“Men don’t talk, and we need to talk,” says ex-England footballer on prostate cancer.
Retired England football keeper, Ray Clemence, was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005.
Both Ray and his son Stephen (a first team coach at Aston Villa), remember when he was first diagnosed with cancer and what happened next.
Stephen, how did you cope with your father’s prostate cancer diagnosis?
Stephen: It’s obviously a difficult period when you know your dad is going for checks and when you get that phone call to say there’s something not quite right, you just want to know that he’s ok and if there’s anything you can do for him.
As a family we try and be as positive as we can, and be there – not just for my dad, but for my mum as well, because it’s difficult for her too.
What was it like seeing your dad go through treatment?
Stephen: It’s never nice to see your dad in intensive care just after an operation, but he’s coped with it very well. He’s had three lots of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, quite a large operation at the start and dealt with a tumour on his brain. It’s not nice.
What we do as a family while he is having treatment is try and make sure that we can be there to support him through that, although it’s not always easy.
Does it make you more aware of your own risk?
(note – you’re two and a half times more likely to get prostate cancer if your father or brother has had it, compared to a man who has no relatives with prostate cancer)
Stephen: Yes. I am aware of the risk but I’m lucky to have medical people around me where I can get checked on a regular basis. After Dad’s diagnosis it is something that I tell my friends about. All the members of the family are aware of it as well.
Ray: Conversations like this are very important as it does pass down the chain. My father had it, although he didn’t die of it, but he did have it.
That doesn’t mean it’s something to worry about, but it is something you’ve got to be aware of. If anything is wrong then it can be sorted out before it’s gone too far.
Ray, how has the discussion around men’s health changed since you were Stephen’s age?
Ray: In my era, nobody spoke about it. Men don’t talk and we need to. It’s amazing when people realise that you’ve got it or you had it. They will come and talk to you then because they need to speak to somebody who has actually been there and knows.
Stephen: I think the charity Prostate Cancer UK is really helping to raise awareness, there’s a lot of high-profile celebrities doing a lot of great work and I think it is a subject now that is more talked about. I think the younger players in their 20s are still enjoying life – and rightly so – but I think there is an awareness once you get over 40, especially 50, that you have to get these things checked out.
What do you both think of Prostate Cancer UK funding research towards better ways to diagnose prostate cancer, that could hopefully form part of a national screening programme?
Stephen: At the moment there is a lot of great work being done, this being one of them, but the biggest thing is actually to make sure people do get checked out. We need to let people know that the earlier you get checked the more chance you have, and I think that’s the most important thing for me.
Ray: Absolutely, in 10 to 15 years, with the right investment, then they can really get on top of this.
If you’d like to support Prostate Cancer UK’s mission to stop prostate cancer being a killer visit ProstateCancerUK