Emmerdale star Gemma Oaten nearly lost her dad, Dennis, to prostate cancer. As part of our Stand By Your Man campaign with ITV back in June, both Gemma and Dennis shared their story.
“I remember when it all started for us,” Gemma said. “I’d just got the life-changing role of Rachel Breckle in Emmerdale and we were celebrating on a family holiday. It was there we started noticing changes with my dad. He was becoming more lethargic, going to the toilet a lot through the night and not being able to empty his bladder properly. This wasn’t like him, he’d always seemed invincible to me. We since found out there was a lot of other things going on which he kept to himself and eventually it was my mum who had to say to him, ‘Dennis, there’s something going on, go to the doctors.’
He went to the doctors and that’s when we found out he had stage three aggressive prostate cancer. After this he decided to have surgery and luckily, now just over 12 months later, his PSA levels are normal and he’s alive and with us, so long may that continue!
We so nearly lost him. One thing I think about is if men don’t think about going to the doctors or they say I haven’t got the time, just think about your family and your kids, anyone close to you.”
For Dennis, the whole experience came as a massive shock.
“Now I realise just how lucky I am to be alive. I’ve always been a fit and healthy man, I never thought this could happen to me - I was indestructible. When the doctor told me I had prostate cancer it hit me like a sledgehammer. It just came from nowhere - a silent killer we don’t understand. A year on and I’ll never be the man I was, nothing like it. But I thank God for the medical care I received, it was absolutely fantastic. From the surgeons to the nurses, it was superb. They’ve bought me time and every day I have is another day to spend with my family.”
In June this year both Gemma and Dennis spoke to regional ITV news, while Gemma appeared on ITV’s Daybreak talking about their story, highlighting the importance women and families have in reaching men, telling men to not be embarrassed.
“For men it’s the last thing they want to do.” Gemma said. “But think about your family. For dad he’s now got his confidence back. It really knocks a man going through something like this but he’s come back fighting. Watching him speak so openly on ITV, I couldn’t be prouder of him.”