10 Jun 2013

When Paula Hilliard's dad, Mick was diagnosed with prostate cancer, his embarrassment over the disease made him reluctant to get treated. Paula tells us how this affected her and her family and inspired her to set up health talks for male colleagues.

Paula Hilliard Crop"My dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer two years ago when he was 61. He had problems peeing but kept putting off going to see a doctor because he was embarrassed.

"Eventually, when this was having an impact on his work, he did go
to the doctor and after a series of tests was diagnosed with prostate cancer. However, he found all the examinations and biopsies so embarrassing that this made him reluctant to have treatment.  It
was such a difficult time. He'd always been the man who looked after me, fixed things when they were broken, and I think he felt a bit of a failure. My granddad had had prostate cancer too and died of the disease so Dad saw a cancer diagnosis as a death sentence.

"Around this time I also discovered a couple of my former colleagues had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, hadn't done anything about it until too late and had both died. My daughters were only six and 16 at the time. They weren't ready to lose their granddad, I wasn't ready to lose my dad and my mum wasn't ready to lose her husband. We made him see past the embarrassment and get treated.

"He had seven weeks of radiotherapy, which I took him to every single day. Now two years later he's clear of the cancer and we value every second we have together.

"These days my dad talks freely about prostate cancer, makes light of it in fact.  He's taken early retirement and gained a new perspective on life. He does all he can to really enjoy the time he has. It can be difficult sometimes. When he gets poorly he can think: 'Is my cancer coming back?' But he's stronger and back to being the man I remember.

"Because of this I really wanted to help other men like my dad. I work at the train operating company First Capital Connect and have lots of male colleagues so I decided to a run a wellness campaign - not just on prostate cancer but diabetes and stroke prevention too.  The company jumped at the suggestion because it fits in really well with our corporate values of being supportive of one another.

"Our first trial took place at head office. Hundreds of men got involved and it was a huge success. Now these are taking place across the country and managers are actually requesting them. Through the wellness days, I started working with Prostate Cancer UK. Since then our Managing Director, Neal Lawson, has taken part in fundraising for the charity in their Nutcracker Suite and raised over £1,000. We held a coffee morning for this, put it on our website and even told our passengers about it. Neal has now opened some of our wellness days and prostate cancer is talked about openly.

"We want to keep this momentum up so we'll have a team of employee champions encouraging people here to do Movember. We're also promoting more wellness days with 16 planned for this year and we reckon over 1,200 people will potentially visit them. In my mind, if just one person listens that could help one more man see past his embarrassment and that could save his life. It could make all the difference."

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