Get ready to March for Men

Participants in last year's March for Men at Stormont, with then mayor Councillor Deirdre Hargey
Participants in last year's March for Men at Stormont, with then mayor Councillor Deirdre Hargey
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Prostate Cancer UK this week launches its latest campaign to celebrate everything great about men and highlight the moments lost when a man dies every 45 minutes from prostate cancer. The Belfast March for Men will take place at the Stormont Estate on Sunday June 9 and will be a family-friendly event where amblers of a range of fitness levels can walk in solidarity to celebrate and pay tribute to the special men in their lives.

Stepping up to the challenge, the charity will be urging walkers to back their campaign by completing a 2km, 5km or 10km route around the park – raising funds needed for vital research into the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer, with the aim to save men’s lives.

Prostate Cancer UK campaigns for improvements in prostate cancer treatment and care in Northern Ireland, and is actively involved in driving forward the development of a new comprehensive cancer strategy.

The charity funds research, raises awareness and holds fundraising events like March for Men, supported by a network of local volunteers. The organisation also provides a specialist nurse service which is available to anyone who needs it across the UK.

Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling is also reprising his own March for Men, walking four marathons in four countries in four days from September 5-8, kicking off in Glasgow, before visiting Belfast on Friday, September 6 and then heading to Cardiff before a finale in London.

Stelling will be pounding the pavements across the major metropoles in a bid to raise over £1m, following the 25 walking marathons he has already completed in support of Prostate Cancer UK. He is inviting the Northern Irish public to pull on their walking boots to join him and support the charity in their quest to help stop prostate cancer being a killer.

“Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, with one man dying every 45 minutes from this disease. That’s unacceptable, and that’s why I’m walking again”, said Jeff, who regularly wears the Prostate Cancer UK Man of Men pin badge on Soccer Saturday where former Northern Ireland striker Iain Dowie is a regular pundit and reporter.

“It’s an indiscriminate disease, affecting men and their loved ones across the UK. I’ve walked alongside many of them and am proud to call some friends. Their reaction and positive outlook despite being dealt the toughest of hands is simply unbelievable. I’m marching for them – and everyone affected – in a bid to fund the research to change the game.

“That’s why I’m taking our walk across into Northern Ireland and all four home nations and would love the public to join me. I live in England and work in London but the wonderful work of Prostate Cancer UK stretches into Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, so I will be pounding the pavements in four historic cities – and it wouldn’t be a football march without popping in on some iconic football clubs along the way.”

Since 2016, more than 10,000 people have walked with Prostate Cancer UK and raised over £3.3million to support the charity’s vital work – but with the disease killing more people than breast cancer that quest is more urgent than ever and is driving a busy summer of activity.

Over 9,000 men are living with and after prostate cancer in Northern Ireland, emphasising the need to raise awareness and funds.

Prostate Cancer UK chief executive Angela Culhane said: “We stand with men and for men: when diagnosis isn’t good enough, to fund research breakthroughs to provide better treatments, to campaign for better care, and with direct help through our support services. The fight against prostate cancer, a disease that kills one man every 45 minutes, is a purpose worth uniting for, and we want to continue making strides to combat this disease. That’s why our March for Men walking programme is bigger and better than ever this year with 10 city marches in June, Jeff Stelling’s epic four-day adventure in September and supporters continuing to organise their own walks up and down the country.

“We are constantly inspired by the incredible men, women and children who come out to support us, each with their own story, personal motivation and challenges to conquer. We will be proud to walk side by side with them and together we can add to the real momentum building in the fight against this disease. The vital next step is to fund more ground-breaking research and work towards a screening programme, to catch prostate cancer early and save lives.”

