Walking football month is back. We look at the health benefits of the beautiful game with Rob, a prostate cancer nurse and the man with the safest hands in England.
Rob is a clinical nurse specialist who found out he had prostate cancer a few months ago. He spoke to us about how his expertise helped him calm his family's worries, and how walking football helped him feel himself again.
Rob, a prostate cancer clinical nurse specialist, first visited his GP in 2017 after a spell of difficulty when passing urine. He had a PSA test, which revealed a slightly elevated PSA level and was placed on active surveillance so he could be monitored over time. An MRI scan revealed prostatitis was the likely cause.
“My PSA then fluctuated but was fairly low,” Rob said. “I also had no symptoms, but I started to think something was wrong. I was treating patients with similar results to mine, some with localised and metastatic disease, so I was keen to get things checked out further just to be sure nothing had been missed.”
Rob avoided a biopsy at his initial consultation as he received an MRI scan, a new diagnostic technique being used by doctors to rule out men like Rob from biopsies which carry risks of infection and complications. A year later in early 2019 Rob had a second MRI as part of his active surveillance which showed the prostatitis had progressed and he now needed treatment.
I was treating patients with similar results to mine, some with localised and metastatic disease, so I was keen to get things checked out further just to be sure nothing had been missed.
That scan showed that Rob’s diagnosis had come at a vital time, as the cancer was close to breaking out of the prostate. He underwent a prostatectomy in June 2019 and will soon discover if the operation was a success with a follow-up PSA test.
"I was a cancer nurse but was made redundant. There was an opening as a prostate cancer nurse so I re-trained myself and I’ve loved it ever since. It’s quite challenging, with the numbers of men we see, but it’s really rewarding helping them with their diagnosis and decisions on treatment.
Being a prostate cancer nurse definitely helped when I received my diagnosis, but it didn’t at the same time, if that makes sense. I was always ahead of the game so didn’t need to worry about results meant. All my decisions were made in advance.” says Rob.
“The shock hits you later on but certainly my expertise really helped as I was able to help my family understand it. They were worried but I was able to support and answer their questions as I knew where it was going. I knew I should be fine, but I knew I just had to stand up and face the treatment.”
He said: “When I looked at the location of the cancer, there was only one option – surgery. I knew what was needed to be done; to meet the surgeons and work it all out.
“I’m ahead of where I thought I’d be at this stage. I’m due another PSA test and hopefully that will come back undetectable.”
Something else that is helping Rob through his prostate cancer treatment is his love for walking football.
After years of playing regular football, Rob discovered walking football in 2016 and his career in the sport progressed quickly, with the 55-year-old making his international bow just two years later in a friendly fixture against Italy at the AMEX Stadium.
Rob kept a clean sheet as England over 55s came out 2-0 winners, and his side would go on to become European champions the following year.
“Myself and a few of the local guys started playing walking football about three years ago and loved it,” he said.
"The difference with it is all levels can play. We all get loads out of it – it’s brilliant fitness. What’s really nice is that you can encourage people into the sport easily. There’s a lot of people who are good players but haven’t played for a while and can keep fit and healthy together. It’s competitive, but also very social.”
Rob’s involvement with walking football led him to supporting Prostate Cancer UK in September 2018 when he hosted his own tournament outside Southampton University Hospital.
He said: “Walking Football is really good for men affected by prostate cancer because the physical and the social side helps you recover. Being out and about, meeting people can help with the shock of treatment; a lot of men just want to feel ‘normal’ again and have people to support them. Walking Football Month is great because it raises awareness for the charity and for prostate cancer in general.”
What is walking football?
Walking football is a variant designed for people over 50. With no running involved, the game is played at a slower pace allowing people to play with a reduced threat of pain, discomfort or injury. Teams are five or six-a-side with minimum to no physical contact between players. It helps promote an active lifestyle, with many physical and mental health benefits.
Grab your old boots and get stuck into walking football month.