Joe Sutherland is tackling cancer with a 130km walk on Fraser Island, to raise awareness of the need to test for prostate cancer.
Joe Sutherland is tackling cancer with a 130km walk on Fraser Island, to raise awareness of the need to test for prostate cancer. Valerie Horton

GET CHECKED: Joe will walk 130km on Fraser for awareness

ARMED with his faithful old Reebok sneakers, Joe Sutherland is going to extreme lengths, literally, to raise awareness for prostate cancer and early detection.

After receiving a shock diagnosis about six weeks ago, the 60-year-old Urangan resident plans to endure a 130km Movember awareness walk and fundraiser on the eastern side of Fraser Island on November 11 - which will be just weeks after undergoing a radical prostatectomy operation.

Mr Sutherland, who is still waiting for a certain surgery date, considers himself quite "worldly-wise", having spent over 30 years as an IT specialist for the WHO, UN, UNAIDS, and UNCCD in Europe and has kept fit by cycling about 20km a day.

"So how, in amongst all this living and learning in my life, did I actually miss out on the fact that the male of the species has a PSA level and that it's actually a very, very important indicator of male health, or otherwise, as I have found out," he said.

It was a only visit to the doctor for a small health matter that first revealed a high prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level in a routine blood test.

"How the heck did I get to 60 years of age and not know what my PSA was before now," Mr Sutherland said.

"It was a shock! I was completely ignorant of what my PSA was and I knew that there was a prostate test at some point in time, but you don't really think about, and that's half the battle.

"It's not something you do every month or every year and it's not something that men really talk about that much and that's why the awareness is so important."

Mr Sutherland said a mix of male pride and taboo surrounding the subject was putting men at risk of not finding and treating the deadly cancer in time, especially in indigenous communities.

He said it was time for the "better halves" to take charge and get them to the doctor.

"My brother had the operation five years ago and didn't say anything about it.

"He lives in Geneva and we get together occasionally but it just not something you sit down and chat about over a beer; but it's something that has to be talked about."

"From a male's perspective, unless it's a limb that hanging off and bleeding profusely then I'm not actually going to do anything about it.

"Whereas if my better half says, go get tested, then I'm going to go and do it. It's not a matter of preventing it, it's about discovery."

Mr Sutherland, who will be accompanied by a Fraser Island ranger, hopes to complete the walk within a week.

"I won't be alone on the first walk, I have a few volunteers who want to walk with me for part of the way, including one of the local rangers.

"It will only have been a few weeks since my prostatectomy and I was told that the only exercise I was allowed to do would be walking.

"So I thought why not make it a worthwhile walk and raise some essential awareness so that partners can make a difference to the ones they love."

Funds raised for the walk through Mr Sutherland's Go Fund Me page will go towards buying a number of home testing kits, which will be sent out to anyone that registers.

"Buy a home testing kit as a gift for your dad, brother, cousin, husband, whoever ... for Father's Day, his birthday, it's much better than a pair of dodgy socks at Christmas, I can assure you," Mr Sutherland said.

"I wish that I had been given a PSA Home Testing kit a few years ago, I might not now be facing invasive surgery and all its inherent risks."

Local businesses or individuals who want to sponsor Mr Sutherland can phone him on 0456 004 147.




  • The date of the walk may change depending on Joe's surgery date. It is expected to take a week to complete.
  • To find out more or to buy a kit, visit fraser-island. To donate, visit walk-the-walk-in-paradise.
  • Hervey Bay Prostate Cancer Support Group meet at the Hervey Bay RSL on the second Tuesday of the month, 1pm-3pm.