It was fellow Sky Sports presenter Bill Arthur's brush with prostate cancer that inspired Jeff Stelling to take up his multi-marathon march for Prostate Cancer UK. The rugby league-reporting stalwart tells us why he's proud to be joining his friend and a whole host of other rugby legends on day two of Jeff's March...
Moving house can be disruptive at the best of times, but Bill Arthur had no idea how life-changing a simple application for a mortgage back in 2011 would be for him and those closest to him.
"I was required to have a health check," he recalls. "One thing lead to another: blood test, biopsy, scans and then a diagnosis of prostate cancer, even though I had no symptoms at all."
At the time, Bill felt very lucky that his cancer had not spread beyond the prostate. Like many men in his position, Bill faced an array of treatment options and this is when he first came across Prostate Cancer UK.
"It was while I was sitting in the reception of the radiotherapy unit that I came across literature from Prostate Cancer UK," says Bill. "Although I’d been told a lot, I’m not sure I took it all in, so reading those publications was really helpful. Unlike some of the stuff on the internet this was clear and honest, not scary. There are no easy answers on prostate cancer but good information really helps."
After deciding to opt for hormone therapy and a short course of radiotherapy, Bill got the all clear. However, last year the cancer returned and it’s been a struggle to face up to the disease once again.
"In early 2015, I was told the cancer had come back and that was hard to take – not just for me but for those around me. I was angry and frustrated, especially given what I'd gone through in the previous three years. I felt as though I was back where I'd started."
A heart attack in September meant Bill had to abandon chemotherapy and is now back on three-monthly hormone injections – the only treatment option left open to him.
"It seems to be keeping the cancer under control at the moment," he says. "But it has its side effects, including lethargy and lack of drive, as well as leaving me feeling down at times. That can make me difficult to be around, when I tend to take out my anger and frustration on the people closest to me. And that hurts, too, because I know they just want to help and I feel guilty that I'm being so hard on them."
That support extends to Sky Sports, where Bill has worked for over 20 years. "My employer has been brilliant," he says, "making allowances for my treatment and for the times when I'm not feeling so great. And my work colleagues continue to be considerate and supportive – not just of me but of the prostate cancer cause.”
Which is why Bill is so delighted to be doing the second day of the Men United March, from York to Leeds, with several of his rugby league colleagues, including Brian Carney and Phil Clarke.
"I’m very excited to join Jeff and full of admiration for what he's taking on in his march to Wembley," he says. "I'm very proud to be associated with Prostate Cancer UK and seeing the Men United pin-badge being worn by prominent football managers and players, as well as so many people in the world of rugby league, is fantastic. My highlight has to be the sight of Kevin Sinfield and the entire Leeds Rhinos squad wearing them at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards."
Leeds Rhinos have yet to confirm their place on the march, but don't rule out an appearance from one or two of them at the last minute!
Sponsor Jeff Stelling’s Men United March now and help more men like Bill beat the most common cancer in men.