In the same week we uncovered GPs' shocking lack of knowledge about black men's increased risk, Michael Holding, former West Indies fast bowler, told cricket fans how prostate cancer has affected his family and called on black men to face their risk head on.
In a special event for us on Tuesday night, Michael Holding joined former England cricketer and Prostate Cancer UK ambassador Gladstone Small at The London Cinema Museum to watch West Indies cricket documentary, Fire in Babylon, and talk to fans of the sport.
The legendary West Indian fast bowler, who features strongly in the film, revealed how prostate cancer has affected him during our Facebook live broadcast last night.
"In January this year I lost my brother, Ralph, to prostate cancer – he was only 68," he said. "My dad also got prostate cancer in the later stages of his life. And I have a lot of friends that have prostate cancer, including my business partner in Jamaica.
"From when we found out Ralph had the disease to when he passed away was just 18 months, it was a very tough time for my family. To be honest I didn’t think it would take him, because at the point he was diagnosed, I got in touch with a very good doctor in the US [where Holding lives] who said he could be treated. But things just didn’t go well from that point."
Held ahead of the final test match between England and the West Indies tomorrow, the event aimed to draw attention to our Stronger Knowing More campaign and comes in the same week we revealed that half of UK GPs don’t know black men have an increased risk of prostate cancer. Holding is keen that more black men arm themselves with knowledge about the disease.
"I never knew about the statistic that one-in-four black men will get prostate cancer," said Michael. "It’s staggering. I try and tell my friends and people I come across how important it is to get to a doctor and get themselves checked. Some people don’t like the examination, some have a phobia about it. But it's not a difficult exercise. It's simple and people need to make sure that they get themselves checked as it can save lives."
Gladstone Small, whose dad died from prostate cancer, recruited Michael to take part in our special event before he knew about his personal connection.
"When I went to see him in the studio at Sky, he said straight away: ‘Gladdy, I’d love to help out’," said Gladstone. "It was only afterwards, outside the commentary box, that he mentioned his brother had passed away from prostate cancer earlier in the year."
Gladstone also talked about the shock of losing his dad to the disease. "I was back in Barbados, where my dad had retired, when I got called to go home as the old man was not too well. He was 91 years old, hadn’t been ill much in his life, and didn’t give much thought to what was wrong with him.
"When I got there, he was in a real state of distress. Forty-eight hours later, he passed away. He had kept this illness away from all of us, including my mum, for many years and was taking pills to suppress the pain. That was a bit of an eye opener.
"Since then, I got to know Prostate Cancer UK and the work that they do – particularly the Stronger Knowing More campaign, which is targeting black men who are much more at risk than others."
Speaking about how black men should deal with their increased risk, Gladstone said: "It’s about ownership. Men need to man up and take ownership of their health. This event is a great way to tell them about the one-in-four statistic. If we can use the power of sport to get them to hear the message and look after themselves, then that is amazing."
The two sporting greats debated the state of West Indies cricket and the final test tomorrow. Speaking about the West Indies’ chances, Michael said: "I would never be able to predict how the third test will go. The first was a bit disappointing to put it mildly.
"I didn’t expect the West Indies to bounce back as well as they did at Leeds and to win that test so well. Winning the second test is great but you have got to move on from that. One would hope even if the West Indies do not win that test match, they would show that they are building towards something."
Gladstone added: "It’s great for test match cricket and for West Indies cricket. Their performances over the years haven’t been to the same level of Mikey and his colleagues back in the 70s and 80s. But they are a young side. What they did at Leeds last week was a great effort, as was the style in which they won. Hopefully, the England guys will know that they are going to be in for a battle so it should be a good test match."