When Marlene Graham joked with her ageing father about his sore hip, neither of them had any idea it was the onset of aggressive prostate cancer that would ultimately claim his life just a few months later. She recalls how she went into denial at the time, the customary humour with which her Dad confronted death, and the remarkable events that led her to work for Prostate Cancer UK more than a decade later.
Rewind to Christmas Eve 2004 when I was back home visiting my parents in Larkhall. A few alcoholic beverages had been consumed when my Dad decided to take their dog, Molly, out for her last toilet trip of the night.
When Dad returned limping, we all had a laugh about the fact he’d clearly had one too many as he’d slipped on some ice and hurt his hip. I remember making a joke about how he had to be more careful at his age as he was no spring chicken at 62.
A few weeks passed and the pain in his hip hadn't got any better. In fact, it was worse. Reluctantly, just like so many Scottish men, he went along to his GP.
During a routine blood test, it was discovered that his PSA (prostate specific androgen) level was extremely high. He was told that not only did he have prostate cancer, but it was a very aggressive form which had also spread to his bones.
As I burst through the door, he turned to me and whispered: “What’s the rush, I’m no dead yet”
I lived in Berwick-upon-Tweed at the time and although I visited once a week, I probably could (and should) have gone home more. In hindsight, I think I stayed away to pretend it wasn’t happening.
On the Friday of the May bank holiday weekend, I was packing to visit a friend when I got ‘The Call’ from my Mum. The hospital had advised that my Dad didn’t have long left.
I somehow managed to drive from Berwick upon Tweed to Wishaw General Hospital, with a friend there for support. I remember abandoning the car outside the main entrance, leaving the driver’s door wide open and racing up to my Dad’s hospital room.
As I burst through the door, red faced and out of breath, he turned to me and whispered: "What’s the rush, I’m no dead yet".
Always the joker, he loved to make everyone laugh.
I love the fact I'm helping to make a difference to the lives of others affected by prostate cancer
Later that evening, as more family members gathered, my brother Stephen and I were bickering about the smell in the room and trying to find the best place to put the fan. My Dad piped up: "Who’d have thought I’d be lying here on my death bed and you’d all be arguing about the smell of my shite". I still laugh about it to this day.
Soon afterwards, he slipped into a deep sleep and then died on Monday 2 May 2005 – just 10 weeks after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Fast forward 11 years to April 2016. I was dreading going back to my hated call centre job after maternity leave. Quite by chance, or perhaps fate, I found an advert for the post of fundraising co-ordinator for Scotland at Prostate Cancer UK.
Over the years I’d raised thousands of pounds for various charities, but I almost didn’t apply for the job as I didn’t have the third sector experience required.
Thankfully, I did and two years later, love the fact I'm helping to make a difference to the lives of others affected by prostate cancer.
Marlene's Mum and Dad celebrating a family birthday.