"It's not until you get cancer that you realise your mortality ... when you are on the verge of going down," Wayne "Buck" Shelford says. "Some people get diagnosed and within three or four weeks they are gone."
Shelford was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2007, but after six months of chemotherapy is now in remission. In the past few years, he's shed 24kg through Jenny Craig, running, cycling and swimming and is fit and healthy. He still coaches rugby at the North Shore club.
As well as doing a lot for his own health, he's doing something for other blokes. He's one of the faces of the Prostate Cancer Foundation's Blue September fundraising month, and is often called on as a motivational speaker about men's health issues.
Even though his own cancer was lymphoma, not prostate, he chose Blue September for a reason.
"It's a men's cause. It's the only thing for us," he says. "There aren't a lot of men advocates out there."
We've all heard the story. Men don't like going to the doctor. "It's an issue with whakama. It's staunchness - men have to be staunch - and going to the doctor is cheating.
"Men might not have a check-up for years, if ever. We need to try to get rid of that staunchness."
This from the man who famously played much of his second Test match for the All Blacks, against France, with a torn scrotum and one testicle hanging out.
At 55, his attitude has changed. Facing your mortality will do that, and he wants to get the message out to all men 40+. "Unless you are getting checked - just a general health check at your GP - and getting your PSA done, it catches up and can kill you."
PSA is a blood test that checks the levels of Prostate Specific Antigen.
"They check your PSA and, if your levels are climbing, they do the whole DRE - digital rectal examination. Sometimes the DRE is more conclusive than the PSA. I know of people whose PSA has been okay but they go 'na, something's wrong'. They got the DRE done and they've got it."
It's the "digital experience" that puts many men off. The other excuse is cost.
"They say they can't afford it - but going to the doctor is about $45, and that could be the same amount they spend on booze. If you're dead, your family's income is gone and they have lost their father. It's about educating people ... go to the doctor for your children, your mokopuna."
Shelford would love to change men's thinking, especially Maori and Polynesian, who are high risk.
The father of Eruera, 27, and Lia, 30, will be in Mt Wellington on Father's Day from midday to 2pm, for the Placemakers Undies 500 as part of Blue September, where he will be sharing his opinions about how men need to front up over their health.
John Beveridge, CEO of Placemakers, says the company's involvement with the Prostate Cancer Foundation has helped raise $750,000 over the past three years. This year they hope to crack the million mark.
"We wanted to do something for the men in the community, and it's really grown. The staff have got on board, too, and, on average, each staff member has raised $1000."
"They do a lot of fundraising in-store and at events like this because it's perceived as a men's shop," says Shelford. "It's good because these are the men - all the builders out on the worksites and the tradesmen - who are among those getting prostate cancer.
"They reckon they are too busy to go and get checked."
Beveridge says it all is about building awareness. That awareness has even helped the company's staff.
"Several have had the disease picked up, including one guy under 40," he says.
The company provides PSA screening at its seminars and conferences, and Shelford believes there's room for other employers to do PSA testing, too.
"Many of our big companies have nurses on site, and some do random drug tests, so why don't they test for other things, as well? The whole idea should be of these companies looking after their staff. It could be a gesture to say 'I value my staff I want them to be here'."
The CEO of the Prostate Cancer Foundation is Keith Beck.
The 61-year-old survivor of prostate cancer - diagnosed eight years ago - runs the foundation from his Dunedin home. Blue September has run for five years, and two-and-a-half years ago Beck gave up his "real job" in IT to concentrate totally on the foundation.
"Having people like Buck Shelford involved makes a big difference, he's passionate about men's health and is a role model, especially for communities we need to target more."
Other high-profile people involved include former All Black Stu Wilson, Mike Puru, Te Radar and chef Brett McGregor. A third of the money raised during Blue September goes to medical research for prostate and testicular cancer, the rest to education and pastoral care.
There is no funding from the Ministry of Health.
"All funding for this comes from the public," says Beck. "We put out around 30,000 pamphlets a year, and all our services are free."
The foundation matches survivors with similar people who call forsupport.
"A lot of men in their late 40s are ringing up now, they realise it's not just a disease that affects old people."
Shelford says being prepared is the key to sticking around.
"Part of that preparation is about being more proactive and going to the doctor," he says. "It's not just about cancer, it's heart, diabetes, circulation, obesity. We put ourselves under stress because we are living this lifestyle ... we are always in a hurry. We are stressed to the max and the more technical we become, it looks like the faster we die.
"You don't know what's around the corner, so it's about getting the regular check-ups, and also about looking for lumps."
He says men don't get told to do that like women do.
"Testicular cancer affects more young men than older men. So they should check themselves more often. It's about doing as much as you can to help yourself."
Former All Black Don McKay agrees. Shelford bumps into him out on the street in Takapuna and has a chat.
The 75-year-old, an ABs winger from 1961-1963, is also spreading the word about preventing prostatecancer.
"I got involved by getting prostate cancer seven years ago," he says. "I was given about a 5 per cent chance - it was very advanced but I was one of the lucky ones."
Every year he gives a speech at the Placemakers Golf Day in Mangawhai.
"I give them all a rumpty and charge them up to go get checked. It's well received, actually.
"They all say 'yeah, they will go and get the PSA or the digital test'. It's not just that, though, I tell them about getting their blood pressure checked, their heart, diabetes.
"I tell them if all of a sudden you die when you are 50 and your family are left on their own, where is the income going to come from?
"Guys, look in the mirror and think about how your kids will be without you."
For information on prostate and testicular cancer: 0800 4 PROSTATE or prostate.org.nz
Prostate cancer registrations
Breast cancer registrations
Source: Ministry of Health
FATHER'S DAY FUN
WHAT Placemakers Undie 500, family day featuring The Blue Streak
WHEN Sunday, September 2, midday-2pm
WHERE Placemakers Mt Wellington, 102 Lunn Ave
WHAT ELSE Placemakers is selling Swanndri undies for $25, $10 of which goes to the Prostate Cancer Foundation
DOING IT BY THE BOOK
Buck Shelford and Dr Grant Schofield, Professor of Public Health at AUT University, have written a book about men's health. "He knows the science of the body, whereas I had cancer, then lost some weight," says Shelford. "We've come together with this idea that men have to front up in a big way."
Buck Up, The Real Bloke's Guide to Getting Healthy and Living Longer (Penguin) is out on September 26.