Thanks to my mum working in medicine, I’ve always been on top of my health.
As a result, I’ve long made sure to have a full ‘MOT’ check-up every summer – and thankfully, for most of my adult life, I’ve been given a clean bill of health.
But little did I know that, in 2013, my GP had missed the abnormal results of my PSA blood test – which helps detect prostate cancer.
None the wiser, the following summer, I had another MOT and the results this time concerned my GP. I then went on to have a rectal examination, but doctors thought my PSA levels were raised due to the type of activities I did, such as cycling.
I was told that this type of physical activity may have irritated the prostate, so nothing was done.
That was until 2015, when I twisted my ankle at the gym and couldn’t work. During that time, I decided to have my MOT early – this time, with a different GP.
Six weeks later I was told that I had prostate cancer.
I was 49, and I didn’t know what the future held or how it would impact things like incontinence, or my sex life.
Initially, when I first heard the news of my diagnosis, I was bereft. I went into a corner in the surgery and cried, it was such a blow. My dad had died of the disease and my uncle had had it too.
I was only 49, and I didn’t know what the future held or how it would impact things like incontinence, or my sex life.
At the same time, I felt hopeful and optimistic that I would overcome the cancer. Everyone in my family was also very supportive and rallied around me when they heard the news.
In a way, I feel lucky that my cancer was caught so early, even though I had no symptoms, which meant I could still have treatment to cure it completely.
I decided to have surgery to remove the entire prostate and I had issues with leaking afterwards, as I feared.
Luckily, my amazing after-care team explained the exercises that I needed to do to help the muscles remember how to do their job again. It took me almost two years to get to a place of confidence, but I’m fine now and doing well.
As predicted, I also had some erectile dysfunction after my surgery, which made me feel frustrated, even angry at times, and envious of friends who would tell me of their most recent pleasures.
I felt cheated and sometimes gave up hope of finding that happy place again.
I was initially prescribed Viagra, but decided not to use it as I wanted my body to learn how to do things on its own. It’s an approach that took a while to help, but now all that frustration is behind me.
Since the moment I was diagnosed, my whole outlook on life has changed.
I started looking at everyday objects differently and wondered if I would ever see them again.
I rarely wear a coat in the winter now because I want to feel the cold air on my skin, reminding me that I’m still here.
I don’t take anything for granted any more, and for me it’s about grabbing life with both hands and spending as much time as possible with the people I love.
Currently, there’s no trace of the cancer, and I’m living with very little impact from the surgery. My most recent PSA reading was 0.1 and I was recently told that the hospital will refer me back to my GP for regular monitoring, which is good news.
The reality is, I’m one of the 1 in 4 Black men who will be diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer mainly affects men when they’re over 50, but Black men (or men who have a history of prostate cancer in the family like I did) need to watch out from the age of 45.
I never had any symptoms before I was diagnosed after my ankle injury, so the impact of prostate cancer isn’t usually felt and doesn’t usually start affecting you until it has already spread and is incurable.
That’s why being diagnosed early can be lifesaving for men.
I now know how crucial it is to understand your risks of prostate cancer. It’s why I’ve teamed up with Prostate Cancer UK to help to inform and educate – especially amongst other Black men. I use every opportunity that I get, and wear the Man of Men badge, which often sparks a conversation.
Now, I’m supporting the charity once again for their most recent campaign: ‘What on Earth is a prostate!?’
For this campaign, the charity conducted a survey on a number of widespread myths and misconceptions about prostate cancer and I was shocked to discover that, according to the survey, 78% of Black men don’t know that ethnicity influences the risk of prostate cancer.
The reality is, Black men are at double the risk of getting the disease compared to other men.
It also turns out that lots of men feel like they would wait for symptoms before they speak to their GP – apparently, 59% of men in the UK say that they don’t want to bother their GP unless they are in pain or have symptoms (of Black men surveyed, 52% said the same).
Others say they’re put off by the thought of a rectal exam, which you don’t even necessarily need these days to get a prostate cancer diagnosis. But honestly, it’s so quick and painless – it’s not as scary as you imagine, trust me.
This is something men just can’t afford to do – instead, they should book in a test or use Prostate Cancer UK’s 30 second risk checker.
I have three brothers and I’m always reminding them, and other Black men I know, about their risk, because it’s just so important to catch prostate cancer early. When you can still have all your treatment options on the table.
So don’t put it off, it could save your life. It saved mine.
Catching prostate cancer early saves lives. Check your risk today at prostatecanceruk.org/riskcheck
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