Veteran says men’s health struggles ‘like a dripping tap’
A FORMER soldier whose time in the army left him permanently disabled wants Fraser Coast men to take their health seriously.
Stix McGavin, a Craignish father-of-two and athletics coach, says Men's Health Week should serve as a reminder that men don't need to push through pain.
"It's all well and good to be the silverback gorilla, beat your chest and try to do everything," he said.
"Men have a 'slap some tape on it and it'll be fine' attitude because that's what they can do.
"Things like pushing through an injury can make it worse."
Mr McGavin, 30, suffered serious damage to his spine and legs throughout tours of Afghanistan and East Timor.
He has had "more surgeries than birthdays" and now lives with a battery pack implanted in his spine to stimulate his left leg, as well as pins in his legs.
Not one to dwell on what could have been, Mr McGavin concedes things could have turned out differently for him.
He put off seeking specialist help for his injuries which, he believes, ultimately made them worse.
"I fought and dug my heels in to live up to that picture of a soldier," Mr McGavin said.
"It's sort of like a cup under a dripping tap.
"It won't overflow instantly but it'll gradually get fuller until it does overflow and you've got an issue.
"Yes, it mightn't worry you now but later on down the track, it'll bite you in the bum."
Mr McGavin has risen to the challenges of his disability, competing twice at the Invictus Games and training young athletes of all abilities.
Still, he said if he had his time in the army over again, he would "work smarter, not harder".
"Throughout my deployment, I was very much of the opinion that as the leader, I should work the hardest," he said.
"I bit off more than I could chew and it's evident now with the number of surgeries I've had."
Mr McGavin said "fear of the unknown" often drove men to put off seeking help.
"The fear of the unknown is the ultimate fear," he said.
"If men see a specialist, they might be told it's worse than they think it is."
He said fear had played a factor in his health struggles.
"It was something I put off, especially my spinal surgery," Mr McGavin said.
"That scared me and still does to this day.
"Every time I'd go and get a scan, they'd find another issue and it'd be another kick in the guts.
"Especially when I was a young father, I was trying to be someone my kids can look up to."
Men's Health Week 2020 runs June 15-21.