After his shock diagnosis with prostate cancer in 2013, Phill was so grateful for the help he received from our Specialist Nurses that he signed up to march with Jeff Stelling last year and twice cycled to Amsterdam to raise money for us. As he prepares to do both – back-to-back – once again, he shares his thoughts on a roller coaster few years during a sleepless flight from Hong Kong.

9 Jun 2017

I'm writing this on a long flight from Hong Kong to Auckland, which is perhaps the first time after my retirement that I've had time to reflect on things (especially as I don't seem to be able to get to sleep!).

Nearly three years ago, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Without the surgery I had in October 2014, I may well have not been on this flight with my wife, Sue, and sons Adam and Lee.

Sponsor Jeff

Although that battle was won, it was by a small margin. My consultant told me that the cancer had escaped outside the prostate. And he, my family and the oncologist agreed that removal of the prostate, nerves and lymph nodes was the only realistic solution.

Like a footballer, I needed coaching. Prostate Cancer UK's nurses helped me with advice and put me in touch with other men in my position

At the time of diagnosis, Prostate Cancer UK was running a series of Bill Bailey adverts about Men United vs prostate cancer. Like a footballer, I needed coaching. The charity helped with medical advice from their Specialist Nurses and put me in touch with other men who had also been in my position.

Part of my recovery was regaining fitness. Two weeks after surgery, a conversation with a member of Prostate Cancer UK's staff – Sam – changed my life in another way.

In June 2013, about a year before my cancer diagnosis, I'd cycled from John o'Groats to Land's End with friends, raising money for cancer research. Having found out that amongst my hobbies were cycling, football and rugby, Sam tentatively suggested doing the London to Amsterdam cycle ride just seven months after my surgery.

Phill Coates as St Albans City FC mascot

Phill dressed as St Albans City FC's mascot, Sammy Sammy the Saint, at last year's March with Jeff

Because of my involvement in scouting and youth football, I'd recently been asked if I would work with St Albans City FC in the community. It seemed like it was meant to be: St Albans City FC vs prostate cancer in the London to Amsterdam bike ride.

Fast forward to the flight I'm on now, and I can look back on two epic bike rides and 100 miles of Jeff Stelling's 2016 March with St Albans City FC so far. Plus, the club has hugely supported the cause by helping fund raise and awareness amongst men.

To me, being part of a football club is being part of a team. And taking part in Prostate Cancer UK's London to Amsterdam ride and March for Men is being part of the Men United team, part of the camaraderie, like a supporter on the terraces. It's part of life. My most important team, though, is my family, Sue, Adam and Lee, who have supported me all the way.

Phill with Les Ferdinand last year

This month, by way of thanking the charity, I'm starting with a 75-mile walk with Jeff Stelling from the unlucky Exeter City to the marvellous Forest Green Rovers. Then I set off cycling to Amsterdam as part of the St Albans City FC team of 15 riders, including two ex-England internationals. Before finishing with another 75-mile walk with Jeff from Harrogate to Newcastle.

All the team are so looking forward to the ride and I'm looking forward to helping many more men, like me, beat prostate cancer through raising awareness of this horrible disease.

Sponsor Jeff
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