Dr Harry

Reporter: Marguerite McKinnon

He's Australia's best known vet, on Australia's most popular show on Friday nights, yet Dr. Harry Cooper has been holding on to a secret he's kept hidden even from his colleagues at Better Homes and Gardens.

"You know I had sort of a second sense that I had something wrong and so I wasn't surprised. But you sit down and you go home and you say to your wife, "I've got prostate cancer." and your wife sits down and goes white. And then you tell your daughter -- she goes white. Then you ring your daughter up on the phone who lives in Queensland and tell her and she doesn't talk for 30 seconds and then she cries. And you tell your son -- he cries." and then you ring your brother up and you say, have you had a PSA test? And he says, "no" and I go, "it's inherited mate, get down there tomorrow and get one done", Dr. Harry said.

This is a side of TV vet Dr. Harry Cooper you've never seen before. Few knew the truth -- that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. "That was a decision that really everybody came to because very few people knew. My two researchers knew in at the office, my immediate family knew", Dr. Harry said.

Dr Harry is one of 18,000 Australian men diagnosed with prostate cancer every year, recently including radio king Alan Jones, football celebrity Sam Newman, actor Bud Tingwell, and internationally, former South African President, Nelson Mandella.

Prostate cancer kills 3,000 Australian men -- husbands, fathers, brothers, lovers and sons -- every year. Now the doctor became the patient. "The overall conclusion was, talk about it after the event not before because then you don't sensationalize things that's not my idea. I'm a vet, you know, well you think you know, what's going to go on, so lets get it over and done with first and then talk about it, that was my attitude", Dr. Harry said.

Dr Harry knew something wasn't right with his waterworks, so decided to have a blood test -- the same PSA or Prostate Specific Antigen blood test he's had every year for the past decade. "my blood test was always 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, consistently 2 and suddenly it went from 2 to 4.3. Now I thought that was significant but my GP didn't", Dr. Harry said.

Dr Harry's GP said there was nothing wrong, but luckily Dr Harry sought a second opinion -- a biopsy confirmed prostate cancer. "Now prostate cancer's different to a lot of other cancers -- it doesn't sort of form lumps like that. The best way I can describe it is sort of, we call it disseminated -- it's like tree roots spreading through soil", he said.

In famous Dr. Harry fashion, he wanted the problem fixed. "The radiation therapy that I went for was four weeks of external radiation to try and shrink the gland down in size. And then what we call an intensive brachioptherapy which is the insertion of these little hollow tubes into your prostate gland under spinal anaesthetic so you're paralysed from the waist down for 36 hours. Sounds horrific doesn't it, but it's like a woman giving birth -- that's the way they describe it to men you know?" Dr. Harry said.

He didn't lose his hair and kept working, even though he was incredibly tired, so the secret was safe, even at the Logies. "I went to the Logies in the middle of the treatment and I ran up those stairs and it felt terrific! Because I've been in television for 23 years and it's the first time I grabbed hold of that little mongrel! And it felt good!" he said.

The good news is, it looks like Dr Harry has won another battle. "You can get on the net. You can feed in all the results of your tests; your age, all of that sort of stuff and they'll give you a prediction as to your likelihood of survival and for me that was a 98% chance in ten years time, so I thought that was pretty reasonable", Dr. Harry said.

With his trusted producer Cathy, and crew, Colin and Marty, the show must go on, but for Dr Harry Cooper, his view on life has changed. "Life should be, divided into three equal segments -- 8 hours of work, 8 hours of rest and 8 hours of play. And you know what. I'm going to make bloody sure that that's the way I live for the rest of my life", he said.

Did you know? Prostate cancer diagnosis each year is greater than that of breast cancer diagnosis!

Anna Gurrie

Customer Service & Administration Assistant

Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia

Unit 1, 47 Oxford Close, WEST LEEDERVILLE WA 6007

P: 08 9381 7444 F: 08 9381 5820


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BE A MAN: Talk to your GP about prostate cancer