer. A form that was likely to spread quickly.’’ "

‘’In both cases my treatment was diagnosed early providing greater treatment options. Although I am not looking forward to the radiation treatment, with the love and support of my family, I know that I will get through it again quickly. I feel fortunate and want to support other men suffering from cancer who might not have the financial or emotional resources to cope. Running is my go-to cure for everything from my busy work life to the cancer itself. I love the mental test that running marathons provides and it also provides a forum for me to give back to the community. Whether that’s as a Park Run volunteer or a long serving volunteer leader of the Metrorun Sunday Runs.

Movember proudly funds True North, a global prostate cancer program that aims to transform the way men make decisions, receive care, manage symptoms and share lived experiences across their prostate cancer journey.

In New Zealand, True North also collaborated with the Māori community and local institutions to create Oranga Tū (a healthy stand), a Māori co-design project. It aims to increase awareness and bring systemic change to the healthcare approach in Maori communities by understanding what is important to Māori tāne and their whānau who are living with prostate cancer. Learn more about Oranga Tū and hear from Maori men who have been impacted by a diagnosis of prostate cancer.

If you would like to find out more about prostate cancer or if you are going through a similar situation to Tony, we encourage you to head to our True North Website to help more tāne take charge of their health. Explore articles to learn more on what to expect after treatment, how to cope with it all and where to find support.