After being diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, keen golfer David Hadley-Smith was blown away by the support of his family and friends at his local club during his recovery. So when he decided to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK on behalf of his close friend, who was dying from the disease, it seemed like the obvious choice to put on a golf day at the club and encourage other members to get tested, too.
At 56, David Hadley-Smith still felt healthy and active, and could be found regularly swinging his clubs as a long-time member at the local golf course. So he was surprised as anyone when he was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in January 2013.
Travelling to meetings around the country, he had noticed he always seemed to be bursting for a pee. He thought he might have a urinary infection and decided to get a check-up at his GP.
David’s doctor did two PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) tests over three months, then two biopsies and an MRI scan. The latter revealed David had prostate cancer.
"It was devastating," remembers David. "He was saying it but I wasn’t hearing anything. Then I thought: ‘Christ, I’ve had it’."
After a panicked search of the Internet – "it was the worst thing I could do" – David talked through his treatment options with a consultant and eventually decided to have surgery, successfully having his prostate and the cancer removed in February 2013.
They just kept on visiting, bringing me magazines and giving me such a lift
Throughout his ordeal, David’s friends and family all rallied round him, including his friends at his local golf club.
"After I had surgery, I was knackered from opening my front door," he says. "But they just kept on visiting, bringing me magazines and giving me such a lift."
When he'd recovered, David decided to hold a golf day to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK. Though it wasn't because of his own diagnosis, but on behalf of one of his friends, Rob, who had been living with prostate cancer for more than 10 years before it spread to his bones.
"It was a really emotional day," he says. "I wheeled Rob around in his wheelchair and there were great prizes and great fun. It was just a joy."
Rob got to watch his grandson tee-off on the day and the club raised £5,500 overall. Just two weeks later, Rob passed away.
I thought I was going to die and it makes you appreciate what you’ve got
"When it comes to friends, I don’t think you appreciate what you’ve got until you lose it," says David. "You think you’ve got loads of time, but I thought I was going to die and it makes you appreciate what you’ve got.
"Your life is yours so enjoy it while you can. That doesn’t mean going on a cruise every week, but going for a walk in the park or a round of golf with your mates – you need to make the most of it.”
Just by talking about his own experience, David has encouraged almost 40 members of his golf club to go for a checkup. A staggering 10 of them have since been diagnosed.
"I've made everyone I know aware that if it’s caught early, you have a better outlook," he says. "I’ve told both my sons to get tested when they're in their late forties, because they're at a higher risk and I’ve made everyone I know aware."
If it’s caught early, you can be treated well. I’ve gone from doom and gloom to feeling unbelievable
And his fundraising continues after starting a cycling club with more than 20 members, including a London-to-Paris ride last year.
"I think Prostate Cancer UK’s movement for men, Men United, is great," he says. "At the golf club, it’s brought people together who weren’t friends before.
"Watching my mate slowly die compared to me and what I was going through, you can see the difference. If it’s caught early, you can be treated well. Rob wasn’t, but I’ve gone from doom and gloom to feeling unbelievable."