What’s your experience of prostate cancer?
My connection with prostate cancer started in 2010. My wife was complaining about my snoring, so she made me an appointment with the doctor. I went to the doctor and whilst I sat in the reception waiting, 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 to do the test but she said 'Mr McKellar, the test only takes 10 minutes and we can do this now for you'. Little did I know that those 10 minutes were going to change the rest of my life.
Two weeks after, 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.
Prostate cancer knocked me down, it didn’t knock me out.
Where do you draw your strength from?
When I’ve done awareness talks with people, I’m often asked, 'where does your strength come from, to be able to do this talk in the first place?' For me, if one person listens and takes on board what I’m saying, then that gives me strength.
My message to black men is quite simple really. If you want to continue to be strong, confront your risk.
You become stronger by talking to people. Telling people that it’s important to get themselves checked is so important, and I hope they not only listen but share that information wider. Every day I draw strength from somebody else.
Why is it important to talk about your health?
Prostate cancer wasn’t a topic I even knew about, until I picked up that leaflet. And what’s even more ironic, is I found out later down the line, after my diagnosis, that my dad also had prostate cancer but he never said a word. When I tried to speak to my dad about it, he sort of brushed it off and said 'oh I had that about five years ago'.
For me, this is something which needs to be spoken about. Because if someone in your family has prostate cancer, unfortunately that means someone else is likely to get it too. If we don’t talk about it, someone in your family might not know the importance of why they need to get tested. I feel I have a responsibility to raise awareness to not only my family but other men.
Why are you supporting the Stronger Knowing More campaign?
Because it’s personal to me and I can get a message out there, particularly to Afro-Caribbean men, about their risk and why we need to raise awareness of this problem. Having a conversation with somebody else, about the reasons why being stronger and knowing more, is important.
I’m sad about any man having this problem – black, white or indifferent. I’m campaigning for all men.
What advice would you give to your 30 year old self?
My advice would be to talk, to share and help one another come to terms with anything that’s going on in your life. The information and knowledge you share with other people could help save a life without you even realising it.
What advice would you give to other black men?
My message to black men is quite simple really. If you want to continue to be strong, confront your risk. Become more knowledgeable, spread the word and protect yourself against prostate cancer.
(Photograph of Errol McKellar © Dennis Morris assisted by Bolade Banjo)