Today is World Cancer Day, and we’re teaming up with Breast Cancer Now to celebrate those who give us emotional support during the hardest times.
This World Cancer Day, we’re working with Breast Cancer Now to share the story of Richard and Karen. During their marriage, they’ve both faced cancer. And although their experiences were different, their relationship was a huge source of strength for them both, as were the Prostate Cancer UK and Breast Cancer Now helplines.
Calls to our Specialist Nurses for emotional support are at an all time high during this pandemic. In the last year alone our helpline, webchat and text service has helped more than 15,000 people. Richard is someone who understands what one call can do.
“I’m 72 years of age, and I’m married to a lovely lady called Karen.” says Richard, “We have both been affected by cancer. Karen has had breast cancer twice, and I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010.
My initial reaction to my prostate cancer diagnosis was numbness, then a cold realisation. The one thing I do remember was that Karen was with me, and I turned around and said, ‘We’re one-all now.’
I think I just went into ‘automatic’ mode. I took things as they were and went into preparation for my treatment. I started with hormone treatment. I lost all my body hair, which was quite amusing, and I started having hot flushes. The main treatment to rid me of the cancer was radiotherapy. I had a high dosage implant in my prostate, and then I had 21 courses of radiotherapy. The treatment was a success and I’ve been in remission for the last five or six years.
I cannot express my gratitude for the support I got from Karen. She had been through cancer treatment herself, and I certainly had a lot of empathy with her when she was diagnosed for a second time. As a couple, that’s what's required: you support one another through traumas.
My advice to anyone going through breast cancer or prostate cancer right now is to use the internet to look for support, but never use Doctor Google to diagnose your own symptoms. Talk to the right people – they're out there.
After my treatment, I started to volunteer for Prostate Cancer UK. I started at football matches doing bucket rattling, then moved on to awareness stands in Tesco and other supermarkets. Three years ago, I was promoted to an awareness speaker for prostate cancer, and I’ve enjoyed that role immensely. It’s connected me to so many people out there.
Unfortunately, with Covid-19, it’s stopped that face-to-face dialogue. I’m waiting to do more online remote talks and for everything to be freed up again.”
We know that for many men, their partners can play an important role in encouraging GP visits, making treatment decisions and finding and understanding information about the disease too. A recent study we commissioned through YouGov showed that nearly four out of five (79%) of men in a relationship say their partner plays a role in their health*.
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years before Richard had prostate cancer, but he supported me.” says Karen, “When he was later diagnosed, our treatments differed greatly, but I think – psychologically – going through it together certainly helped both of us.
I noticed the treatment paths and the awareness of prostate and breast cancer are very different. I appreciate that men can get breast cancer as well, but I think there is an awful lot more awareness around it than prostate cancer.
My experience from 2001 to my second experience in 2018 also differed, though. This most recent time around, I found there was a lot more support and awareness. You don’t have to go far without finding support. I think when you start going on this journey, you have a lot of questions, and – though medical professionals can help – a lot of the time it’s more about psychological support.”
Have you been struggling during lockdown? Our Specialist Nurses are here for you. Read what others had to say about our helpline…
“I called regarding Covid and the impact it'll have on me as I have advanced prostate cancer. The nurse was fantastic, she reassured me and talked me through it. What she said made perfect sense. Fantastic.”
“I was unsure how to support my husband on a number of issues, but gaining a better understanding I know now it's about his anxiety more than anything. I had a lot explained to me, and was very reassured about my husband's situation. The help I received today has been wonderful.”
“The only word I can use is blessed. I am stunned by the level of skill, insight and kindness in the way I've been dealt with. It's helped me find a compass bearing when I've been feeling lost. I really want you to know it's not just practical or factual, you're making a huge difference in my life, and I'm sure a lot of others. I thank you profoundly for that.”
Men, we are with you.
*All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1040 male adults 50+. Fieldwork was undertaken between 7th - 11th December 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK male adults (aged 50+).