For those who know Dave Cattermole, they know him as a tireless and dedicated individual.
For those who know Dave Cattermole, they know him as a tireless and dedicated individual, with a strong sporting history and a successful business career. Dave is the founder of Blue Brothers - a respected and established charitable trust.
In March 2019, Dave had a vision to set up an exercise and camaraderie group to support men living with cancer. He set to work, and the Blue Brothers Movement was born.
Why is Dave so passionate to spread the word about Blue Brothers? Because he is one of them.
As a successful businessman, Dave has owned a painting business, completed his coach-building apprenticeship, risen through the ranks in hotel management and has held key roles in hospitality, marketing and account management.
Beyond his career, Dave is passionate about sport. He has been a significant figure within the New Zealand hockey arena, currently managing the Canterbury Premier Mens' representative team (and in the past, has managed the Mens’ Black Sticks Team, Junior Black Sticks as well as various Mens' and Womens’ Canterbury Hockey representative teams). He remains an ardent supporter of his local club side, HSOB-Burnside.
Dave is also a keen golfer, bowler, tramper and traveller, and he and his partner Gill enjoy keeping fit and getting out and about regularly.
In January 2015, Dave and Gill completed The Great Walk around Stewart Island, both in typical form and in good time. But by Easter, Dave no longer had the energy to get off the couch. Something didn’t feel quite right.
After many many tests, scans, and specialist visits, Dave was eventually diagnosed with a cancerous tumour on his kidney. The doctors moved swiftly and completed a roof-top surgery to remove the entire kidney, and subsequent scans revealed a small tumour on his remaining kidney, as well as two inflamed (and inoperable) lymph nodes in his chest.
For most people, this would have been an extremely tough journey. But in true Dave fashion, he committed to a strict health and fitness regime and adopted a steadfast mentality. His goal was not only to recover well from his operations, but to continue to live life well, despite his persistent cancer diagnosis.
This he did, and only six months after his initial diagnosis, he and Gill completed the 120km Australian Sunshine Coast Coastal Pathway. A testament to Dave’s strength and tenacity to not let cancer get in the way of living.
Ongoing treatment over the years has seen Dave endure two courses of radiation and a further procedure to address the tumour on his remaining kidney. Fortunately, the success of these procedures has seen a slowing down of the cancer growth and has kept the spread at bay.
And so today - almost eight years on from his first diagnosis - Dave acknowledges he still lives with cancer.
“It doesn’t stop me - in fact, I’m determined to face it head-on,” he said. “I prefer to say that I am living with cancer, rather than dying of it, or suffering from it,” he explained. “We’ve gone positive.”
Dave explained he's had the odd medical setback since his initial diagnosis, which has resulted in different updates at each oncologist visit.
“Things come and go, and when we go for scans, they look different every time,” he explained. “So, to be honest, I’m not quite sure where it’s at!”
One thing he was sure of, however, was that he wanted to use his experience to help others. He felt that if he was living with cancer, there'd be others out there who would be, and who might also wish to connect.
Inspired by a news story about an exercise group set up to support women living with breast cancer, Dave struck upon the idea of doing the same for men. And so in February 2019, he started the Blue Brothers Movement.
As his idea gathered momentum, Dave was recommended to reach out to personal-trainer and founder of MVP Training NZ Michelle Vann. Well known in the Canterbury fitness industry for her positive, empathetic and can-do approach, Dave asked Michelle if she could help him create a tailored exercise programme to keep his body moving on a regular basis. His goal was to share this programme with other men living with cancer.
Dave also connected with Christchurch’s Affinity Fitness owner Zane Hagaman, who offered to block out a space in his gym and allow group members to train every Tuesday mornings - at no charge whatsoever. Michelle was also happy to stay on and donate her time, adapting the classes each week to suit the physical abilities of those who could attend.
And slowly - but surely - Blue Brothers grew.
“It was not only about exercise and movement,” explained Dave. “Camaraderie was equally as important as exercise for our members.”
“And it’s also about mixing it up with people who understand what you’re going through - we often catch up outside of the gym for a coffee. It’s about being around so that people can talk to one another.”
Following on from the success of the Christchurch group, Dave connected with Gabrielle from Cancer Society North Canterbury and worked to establish groups across North Canterbury and Kaikoura.
All of these groups are run by locals who are committed to supporting group members in both camaraderie and exercise. Their goal is to provide a trusted space for men living with cancer to meet and connect, as well as offer the opportunity for regular movement and physical fitness.
Whilst it was hard for the groups to sustain momentum throughout covid restrictions and lockdowns, Dave persisted to keep the groups connected and moving via the magic of Zoom classes.
As a result of the persistent efforts from a dedicated team, the Blue Brothers Movement continued to flourish. They have since expanded to update their class offering, as well as create an amazing website which keeps members, family, and friends connected and informed: https://www.bluebrothers.org.nz/classes
There is no cost to attend the fitness classes, all which conclude with the crew heading for scones & coffee.
As Dave remains steadfast in his commitment to growing the membership, he is on a mission to spread the word of how Blue Brothers can help. He invites anyone interested in knowing more about the group to contact him directly.
“We live in a culture where men, in particular, find it hard to express their emotions and talk about what they are going through,” he said. “And we've worked hard to create these spaces where we can catch up, keep our bodies moving and yarn about what’s going on - there’s no judgment here,” reiterated Dave.
"Touch base for a chat, anytime."