• Sat. May 14th, 2022

Q&A with Prostate Cancer Support Group Leader Bill Rebula Geelong

ByJulie J. Helfer

Mar 8, 2022

Meet Bill Rebula, leader of the Geelong Prostate Cancer Support Group. Bill has been a vital part of the support group for many years, giving back to men in the local community affected by prostate cancer.

1. How long have you been involved with the Geelong Prostate Cancer Support Group?

My association with the Geelong Prostate Support Group (GPSG) dates back to 2005 when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 50. Being so young, I did nothing to face what might be in store for me.

2. Tell us about your personal experience with prostate cancer?

My father died of aggressive prostate cancer nine years before my diagnosis. I realized at the time that the risk of me also getting prostate cancer was higher than that of the average man. I quickly learned that I had to be tested regularly. My annual PSA test in 2005 detected a sudden spike in my PSA reading. I had no symptoms and the digital rectal examination was normal. My insistence on being examined further led to a biopsy and eventual prostatectomy.

It took five months before some normality returned to my life. It was around this time that I joined the Geelong Prostate Support Group to empower myself and gain knowledge about the condition and the best way to manage it.

3. What is the biggest challenge you faced after your diagnosis and how did you overcome it?

There were a number of complications during the operation which resulted in a five-week stay in hospital. I had to deal with a serious infection where I was operated on and a very rare blood disorder, which I attributed to the blood transfusion given to me during the operation. I think I was lucky to have had a urologist who was able to successfully tackle all the complications I endured. At the time, I wondered if these complications would lead to incontinence issues later on. Fortunately, to date, they have not!

4. How has the Geelong Prostate Cancer Support Group made a difference in your life?

Attending meetings and talking with other support group members opened my eyes to the effects of prostate cancer and the various treatment options. I was interested in the different approaches that the members of the support group took to cope with their illness. Thanks to the information I received from the group, I ended up seeing a doctor who “thought outside the box”. I also adapted my diet to a healthier diet.

5. What motivates you to give back?

Shortly after joining the support group, I was invited to join the inaugural PCFA Ambassador program, which I was happy to participate in. I considered myself lucky to have been diagnosed early in my journey with prostate cancer. Seventeen years later, I still have an undetectable PSA reading and attribute the success to early cancer diagnosis. Because of what dad had to go through during his illness, I knew I needed to be tested regularly and consider myself lucky to have persisted and worked closely with my GP to act quickly. I was wondering how many men are unaware of this requirement to be tested and understand what to look for in PSA readings. Through my good fortune, I felt the need to give back to the community, to spread the word about prostate cancer awareness and the need to get tested. The ambassador program allowed me to meet this need, to reach out and raise awareness among the men in his community.

6. What is your best advice for running an effective support group?

My sense of organization and my work ethic encouraged me to get more and more involved in the running of the GPSG. I am now the leader of the group and one of the eight facilitators. I would attribute the success of the GPSG to the facilitation team who share the burden of running the support group. Each of the facilitators has individual skills and talents which, when combined, ensure a dynamic and successful support group. The continued positive feedback Scouters receive from members tells them they are on the right track.

7. In your spare time, what do you like to do?

I’m self-employed, so I have some flexibility in how I spend my time. As an engineer, I love to delve into the technical aspects of financial markets. My other two main interests are gardening and the use of computer graphics which allow me to “play” with photography and homemade films.

8. Projects for 2022?

The team of facilitators within the support group meet one week before each monthly meeting where they plan and review the program of the support group and how best to meet the needs of the members. Facilitators aim to have guest speakers at at least 75% of support group meetings. Guest speakers focus on topics relevant to the prostate. This attracts members to meetings. This year, the support group has already scheduled speakers covering topics related to incontinence, stereotactic radiation therapy and emerging developments in PSA testing. By coming to meetings, members realize that there is much more to gain, namely laughter, information and friendships. The support group maintains active contact with local urologists, hospitals, medical centers and local prostate nurses. Leaflets/brochures are regularly updated and distributed in these establishments, encouraging them to refer their patients to the Support Group.

I am also supported by my wife Rosa who helps with morning coffee breaks and joins the other partners in attending support group meetings and quarterly partner coffee get-togethers.

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