As Julia Bradbury’s father celebrates becoming a grandfather to twin girls, he talks to his daughter about how lucky he is to be here, after being diagnosed with prostate cancer and beating the disease.
Prostate Cancer UK wants people to get walking with their mates this summer as part of its Men United campaign to keep friendships – and friends – alive. And the charity wants everyone to get started this Father’s Day!
Julia: Dad, How did you find out that you had prostate cancer?
At about the same time as my brother who lives in South Africa was being treated for a prostate condition I was planning to retire, and prompted by him decided to have a full medical M.O.T – I was male, well over 50 and had a close male relative with the disease.
Tell me what you did about it?
I had a physical examination and blood samples were taken. They revealed quite a high PSA count, highlighting the strong possibility of prostate cancer. Subsequent tests confirmed this, and after much consultation and deliberation I decided that surgery was the best option for me to remove the tumour.
This was carried out at Addenbrookes in Cambridge utilising the Da Vinci Robotic method. I count myself fortunate to have reacted in time and to have had access to skilled and dedicated medical care. Five years on I feel great, and what’s more, grateful. But with a man dying every hour in the UK from this disease, your help is urgently needed.
One in eight men will get this disease, and just £500 for Prostate Cancer UK can train two GPs to diagnose it early enough to help men like me to take the action that can literally save our lives.
What effects did you experience following surgery?
There are some really tricky and depressing side effects – incontinence and erectile issues - and it’s good to have someone to talk to. It’s not surprising that the specialist nurses at Prostate Cancer UK get around 1000 calls a month. It costs £25 to give a man a vital consultation where he can talk over his treatment options or problems - and that’s only possible thanks to the funds people like you raise for Prostate Cancer UK.
Who helped get you through the whole ordeal?
My wife Chrissi (and your mother!), family and friends were incredible – and I had support from Prostate Cancer UK nurses. It’s hard to get your head round a diagnosis - the treatments and side effects are bewildering.
But the nurses are amazing – and just £25 can give a man diagnosed with prostate cancer time to talk over options with one of Prostate Cancer UK’s Specialist Nurses. There is a terrible lack of Clinical Nurse Specialists in hospitals, so this service is crucial to men who can’t always get the information they need.
What do you like about walking?
Brought up as a country boy in the Peak District in the 1940s, walking was literally the only option available to get to school, to visit relatives, go shopping and all the playing about things that children do. It was only much later that I came to appreciate walking in terms of access to the countryside and nature as a whole.
How did you persuade me to get involved in walking?
Initially I dragged you out rather reluctantly for weekend walks but quite early on, your adventurous and independent spirit reflected itself in coming up with diversions and suggestions for climbing hills and exploring caves. This spirit of adventure never really left you and is reflected today in your television persona.
What’s good exercise and what are the health benefits?
Walking is the single most accessible all round health check - after all, humans are built to walk. There’s nothing much it doesn’t help you with, especially keeping the healthy weight that helps us fight disease and recover from illness. It releases natural painkillers, the fresh air lifts depression, you get a sense of wellbeing and accomplishment, you regain perspective. It’s for all ages and abilities. If you’re older, it’s exercise you can do – not just brilliant for bones because it’s weight-bearing, but also gets your heart and lungs doing their stuff.
What do you think of Prostate Cancer UK’s idea of a Dad’s Day Walk on Father’s Day?
I’m lucky, my prostate cancer was caught early and treated, but this disease kills 10,000 men in the UK each year – and 300,000 men are living with the disease here right now, many of them dads like me. One in every eight of us men will get it at some point. That’s why something just has to be done because prostate cancer won’t beat itself.
I adore being a Dad. We’re a close family, and you and Gina - my daughters - were devastated by my diagnosis. But then you rallied and really helped me cope with my prostate cancer treatment and its effects and I am one of the fortunate ones here today to tell my story. Doing a walk, however long or short, can and will help - and there is no better day to start than Father’s Day!!
Jane Spence at Prostate Cancer UK says: “If you’re lucky enough to have a dad you love, make time to walk with him this Father’s day, even if it’s just to the pub. And if he’s gone, then do a Dad’s Day Walk in his memory.
“Anyone who does a Dad’s Day Walk and gives a Dad’s Day Donation to Prostate Cancer UK will help smash this disease once and for all, so we can keep more of our dads alive. Families – gather yourselves together. Grandads, Grandmothers, Aunts, Uncles, Children, Grandchildren and Mums and Dads – plan and execute a little walk. Britain get walking!"