Peter’s story – Positive ageing (3 minute video)

2020 QLD Senior Australian of the Year Peter Dornan discusses his experience with prostate cancer and how he is pushing the limits of what it means to age well.


- Morning, ladies. 

- Hi. 

- How are we today? 

- Good. 

- How we going there? My name is Peter Dornan. I'm a physiotherapist. I'm extremely happy to be 80, to be alive and be here. I'd say I'm in complete denial of ageing. I just get up and do my life as if it was the same as yesterday and the day before. I walked the Kokoda Trail in 1983, at 40 years old. We started at Kokoda, where it was 90 degrees humidity. And within two hours of walking with a 25 kilogram backpack, I was absolutely exhausted and went behind a rock, and I cried because I said, "I'm never going to make this." Some little power inside says, "You can do this. You have to prove something to yourself." And so one step after the other, I just kept on going and going. After 10 days, I did the trail. And that's the first time I really learned I had a power inside me to do this. It gave me some idea that I could get more from myself if I wanted it. Ayers Rock and some Australian trips. And here's Kokoda Track in 1983. That was the one that really changed my whole life, that one there. The challenge is in the journey. And the whole thing about mountain climbing is it's not just a journey to the top, it's a journey within. It gets rid of veneers and layers, until finally you find a core deep below, and you say, "This is the part that can beat the world." At 52, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It just gave me a terrific shock because I'd done everything what I thought was right to prevent heart attacks and cancer. I accepted surgery, but then all of a sudden the side effects took over my life. I couldn't work, I couldn't exercise, couldn't make love, could do nothing with my life. In the early stages there was a lot of ideation about suicide and I was very serious about killing myself. And then that little voice inside again says, "You can get through this. There are ways out of it. There has to be." It was a resilience that kept me going and that's what led me to put an ad in the paper. After about a year said, "Is there anyone else out there who's going through what I'm going through?" And so 70 men and their partners turned up at the first meeting we had. And over the next 20 years, we got specialists to talk about every aspect of prostate cancer. In the end we had about 1,000 members. It was the biggest support group of any sort in Australia, probably the world, that then led to change everywhere. And we started up what's called the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, which is still the peak consumer body for prostate cancer. There is always a way out. One of the purposes of life is simply to survive. And the way you survive is by struggle. If you want to keep on living to get the most out of it, you'll struggle, you'll work hard, you'll exercise, you'll keep on challenging yourself. Everybody has that little voice inside saying, "I can do this." So if you're stuck in a corner somewhere, search for that door, just one door for a start. I think it's so easy to get caught up when you age with all the things that can go wrong. Grasp what you have and run with it. I mean, you've only got one life. It's not a rehearsal. It's fair dinkum. And so you get up in the morning, think, "Wow, I'm great. I'm up in the morning. I haven't got too much wrong with me at all today. I'll go to work and I'll make a difference to someone's life and celebrate the fact that I am alive and that I can keep on doing it for as long as I can." There's naught I would do differently. Yeah. Thank you. 

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