A Prostate Cancer Awareness Month ribbon is displayed on a TV behind a table with a tea set.

Charity Begins At Home

Here in the UK, the charity sector plays a vital role in cancer care and support providing many services that our National Health Service doesn’t. As you can imagine, our charity sector has been decimated by COVID-19 due to the vast bulk of fundraising activities having to be put on hold. Races like the London Marathon and The Great North run raise millions for charities and none of these events could go ahead so our charities now face a serious funding gap.

Reduced funding means treatment developments slow

Our charities are under great pressure and having to substantially reduce their workforces which in turn means their services are being curtailed.

This is particularly devastating as far as cancer research is concerned because this is mainly funded by grants from cancer research charities. A massive reduction in funding from events and donations means developments of new drugs will have to slow down as the cancer research charities cut back their spending.

Crossing paths with Prostate Cancer UK

I have been involved with charity fundraising for many years, mainly supporting a charity that helps underprivileged children. When I was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer in May 2017 it took me many months to come to terms with that diagnosis but in late 2017 I made contact with the leading prostate cancer charity, Prostate Cancer UK and that led to me becoming involved as an ambassador for them.

An organization that supports us

PCUK is particularly good at raising awareness by getting celebrities involved and two, in particular, had a massive impact, Stephen Fry the actor, and Bill Turnbull a national newsreader. When they told their stories it resulted in a massive upsurge of men asking for PSA tests which is vital as we don’t screen for prostate cancer in the UK. It’s known as the Turnbull/Fry effect.

PCUK provides really valuable help ranging from information downloadable from their website to a team of specialist nurses available on a Freephone number and, most importantly funding vital research such as the development of a robust and accurate screening test to replace the PSA test. From a selfish viewpoint, I want that test so that my son doesn’t have to go through the same as me and I also want new life-saving drugs to be developed to extend my life.

Advocacy work is done by volunteers like me and you

Lots of the charities work is done by volunteers like me. Across the UK we have a team of awareness speakers who go into workplaces, clubs, and associations and raise awareness. In 2018 I delivered talks and speeches at events that resulted in me speaking to over 2600 people.

My family was the face of the 2018 Christmas appeal that resulted in massive fundraising. In fact, in 2019 the appeal raised £1.2m. It was bizarre filming a family Christmas in our home in August but it did mean that we had two Christmas’s that year.

Talks that save lives

Pre COVID I would usually deliver 2-3 awareness talks every month but since COVID I’ve only managed one using Zoom. These talks are absolutely vital. Men don’t know that prostate cancer isn’t screened for but, even more importantly, they don’t know that many men diagnosed have no symptoms and that they have to ask for a PSA test in order to have any chance of being caught early. The talks save lives!

I’m not a shy and retiring person and am comfortable doing press and media work. This has resulted in me being interviewed, both live and recorded, on National and local TV and radio to represent the charity and raise awareness by telling my story.

"From ultra-marathon to terminally ill"

The headline of my story was “went from training for an ultra-marathon to terminally ill in 36 hours”. It’s quite a headline and the media loved it. That’s the glamour side but I’ve also stood in a supermarket foyer grabbing people to tell them my story and urge them to get tested.

All this costs money and in 2018 I’d qualified to run the London marathon before I was diagnosed so I decided to go ahead despite treatment making running really tough. I raised £13,000. In 2019 I decided to try to run 970 miles in the year, 1 mile for every man that dies every month in the UK. I raised over £20,000 so charity really did begin at home.

However, the work of all our charities is under massive threat from COVID. This is devastating!

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