Living with Stage 4 Prostate Cancer, the good bits (as good as it get’s anyway)

I was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer, incurable and therefore effectively terminal unless there’s a life changing development, in May 2017.

I’ve written about all the bad bits of living with stage 4 but it’s important to avoid focussing on those as much as we can and to look at the positives.

A diagnosis such as the one I received made me completely reappraise my life. Was work really as important as it always had been? If I could reduce workloads what could I do with my time that would be better for my family, friends and other people?

I very quickly realised that spending more time with my then 4 year old Grandson was the most important thing and so I stopped working 3 afternoons per week so I could pick him up from school. I desperately wanted to build memories for him as I probably won’t see as much of his life as I expected too and we have an amazing relationship. That was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! We dote on each other.

This wasn’t easy and it ultimately led to some tensions but it was something I had to do so I did!

When Grandson number 2 came along in 2018 I was already trying to exit from the business that I co-owned and I achieved that in March 2019. I pick No. 2 up from nursery on Wednesdays and babysit on Fridays.

I love this time with the boys. It’s so special to me.

When I sold my business interest and further reduced my working hours it also gave me more time to spend with my amazing wife getting out and about with our Dog. Again, important time for both of us to spend together.

Radler as a puppy

The extra time on my hands meant I could also do more to help others which led to me meeting some amazing people and doing some amazing things.

The Maggie’s Centre in Manchester was a source of great comfort to my wife and I and visiting there resulted in me being asked to speak at one of their events about what Maggie’s meant to me. Little did I know that the event involved the marvellous and amazing Margo Cornish and meeting her would lead to all sorts of adventures and to meeting even more amazing people!

Margo collared me to be her wing man when she was looking for support for Maggie’s. You do their hearts she said and I’ll do their heads and we became a bit of a double act. I’d tell them my story and make them cry and she’d then say “give us yer money/support”.

Little did I know that Margo organised an annual fashion show. One year to raise money for The Teenage Cancer Trust and in alternate years for Maggie’s Manchester. She’s an amazing powerhouse of a lady. When she said “You’ll make a great model” I had no idea what she was on about but she meant it and I suddenly found myself doing 9 weeks of rehearsals at the Maggie’s Centre to be a Maggie’s Model in 2018, working with a group of people whose lives had been affected by cancer, as part of a catwalk team. Over 50 of us made up the numerous teams who would perform on the catwalk underneath Concorde at Manchester Aviation viewing park. Our team of course being the best, was asked to also perform at the Gala Ball in the evening (the other teams would of course not agree that we were the best but we were very privileged to perform at both events).

Margo also asked me to do a speech at the fashion show and the Gala Ball about what Maggie’s meant to us and also allowed me to use it as a platform to raise awareness of Prostate Cancer.

Being a model and doing speeches to over 1100 people was so far outside my comfort zone it was untrue but it ended up being one of the best days of mine and most of the models lives. We all made so many friends for life and were able to share our adversities and support each other as well as have a right laugh at rehearsals.

The fashion show was a real emotional roller coaster of a day. There were tears, tantrums, tiaras and amazing happy faces. Rick Astley performed live and then in the evening did a full band set which meant I got to meet him a few times and when I delivered my speeches he looked to be very affected and emotional but what a seriously wonderful man.

The most unlikely model
The men in the best catwalk team
The fabulous Rick Astley
Sue Nicklen delivering her passionate and emotional speech

As I’ve said many of the models have remained friends and will be friends for life. We all keep in touch regularly and often bump into each other when we are at The Christie for treatment and pop over to Maggie’s for a chat and a cup of tea.

There are too many to mention but I must mention two very special people. Sue Nicklen who has stage 4 breast cancer and also did speeches at both events, telling her amazing story of resilience in extremely difficult circumstances. We helped each other cope with the pressure of doing the speeches and she is a truly lovely lady albeit very poorly. The other lady is Helen Bacon who shared my interest in exercise. A triathlete, keen parkrunner and someone who helped at RDA (Riding for the Disabled) Helen was asked to make a film about the benefits of exercise for MacMillan and she enlisted my help. The idea was to take someone from Couch to 5K over 3 months and complete the 5k at Stretford parkrun. Gemma Ellis, another Maggie’s model became our victim and the three of us had the most amazing time, over 4 months in the end, including a recorded television appearance and then a live appearance on the BBC red sofa. The film is fabulous! Sadly Helen passed away last week and will be so very badly missed by her family, friends and everyone that knew her.

Filming for MacMillan
On the BBC red sofa
The MacMillan film about the benefits of exercise for those living with and beyond cancer

Margo enlisted my help in doing prostate cancer awareness talks for the Manchester Airport fire crews and they went well and in turn led to me meeting another amazing person, Kevin Webber.

I needed to talk to another runner who was living with stage 4 prostate cancer and hear about the impact it was having on their running lives and contacted Prostate Cancer UK who put me in touch with Kev. Kev had been diagnosed terminal in his late 40’s but was still doing amazing things as both an ambassador for PCUK and an adventurer including running the marathon des Sables (a multi day trek across the Sahara). Kev was a great help in making me realise life wasn’t over and I could still do loads. He encouraged me to use my running to raise awareness and funds and to do some work with PCUK. As a result I did even more amazing things:-

  • TV and radio appearances (live and recorded) telling my story and raising awareness of this insidious disease
  • Press and magazine articles raising awareness
  • Many awareness talks in running clubs, workplaces, masonic lodges etc. telling my story and helping others to not end up like me
  • Speeches at PCUK’s March for Men including starting the 2018 and 2019 events with my Grandson Ethan
Ethan and I starting the 2019 March for Men
  • My family were the faces of PCUK’s Xmas appeal 2018. That was fun, having Xmas in our house in August but the appeal raises a lot of money for PCUK
  • Running the London Marathon in 2018, despite the treatment having a massive impact on my running, hottest on record and raising £13k for PCUK
  • Running 970 miles in 2019 and raising £20k for PCUK. Why 970? Well that was the number of men that died of prostate cancer every month in the UK. Sadly that’s now increased to over 1,000
  • Delivering thank you speeches and collecting cheques from several PCUK supporters

Thanks Kev, see what you did?

Margo, being Margo decided that I should be the recipient of the Maggie’s media whore award! Thanks Margo, I think it was perfectly fair!

Not having to work as much freed me off to loads of other things such as being a model in a naked calendar, way outside my comfort zone but raised thousands for PCUK. I’ve spoken about Maggie’s at numerous fundraising events, always managing to raise awareness of prostate cancer.

There’s so much more but this is long enough already! I’ll never be thankful of having cancer but it has enabled me to do some amazing things that I would never have done otherwise. I think my story has two important messages:-

  1. If you are living with cancer please remember that you can often live a full and active life. I love Maggie’s mantra “think of yourself as living with cancer not of dying of cancer”.
  2. Don’t put off doing things today and regret it later should you have a life changing event like a cancer diagnosis. This was very much something that came out of getting to know Kev Webber and is very much something that he preaches.

That’s all for now. Hope you enjoyed reading it if you got this far.