16 November 2021

Prostate support group grows from Narooma woman's heartbreaking loss

| Tom McGann
Join the conversation
Julie and Peter Hartley

Julie and Peter Hartley before he lost his battle with prostate cancer. Photo: Supplied.

When Julie Hartley watched her husband, Peter, battle prostate cancer, she knew the grim fight was one he shouldn’t face alone.

But when searching for support, the Narooma couple found the closest group was in Ulladulla – more than 125km from their NSW South Coast home.

Julie and Peter considered starting their own support group and travelled the state to see how various ones functioned, but time was against them.

“We went up to Young to see how they ran theirs,” says Julie. “But because Peter was still dealing with the cancer, it just wasn’t the right time to start one ourselves.”

Peter fought the vicious disease for 16 years.

“The last six years were the hardest for him,” says Julie.

READ ALSO Crookwell is turning blue to raise funds and awareness for prostate cancer

A fighter to his core, Peter refused to let the disease define him and he found other ways to deal with his cancer battle, including joining the Narooma Men’s Shed.

“The Men’s Shed was his outlet,” says Julie. “He didn’t really use the tools, but he liked to watch and chat with the other members.

“He was definitely a people person. He didn’t have a single enemy.”

Another way Peter coped with the disease was by doing much of his own research and helping other families with a loved one experiencing the illness to prepare for what was ahead.

“He helped other people rather than helping himself sometimes,” says Julie.

“My husband was so angry when he got sick, but he took it in his stride.”

While Peter had his own methods for coping, Julie found helping him was the best way for her to deal with the situation.

“I’m different to most people,” she says. “I knew what was going to happen.

“I took an interest in helping him, rather than moping around and being sad.”

READ ALSO ‘We’re not sure what to do’: Eurobodalla Woodcraft Guild forgotten by local government

Unfortunately, Peter succumbed to the disease just over a year ago.

“He fought so hard all the way to the very end,” says Julie.

She believes having a support group during the tough times would have helped them both, and is determined to provide that for others on the same path.

She joined Narooma Rotary Club, with the mission of starting a support group in Peter’s memory.

Now a group of Rotarians has teamed up with the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia to make Julie’s idea a reality.

A new Prostate Cancer Support Group for the Far South Coast will meet at the Narooma Men’s Shed on the first Tuesday each month from 7 December, from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm.

“The idea is to support individuals and families impacted by prostate cancer,” says Narooma Rotary Club president Andrew Lawson.

Narooma Prostate Cancer Support Group: Andrew Lawson, Mike Young, Julie Hartley, Dr Gundi Muller-Grotjan, Bernie Perrett and Geoff Broadfoot.

Key members of the Narooma Prostate Cancer Support Group: (from left) Narooma Rotary Club president Andrew Lawson, Mike Young, Julie Hartley, Dr Gundi Muller-Grotjan from Braveheart Healthcare, Bernie Perrett and Geoff Broadfoot, both from Narooma Men’s Shed. Photo: Supplied.

“Prostate cancer has directly affected key members of our group who would have benefitted enormously from such a group at the time.”

The NSW Far South Coast has a higher number of prostate cancer sufferers than the national average due to its age demographic, but until now the closest support groups have been at Ulladulla and Yass. The new group aims to support people from Batemans Bay to Eden.

Braveheart Healthcare’s Dr Gundi Muller-Grotjan says prostate cancer is quite common “but generally people don’t want to talk about it, yet it needs to be talked about”.

“A support group is a great way to get people to do that to help make them more aware,” she says. “Generally, after diagnosis and initial treatment there has been little follow up and support for patients, their partners and families. This group will go a long way to assist.”

Julie says the disease not only affects the individual, but also their family and friends.

“The group will also be beneficial for anyone who is going through this experience alone,” she says.

Julie says the main message her husband would want to give to any man right now would be to be careful. If there is any family history of prostate cancer, have regular check-ups.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

I live in merimbula but would be happy to attend and pass on my very positive experience with prostate cancer and the treatment and continued follow up 5 yrs later.

Daily Digest

Do you like to know what’s happening around your region? Every day the About Regional team packages up our most popular stories and sends them straight to your inbox for free. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.