When I arrive at work every week day morning I consider myself a very lucky person. Not to get all sentimental on you in the first line of my first blog but I get to work with some incredibly inspiring people.
I’ve worked at Prostate Cancer UK for just over three years and I’ve been fortunate enough to hear so many moving stories from our supporters. I was privileged to be involved in the creation of six films of men across the country candidly talking about the impact of prostate cancer on their sex lives. I was blown away by the maturity and confidence of 18 year old Luke Cassells when speaking to him about losing his father to prostate cancer. And smiling when James’ told me that he didn't let having prostatitis affect his wedding day. But it got me thinking about how difficult it must be to talk about the impact of prostate cancer, which can be such an intimate and emotional part of your life.
Men can be notoriously cagey about talking about health issues, like a doctor putting a finger up the backside, difficulties getting an erection and problems peeing. Yet these men and countless others who volunteer for us talk openly about it with strength, courage and very often, humour. Not only were they happy to talk to me, they're willing to talk to groups of people who they’ve never met. They want to tell them how prostate cancer and prostate problems affected their lives and how important it is that men learn the need-to-know information. I know I would find it hard to do what they do. So how did they reach that point where they could stand up and talk to groups of strangers about very intimate details of their personal lives?
When I heard one of our speaker volunteers, Chris Eglinton, was coming into our London office to talk a group of new starters I jumped at the chance to have a quick word with him. I wanted to ask Chris how he’s able to do it, what drives him and what inspires him.
“I wanted to do it because I’d been through that journey, been unclear about what to do knowing I’d have to live with the consequences” he told me. “I know all of us volunteers doing talks are so keen to do the best we can for others.” Chris used to work at Unilever so when it came to carrying out talks he was used to doing presentations. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005 and following surgery, over the next four years thankfully made a full recovery.
In 2008 he decided to volunteer for Prostate Cancer UK and tell others about the risks of prostate cancer and the information they need to know. “I spoke to lots of contacts and groups I know, Lions, rotary clubs, golf clubs, business breakfasts; anywhere where there’d be men of the right age group.” I asked Chris, what impact he thought he was having when he gave his talks? “Well I recently carried out a talk at a village church to a room of about 25 to 30 people. I could see that one chap was getting a bit uncomfortable. I spoke to him afterwards in private and said to him, go and see your doctor. A few months later I was contacting the vicar (who organised the event) just to say happy Christmas and she replied to tell me that the man I’d spoken to had visited his doctor and been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was now awaiting treatment. It made my talk feel so much more worthwhile, that what I’d said had made a real difference.”
The difference Chris’s talk made to that one individual could be life-saving. And that is the root of why our speaker volunteers, whose own lives have been affected by prostate cancer, want to share their stories. It’s such a life-affirming way to get back at prostate cancer. And Chris’ story isn’t the only one. Construction firm Wates recently got in touch following a visit from a volunteer, and told us, “the unique thing that the volunteer brought to the talk was that he knew first-hand the affect it can have on your body and your life… As a company we would definitely recommend that other organisations look into booking these talks. They are a real eye opener and the information is priceless.”
We have volunteers throughout the UK giving talks to groups every day telling them what they need to know about prostate cancer. And we need more of you to join our team and give talks in your community because we’ve set ourselves some really big targets. Thanks to our partnerships with Deloitte and ScotMid we have committed to reach over 300,000 people in the UK through giving talks and holding information stands over the next three years. It’s a big goal, but we’re determined to help more men survive prostate cancer and enjoy a better quality of life. And achieving these big goals is what we've got to do.
So, not to get all Lord Kitchener on you, but we need you! Join Men United and be part of our team fighting prostate cancer. Use your voice and experience to help others know about their risk of prostate cancer before it might be too late. As Chris tells me, talking to others about prostate cancer can really rewarding. “It’s so great to have such nice feedback from people and emails from organisers thanking me. It’s really heart-warming and I get a real kick out of it. They can be so useful.”