By Bill Elliott
Cancer seems to be everywhere these days. Youâ€™ve either got it or you know someone who has it. Or, worse, knew someone who had it. Ten months ago I discovered the impish, little bugger was inside me. In my prostate.
Thereâ€™s nothing unique about this, of course â€“ 20,000 blokes are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year and each year 10,000 men die from its effects. These figures are rising and will rise even more when more men displaying symptoms (excessive peeing, urgent peeing, trouble peeing. Itâ€™s all about peeing really) go to more doctors and more doctors react as they should.
Even then if, like me, you rely on the NHS and not a medical scheme that comes with a wine list you may find yourself prescribed a particular treatment only to discover that your local Primary Care Trust chooses not to fund this procedure as it costs about Â£6.78 more than someone ripping into you with a scalpel and cutting out the prostate and quite possibly rendering you incontinent, impotent or both.
My PCT initially refused to fund the brachytherapy I was clinically prescribed. Brachy is the insertion of radioactive seeds directly into the prostate (in my case, 98 of them) and cleverly almost always sidesteps the incontinence/impotence thing. Also, it almost always kills off the cancer. On the whole, this is reassuring.
So I was forced into fighting for funding. In this I was enormously helped by many media colleagues but especially by the newspaper I scribble about golf for, The Observer, and one I donâ€™t, the Daily Mail. BBC, radio and television, also helped us publicise not just my case but the funding dilemma facing many other men across the United Kingdom, a postcode lottery of the most vicious sort. Until last month, Wales, for example, had a principality ban on brachytherapy.
But pivotal also to my battle was the Prostate Cancer Charity. Like, probably, you, Iâ€™d never heard of this dedicated band of men and women who are based in Hammersmith. But now scarcely a day goes by without me thanking someoneâ€™s god for their existence. They were enormously supportive providing not just media back-up and expert advice but a tremendously helpful, and wonderfully named, Tool Kit that answers so many questions about this cancer. Inevitably, it was my clever wife who first contacted them.
They also provide telephone access to specialist nurses to whom confused and frightened men â€“ and their partners – may turn for help, information and guidance. Their charge for this? Nothing. All this plus their endless campaigning to raise prostate cancer awareness and to improve treatment and funding for all men everywhere plus their funding of research is offered free of charge.
Naturally, I am chuffed that the Sports Journalists’ Association has chosen the Prostate Cancer Charity as this yearâ€™s nominated cause at our awards dinner on March 12.
As ever, it promises to be a terrific evening when egos are left at home and journalists gather together in an atmosphere of warmth and mutual respect. Well, okay perhaps not always, but at least it will be fun and we will raise some money for a very deserving charity. So please do consider buying some raffle tickets or just send a donation if you are opposed to this gentle type of gamble (there must be one of us somewhere who is opposed to gambling, I suppose).
Apart from helping a decent charity you may, if you are just a wee bit unlucky, be helping yourself sooner than youâ€™d prefer presently to contemplate.
First published Feb 26