This ex-mechanic from London estimates he’s saved around 50 lives and potentially hundreds more. 

Errol McKellar for Stronger Knowing More - © Dennis Morris assisted by Bolade Banjo
13 Nov 2020

We’ve known how outstanding Errol is for years but recently the Queen found out and decided to give him an honour for his relentless work.

Errol was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010 and has been on a mission to let other men know about their risk since. We caught up with him after he found out the big news, and he had a message for men everywhere.

Born in Brent in North London in 1957, Errol McKellar's first 53 years revolved mainly around football, family and work as a mechanic in Hoxton. He's been a youth team coach and scout with Leyton Orient and several other London clubs for almost 30 years and worked with many future stars including the young David Beckham, Ashley Cole and Sol Campbell.

You may recognise his friendly face from campaigns including the BBC Lifeline Appeal, our Men United marches, and campaigns to understand and raise awareness of black men’s risk like Stronger Knowing More. He also makes appearances on the likes of BBC and Sky News, sharing his story so other men speak to their doctor and can ultimately get diagnosed early like he did.

In 2012 Errol was chosen to be one of the Olympic torchbearers in Hackney and in 2016 his volunteer work in the community was recognised by the Prime Minister when he was presented with a Points of Light Award.

Now Errol is getting some royal recognition for his selfless crusade, and he’s using his MBE to do what he does best. He’s calling for black men to take our risk-checker and consider taking part in a study to understand the genetic factors behind increased risk of prostate cancer.

 

On his prostate cancer diagnosis

"My wife was complaining about my snoring, so she made me an appointment with the doctor. I sat in the doctor’s reception waiting, and I picked up a leaflet from Prostate Cancer UK. I read about the PSA test and thought I should probably have it done. I spoke to the receptionist to book an appointment but she said: "the test only takes 10 minutes and we can do it now." Little did I know that those 10 minutes were going to change the rest of my life."

"Two weeks later, I got a call from my doctor who asked me to come back and do another blood test. I did the test, then a further two weeks after that I was asked to come in for a biopsy, followed by a scan. My doctor then sat me down and said my prostate was covered in cancer. I ran out of the room, went and sat in the car and I think the word 'cancer' hit me then. I just burst into tears. Fortunately my cancer was picked up early so now I’m determined to raise awareness of the disease."

"In February 2011 Errol had an operation to remove his prostate and went on to have three months of radiotherapy. He’s continually dealing with some of the serious side effects from his treatment, including bladder control and erectile dysfunction."

On giving discounts on car MOTs in return for men speaking to their doctor about prostate cancer.

"The credit has to go to my wife, Sharon for that one, because after feeling sorry for myself and feeling low and not knowing what to do next she turned around and made a statement that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. She said, ‘look, this cancer has knocked you down but hasn't knocked you out and you're going to go 12 rounds with this, but what I know you're going to do is take everybody with you’.

So, I said to my customers, “when was the last time you had your prostate checked? You brought your car in here for me to check because there's a problem. Do you know what's going on in your own inside? MOT yourself.” Men need to talk about it even if they don't want to."

 

On his MBE honour for outstanding achievement in the community

"It came as a complete shock. My wife got the email and immediately phoned me and told me to check my inbox. I’m terrible on computers and couldn’t get it up on my phone, so I left it until I got home. I was absolutely over the moon when I saw it. I felt pride, but it's not just about me, this honour is for all of us at Prostate Cancer UK. It’s on behalf of we, not me.

Over the last 10 years we’ve probably helped to save over 1000 lives. And long may it continue. One of the things that I am really proud of is my ‘Man of Men’ pin badge. Everywhere I go that comes with me and it's so great to see people wearing the badge everywhere."

On black men’s increased risk

"It's very important for all men to know the risk with prostate cancer. But especially Afro Caribbean men because they’re at higher risk. If you’re black and over 45, have a conversation with a doctor, especially if you have a family history of prostate cancer. Take the 30-second risk checker right now."

Thank you Errol!

 

Help us reach men at higher risk of prostate cancer

Because the pandemic has made it harder for men to access a GP, it’s likely that thousands more cases of prostate cancer have gone undetected. We’re asking for your help to find men at risk of prostate cancer.

CHECK YOUR RISK IN 30 SECONDS

We don’t understand enough about why some men, including black men, are at higher risk of prostate cancer. But you can help us find out if you're legible to take part in the PROFILE trial, which we're funding in partnership with Movember.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE PROFILE TRIAL
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