Education is the key

Actor Danny John-Jules tells us why it’s important to talk more

What do you know about prostate cancer?

Well, the first person I heard talking about prostate cancer was, in fact, Benjamin Zephaniah. He’s a Rastafarian talking about stuff that Rastas don’t usually talk about. He kind of broke the stigma; he went into mainstream media and was reaching the black community. I think he’s definitely helped people to realise there’s a problem with black men not taking this disease seriously enough.

Why is it important to raise awareness of the increased risk of prostate cancer amongst black men?

Because hearing that black men are twice as likely to get prostate cancer compared to Caucasian men is a worrying statistic. A close friend of mine moved out to Kent and I hadn’t heard from him in a while. The next thing I heard was he was in hospital with prostate trouble and had the operation to remove it.

My friend was just one of those people who fell by the wayside because he didn’t take his prostate problems seriously enough.

Where do you draw your strength from?

As a performer, you’ve got to be mentally and physically strong. Drawing on your confidence also gives you strength and generally looking after yourself.

My friend was just one of those people who fell by the wayside because he didn’t take his prostate problems seriously enough.

Being at the Royal Opera House for my shoot with Dennis and getting on that stage, I really was in my element. I was in theatre a long time before television and when I get back on that stage, I feel comfort; I don’t have to think too much, I just go into autopilot.

How do you keep fit and healthy?

I was in a profession where I got a lot of exercise so I’ve tried to keep that up. I stretch before I go to bed and occasionally go for a run. I also do some weights and push-ups. But hey, I’m 56 now, so it’s different to when you’re 20, you’ve really got to push yourself to get up and do it.

Do you think there’s a reason black men don’t talk about prostate cancer?

Unfortunately, in our community, it’s a bit of a taboo when it comes to either touching yourself or other people touching you, including doctors. It’s a bit of a macho thing.

You know, the guy that’s self conscious about going to the doctor is going to be the loudest guy in the pub.

What advice would you give to other black men?

I’d tell them to visit the Prostate Cancer UK website or go and have a chat with your doctor, it’s no different to chatting to anyone else you know. And I would say, just remember that education is the key, you’re stronger knowing more.

(Photograph of Danny John-Jules © Dennis Morris assisted by Bolade Banjo)

 

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Don't let pride get in the way

British boxer David Haye wants black men to take action before it is too late

"The fight against prostate cancer is one that we can all win if we stand up to the facts and take action before it is too late. The problem is that not enough of us are talking about the disease."

Read David's story