‘Don’t put your head in the sand if you’re experiencing symptoms’

Mervyn Bryans, 64, from Belfast, pictured left, said: “I was having a general check-up six years ago and doctors found that my PSA (prostate specific antigen) was raised and this suggested I had a problem. I was surprised because I had had no symptoms but I was aware that my grandfather had always had a water works problem and so I could be at risk. After a biopsy my prostate cancer diagnosis was made. I had brachytherapy - a form of radiotherapy. But my PSA began to increase again. I then had treatment in Cambridge two years ago and a robotic radical prostatectomy was performed; this treatment was not available in Northern Ireland at the time but Prostate Cancer UK have since helped raise funds to buy a specialist da Vinci robot which is used for this procedure, so today it’s possible to have treatment here.

“It was traumatic battling this disease and it was difficult not just for me but also for my family. I was unsure where to go for support or what to ask.

“It can be hard even getting up in the morning after a diagnosis like this and everyone expects you to act like a man, to perform, to keep going without causing a fuss. But you either lie down and get run over or you get up and fight it.

“Prostate Cancer UK now has a hub here in Northern Ireland which is essentially run by volunteers. They have helped organise monthly meetings so that men with this illness could get together and talk. We have had many fundraising events and the third March for Men is another such important event. I understand that there are currently around 9000 men living with this form of cancer in Northern Ireland and 200 per year die of the disease.

“My message to other men is that they should not put their heads in the sand if they are experiencing symptoms. Early diagnosis means a much better prognosis. I honestly believe if I had not been diagnosed when I was I would not be here today.

“The embarrassment of being tested for prostate cancer is nothing compared to a funeral.

“I’ll be at the March for Men because I think it’s so important to raise awareness. Prostate Cancer UK have been really helpful to me on my journey.”

‘A quick examination increases your chances of recovery’

Raymond McKee, 57, from Newtownards, pictured right, said: “I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in May 2014. The only symptom I had was needing to get up during the night to go to the loo. After my cousin was diagnosed with the disease I was chatting to him and he encouraged me to go and get tested, so I did. It was a big shock to the system hearing that I had prostate cancer too but I consider myself one of the lucky ones because it was caught early, when it was at stage two. I only really confided in a few family members until I had surgery - a robotic assisted prostratectomy (which involves removal of the prostate).

“I had to travel to Cambridge for treatment because the surgery was not available in Northern Ireland. It was quite a long operation but luckily there were no complications.

“When I eventually got the all-clear I cried like a baby.

“I would like to encourage other men, as a father of four sons, to not be embarrassed about symptoms and to go and get checked out. An examination is really just ten seconds of feeling uncomfortable that can be life-saving - it was for me. If you are in any doubt and are over 50 go and ask your doctor and get tested.

Prostate Cancer UK is now very active supporting men in Northern Ireland. The March for Men is a great way to raise funds for the vital work they do in supporting men after diagnosis, during treatment and after. The more people we can encourage to come along the better. I want to be an ambassador for Prostate Cancer UK because awareness of this disease is so important.”

Prostate cancer: The signs and symptoms

Only men have a prostate gland. The prostate is usually the size and shape of a walnut and grows bigger as you get older. It sits underneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra – the tube men urinate and ejaculate through.

Its main job is to help make semen – the fluid that carries sperm.

Prostate cancer does not usually cause any symptoms until the cancer has grown large enough to put pressure on the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the penis (urethra).

Symptoms of prostate cancer can include: needing to pee more frequently, often during the night; needing to rush to the toilet; difficulty in starting to pee (hesitancy); straining or taking a long time while peeing; weak flow; feeling that your bladder has not emptied fully; blood in urine or blood in semen.

These symptoms do not always mean you have prostate cancer. Many men’s prostates get larger as they get older because of a non-cancerous condition called prostate enlargement.

More than 11,500 men die from prostate cancer in the UK each year, making this disease the third biggest cancer killer.

Prostate cancer is set to become the most commonly diagnosed cancer of all in the UK by 2030.

Men over 50, black men and men with a family history of prostate cancer all face a higher than average risk of the disease.

If you’re worried about your risk or are experiencing any symptoms, visit your doctor.

l To sign up for the Prostate Cancer UK March for Men at Stormont Estate, Belfast on June 9 visit prostatecancer.org.