A lot of money has changed hands for footballer Ade (Adeola) Akinbiyi. He’s played in the premiership for Leicester and Crystal Palace and internationally for his parents’ native Nigeria. In January 2014, Ade, now 40 and working as a Sports Consultant, lost his father. He was devastated, and it wasn’t until later he found out he’d died of prostate cancer. His dad had kept it to himself. Ade talks about this huge shock, how it’s changed his life and how he feels about his own risk of prostate cancer. Ade is married, with three children and lives in Manchester.

17 Jul 2015

Ade Akinbiyi

“I first heard about prostate cancer about a year-and-a-half ago from Men United’s Errol McKellar, who I’ve know since I was 10. I grew up in Hackney and I used to play in a local youth football team called Senrab that’s produced lots of big name players. Errol helped out with that and he’d pick up kids from anywhere who needed a lift. He’s an amazing guy – everyone looked up to him and he was like a father figure to all of us.

“We stayed in touch and I often pop into his garage when I’m in London seeing my Mum. But I’d been a few times and he wasn’t there. Eventually I found out the reason was that he’d had prostate cancer.

“When I saw him, he told me all about the disease and he said he’s doing everything he can to raise awareness – telling guys who come into his garage about it, doing all sorts with Men United and Prostate Cancer UK.

“About two months after that chat with Errol I found out my Dad had died of prostate cancer. It was a huge shock because although I knew he was ill, I’d had no idea he had prostate cancer. He was in Nigeria at the time – he’d spend some time there each year, some time in the UK. I got a call to say he’d passed away, but it was only when I went out and saw a copy of the death certificate that I found out it was prostate cancer.

“The hospital out in Lagos was not the best for telling us things – I did wonder if the doctors hadn’t known what was wrong with him, but now I don’t think so. He’d been ill for quite a while, he must have had tests and just decided to keep it quiet. Knowing the older generation (he was 78) that’s what they do. And Dad was quite a strong character. If you‘d ask him how he was he’d just say yeah he was okay, no more. So I don’t know when he found out, what stage it was at or what treatment he had. He’d gone to all his appointments on his own.

“Through talking to Errol, I knew that if your father or brother has had prostate cancer then you have a higher risk yourself. And he told me that because I’m Black I already have a 1 in 4 chance of getting prostate cancer. So I have a pretty high risk. But I’ve done a lot of reading and now I’m aware of my risk and I’ve learned about the disease, it doesn’t bother me. Until a test says I have it, I’m not going to worry or assume it’s going to happen.

“It could be me, it could be one of my two brothers, it could be anyone. I’ll make sure I get checked regularly and that’ll give me a good chance to have treatment. I’m 40 now and I’m talking to the GP about getting tested. My older brother has as well. If there was a genetic test to tell me more about my risk, I would definitely have that, as long as it didn’t harm me. And it’s something I’d definitely want to tell my family about before I had it.

“I’ve got two boys aged 20 and 4 and a girl who’s 14. I’ve already told my older son about prostate cancer and the fact that it could affect him. And I’ll talk to my younger one when he reaches the right age, maybe in his mid-twenties. I just don’t think it’s something you can hide from them – you’ve got to be open and truthful. I was left wondering why my Dad didn’t tell me. I don’t want them to feel the same.

“I’m open about it generally – I talk to my friends about prostate cancer and health – maybe partly because I’m sporty and I like to exercise and stay healthy. But I think a great friendship is all about getting together and talking about things – whether it’s prostate cancer or another problem. And I think guys my age are starting to be aware and talk about it. We’re not as private as my Dad’s generation.

“However, there are still a lot of people who don’t know. That’s why I got involved with Prostate Cancer UK and Men United. I’ve been in football for years and while I’ve still got my name I want to use it to do what I can to help beat prostate cancer and let people know about it, especially Black men.

“I was with Prostate Cancer UK at a golf show recently as an ambassador. And I organized a barbecue at my church in Bowden to raise awareness and money. I raised around £1,000. I’m going to do a sky dive as well – I’ll do anything as long it can help the cause.

“I’m really proud to say I’m part of Men United and wear my Man of Men badge. It’s great that so many football managers are wearing it and promoting it. People spot mine and say: ‘What’s that, I’ve seen it on TV’ and they want it. It’s almost becoming a fashion thing, and that’s great because it starts people talking about it.” It could be me, it could be one of my two brothers, it could be anyone.

This article first appeared in the summer 2015 issue of Prostate cancer Insights - to subscribe to the magazine click here

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