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Riding on . . . Winston Turipa, of Mataura, is encouraging men to have regular blood tests to detect the early presence of prostate cancer after his own scare with the disease. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

As Blue September, the annual awareness and fundraising month for the Prostate Cancer Foundation, comes to a close, The Ensign reporter Sandy Eggleston talks to Winston Turipa about his experience with the disease and how important it is for men to have regular blood tests to detect the disease early.

Winston Turipa’s heart attack could be regarded as a blessing in disguise.

The Mataura man of Tuhoe descent spent time in hospital in 2017 after experiencing chest pains.

Mr Turipa said when he visited his doctor, Andrew Costello, to find the results of his blood tests after the heart attack, Dr Costello recommended he have another test to check his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels.

“It determined I had prostate cancer.

“I wouldn’t have found that out if I hadn’t had the heart attack, so, ironically, it was a good thing I had a heart attack,” Mr Turipa said.

He did not have any of the usual symptoms associated with the disease, which include difficulty passing urine.

He had to wait a year for treatment because he was on drugs to strengthen his heart.

“They couldn’t take me off them so they could treat my prostate cancer.”

It was not until a year later when he went back to the specialist to find out how to treat the disease that he realised the gravity of the situation.

“I didn’t think it was that serious.”

His prostate was removed in 2018.

He kept having regular blood tests and earlier this year the results once again pointed to the presence of cancer in his body.

“It was normal for about six months and then [the PSA level] started to climb again.”

The Southland community raised the money for Mr Turipa to have a PET scan, which revealed cancer in the lymph nodes in the pelvis.

He has since had radiation to treat the cancer.

His message to men was simple.

“I like men to be aware early detection is really important for your health.”

Once, prostate cancer was seen as an older man’s disease, Mr Turipa said.

“A lot of younger men are getting it now.”

In 2018, Mr Turipa rode his motorcycle in the Bikers in Blue ride to raise awareness.

He was happy to be contacted by any men who had been diagnosed with the disease and needed someone to talk to.