In the 18 months since he was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, father-of-three Kevin Webber has raised more than £30k for us through sponsored running events. He describes how doing the epic, trans-Saharan Marathon de Sables last month kept him happily distracted from his prognosis, and why his wife is urging him to do it again next year.
People don’t like talking about anything below the waist, especially men. They’d rather ignore it, not go to the doctor and hope it goes away. But as I know, these things don’t go away. And if I hadn’t acted quickly, my prognosis with advanced prostate cancer would be even shorter.
Back in August 2014, I had three symptoms over a six-week period: getting up to pee a few too many times in the night, feeling like I was sitting on a golf ball all the time, and nothing coming out when I came having sex.
It took two weeks to get a doctor’s appointment and a week-and-a-half to get the PSA test results back, which showed how serious my prostate cancer was. At 49, with a wife and three children, I was given just two years to live.
Even if I could only manage a couple of miles’ running, it made me feel sweaty and alive
After my diagnosis, I was looking for a way to prove – to myself and others – that I could still do things. I ran a few marathons, did some longer races, and then my wife encouraged me to pursue my dream of the Marathon De Sables. The week-long 156-mile race across the Sahara is like Everest to a climber, it’s the best thing you can do as a runner.
It became something to look forward to at the end of a year of pretty much hell for me. There were days when I’d feel low but could forget it while I was training or buying some kit or improving my understanding of nutrition. All of it distracted me from the reality of what is sadly to come. Even if I could only manage a couple of miles’ running, it made me feel sweaty and alive.
Being on the start-line of the Marathon de Sables was such an achievement. I never thought I’d get there and didn’t really care what happened next. But then I switched my attention to just finishing.
It was 45 degrees, I’d drunk all my water and I couldn’t go on
Day one was tough, but I found myself helping able-bodied people to cross the finishing line and was probably an hour slower than I could have been. It was the same on the following days and by the fifth, I’d even given away my walking poles to a man with a twisted ankle.
But it was physically exhausting. One day I’d run about 20 miles up sand dunes and mountains and had no energy left. It was 45 degrees, I’d drunk all my water and I couldn’t go on. But I thought, if I don’t finish then the charity won’t be able to use me as an example for other men in bad situations with prostate cancer. So I kept pushing myself to go on.
Seeing the Prostate Cancer UK flag on my backpack, people would come up to me when I was running and share their family stories of prostate cancer. It was so emotional and several times we’d end up crying together.
I’m on abiraterone now and, with a fair wind, I hope to still have a couple of years left
When I finished the race, coming 566th out of 1,254 runners, I was worried I’d enter a real black hole. So shortly after swearing I’d never do it again, my wife and I agreed I should sign up for next year. She knows how healthy mentally it is for me and how running stops me becoming an unhappy person with cancer.
I’m on abiraterone now and, with a fair wind, I hope to still have a couple of years left. What I’m hoping, of course, is they’ll find some other drugs in a few years’ time that will keep me going even longer. But for now I’ve got to take each day as it comes and I believe next year is going to be a good year for me.
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