Neither Laura Dear nor her dad, Paul, had been near a bicycle in decades. But after Paul was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, they both decided to take on our epic Football to Amsterdam bike ride on 9 June to help stop other families suffering the same fate. They talk to us about the impact the disease has had on each of them, and how they're setting aside their football team rivalry to ride together.
When I went to my GP, cancer was the last thing on my mind. I thought my symptoms were due to a urinary infection or something easily treated. I expected to live till 80 or 90 and be worrying about dementia, not be a fit 60-year-old suddenly faced with prostate cancer. But that’s the thing about cancer: it doesn’t have any boundaries.
When Laura told me she was signing up to do Football to Amsterdam 2017 to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK, I immediately knew I had to do it with her. I felt it was meant to be. Laura didn’t take to cycling as a child, but has recently gotten into it. We’re both big football fans – although of rival teams! She’s a Man United fan and I support Liverpool. But that’s what the ride is all about: setting rivalries aside and coming together to stop this awful disease.
Paul with daughter Laura as a child.
Football has always been a big thing in my life. I played for the same local team most of my adult life, and Laura and her brother Adam were influenced by my love of football – and especially Liverpool. But somehow Laura managed to defect to Man United, despite her old man’s allegiances. She had a bit of a crush on Ryan Giggs and had a poster of him with his shirt off in her bedroom, so I guess that was enough for her to choose the dark side!
I've supported Liverpool since 1965, when I was nine and my younger brother and I were drawn in by the excitement of the FA Cup final on our black-and-white TV. I ended up betting my pocket money on the team in grey and my brother put his on the team in white. Liverpool beat Leeds 2-1, I won the bet, and I’ve been a Red ever since.
Football to Amsterdam has been an excellent distraction. It’s really helped to have something to pour positive energy into
330,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year – imagine Anfield filled six times and those are the numbers we’re dealing with. I hope that by taking on this challenge with my daughter, and all the other football fans taking part, we can do our bit to raise awareness and money to ensure future generations of men and their families don’t go through the same thing as us.
Football to Amsterdam has been an excellent distraction. At first I was worried about raising the £1,000 sponsorship but everyone has been so generous and now I’m one of the top fundraisers! It’s really helped to have something to pour positive energy into. As for the physical recovery following chemotherapy, I’m still finding the cycling pretty tough. I’ve been out with Laura’s club which is knackering, but I’m slowly building up the miles. As we’re getting closer, I just can’t wait to do it alongside my daughter, who I’m so proud of. She’s my inspiration.
When my dad delivered the news that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, I was in shock. As a family, we’d already dealt with the disease first-hand as my grandad was delivered the same diagnosis just a few years before. But for dad, the cancer had spread and is more advanced. The hardest thing about it all is that it could have been caught earlier. We’re now aware of the hereditary risks and that if dad was screened after grandad’s diagnosis, it could’ve been a very different story.
I’ve always known my dad’s had a ‘just do it’ attitude in life, but I was a bit surprised when he was so keen to sign up for the ride just a few weeks after his diagnosis. He hasn’t been on a bike in 20 years! His only two-wheeled loves all have engines, so to get back on pedal power at all is a challenge – let alone 145 miles to another country.
We’ve made cycling jerseys to ride in, which match in every way except the football crest. Dad will be sporting the liver bird, while I have the red devil. But both of us will proudly wear Prostate Cancer UK’s ‘Man of Men’ logo.
Dad tried to bring me up supporting Liverpool. There’s a photo of me somewhere as a baby draped in a Liverpool scarf, which my dad always reminds me of. But one day, I brought home a football sticker book and for some reason picked the wrong reds. As I got older and started playing five-a-side, dad refused to buy me a United shirt and once compromised by buying me an Arsenal kit to play in!
If you’d asked me a year ago to get on a bike without an engine, I would have laughed at you
I’m incredibly proud of him and the resilience he’s shown. The chemo hit him a bit harder than he was expecting. But he’s held on to his positivity throughout and has done amazingly well to train and fundraise, despite the treatment.
The ride will be a challenge for me, too. If you’d asked me a year ago to get on a bike without an engine, I would have laughed at you. But after a lot of persuasion, one thing led to another: from mountain bike to road bike and then a pair of cleats. Before you know it, I’ve (almost) become a cyclist!
As well as training, we’ve also been doing lots of fundraising to hit our targets and we’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of support we’ve received from family and friends. To be honest with you, it’s really restored my faith in humanity. Dad has raised over £6,000 and I’ve just gone passed the £1,500 mark. It’s been a real family effort and now we’re just so excited for the big weekend to arrive. Dad says that I’m his inspiration, but I think his positive attitude and energy has inspired us all.