Despite being just 45 and showing no symptoms, Andy Clarke was diagnosed with prostate cancer shortly after learning his father had the disease. He tells us how his wife and young sons reacted to the news and why being part of Men United is so important to him.
My dad, Derek, and I have always been close. We share similar interests, which includes going to watch our beloved Spurs together whenever we can get tickets. So when he was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in December 2010, I felt complete and utter disbelief. My whole life, dad had never been ill apart from the odd cold. You always think that your parents are infallible.
Dad was quite calm about the diagnosis even though the cancer had already spread to his bones and pelvis. He’s quite a laid-back family man, but inside beats the heart of a fighter who wouldn’t let his diagnosis defeat him. I couldn't give dad a kidney or a blood transfusion, but I felt like I needed to do something. So I decided to do the Great North Run later that autumn and raise money for Prostate Cancer UK.
Four months later, I was persuaded by my friends and family to go and see my doctor about my own prostate health. They were concerned I was at risk because both my father and grandfather had had prostate cancer. My doctor gave me an internal examination to check the surface of my prostate and did a PSA test, which showed a slightly raised result.
When they told me, I had no feelings at all – I don’t know whether it was shock or not
Initially he didn’t seem too concerned. But when I returned a month later to see if my PSA level had changed, the test results had jumped up and I was sent to the local hospital for a CT scan and biopsy. Despite being just 45 and having no symptoms whatsoever, it was confirmed that I had prostate cancer.
When they told me, I had no feelings at all – I don’t know whether it was shock or not. My wife was with me and you could tell that she was visibly upset, although she tried to hide it. We told my two sons, who were eight and 12 at the time, as soon as we got home. There were the inevitable tears and questions about whether or not I was going to die. We assured them as best we could that because the cancer had been caught early enough it could be treated and I wasn’t going to die.
My consultant talked through the various treatment options and I decided to try hormone therapy rather than surgery because I didn’t want to risk my young sons seeing me deal with the potential side effects, like incontinence. I also had radiotherapy and found the fatigue it caused really hard to deal with. It meant training for the Great North Run was very difficult. In the end I did manage to do it, just six weeks after finishing radiotherapy, and raised around £1,500.
I joined Men United because together we can help more men survive this devastating disease
Today, I count myself as one of the lucky ones who survived prostate cancer. I’ve been in remission for four-and-a-half years and I’m generally living the life I love that I had before my diagnosis. I've run the Great North Run twice more, both times for Prostate Cancer UK, but I've hung up my running shoes now and started volunteering with the charity.
If I can just make one person aware of the disease and its symptoms, they could make someone else aware and then you get a domino effect. One man dies every hour of prostate cancer in the UK, and it’s not just their lives that are torn apart – it’s their families and friends. That’s why I joined Men United, because together we can help more men survive this devastating disease.
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