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Sunday, March 9, 2014
March is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and to mark it, Sam Gelder spoke to Chris Colley, who has recently been given the all-clear after an eight-month battle with the disease.
“I was a 58-year-old man crying my eyes out. I was emotionally, physically and mentally wrecked.”
Chris Colley’s life came crashing down in June of last year when he was told he had prostate cancer – after routine tests that began with a rare trip to the doctors to cure a chest infection.
Now, having been given the all-clear just four weeks ago, Chris, of Rothbury Avenue, Rainham, has spoken during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month about his illness and the lack of awareness surrounding the disease, which kills more than 10,000 men in the UK every year.
“It goes back to May last year,” explained Chris, who works as a volunteer driver.
“I had a chest infection. I tried whisky and brandy but nothing worked, so I went to the doctor. I’m not one who goes regularly – I probably hadn’t been since 2009.
“He asked me when the last time I’d had a blood test was. I couldn’t remember.”
Tests indicated high levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA) and Chris was sent to King George Hospital, Goodmayes, for a check.
“I still wasn’t too bothered about it all,” he said. “I play badminton and cycle and keep fit. I thought nothing of it.”
Chris’ story is typical of men in the UK, who according to NHS statistics are, on average, half as likely as women to visit their GP.
And as he sat in the waiting room of King George awaiting the results of his prostate check, he didn’t realise his life was about to change.
“When the doctor called me in he looked at me, then at the door, and said to me: ‘Have you come on your own?’ That’s when the alarm bells started ringing.”
Chris was told he had two cancerous cells in his prostate.
He said: “It knocks you for six. There is no history in my family of prostate or any cancer. I left the hospital and broke down. A stranger came up and cuddled me and I was balling my eyes out and told her: ‘I’ve got cancer’.
The statistics surrounding prostate cancer in the UK are alarming.
It is the most common form of cancer in men, with one dying every hour from the disease and 40,000 diagnosed every year (more than 100 a day).
One in eight men will get it at some stage in their life, and estimates show that by 2030, it will be the most common form of cancer.
Chris opted to have his prostate removed, but as the months passed, he was still waiting for his operation.
He would speak to his son Andy, 28, but it was a stranger in a pub who offered him words of comfort.
“He had beaten it eight years ago,” said Chris. “He told me not to worry and it would be fine.
“There should be a DVD with men who have been through it telling their stories.”
In early February, he was given the all-clear. “Cancer doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, it knows no boundaries,” he said. “All men should have a blood test every year. If you’re worried, go to the doctor.”