NEWCASTLE grandfather Ian Campbell (64) tells the poignant and inspiring story of his journey through cancer and his work for the Ulster Cancer Foundation (UCF) to help raise awareness of Men’s Health Week on June 13-19th.
A semi-retired businessman, Ian was diagnosed with prostate cancer four years ago – just at the same time as his previous business went bankrupt and he lost his home.
The shocking news was a bolt from the blue for Ian, his wife Evie and his two grown-up children Sarah and Duncan, but he courageously battled his illness and, feeling lucky to be alive, he later took part in a gruelling 1,000 mile endurance cycle around Ireland.
With this traumatic period of his life behind him, Ian said he wanted to “give something back” and now spends part of his time selling delicious cupcakes, made by Evie and Sarah, to raise money for the UCF.
Ian said, “I went to my doctor for a general medical and a blood sample threw up a high reading of the protein PSA, which can be a sign of cancer. A biopsy confirmed I had prostate cancer. I had been getting treatment on and off for an enlarged prostate for maybe ten years. The problem had been getting worse but apart from that I hadn’t been feeling unwell.
“In the middle of all this my business failed and I ended up losing my home, which was devastating. But in a strange way the cancer was a bit of a distraction. It made me get my priorities right. Yes, we lost a lot, but I’m still around to enjoy my family and my life, and that’s what’s really important.
“I attended Belfast City Hospital for treatment which involved radiotherapy every day for seven weeks and left me very tired. I also had hormone treatment in tablet form for two years, which gave me hot flushes, and for about a month I had double vision. I felt as though I was sea-sick and I couldn’t drive or ride my bike.
“Now I feel good. It was a tough period for the family but I’m feeling very lucky to be alive. I’m a very positive, active person and I’m determined to enjoy my life. I get to spend quality time with my three grandchildren and the rest of my family. I love the fresh air and last year took part in a round-Ireland endurance cycle and managed 1,000 miles in five days, which gave me a fantastic sense of achievement.
“My illness also spurred me on to fundraise for UCF. I make cupcakes which I sell at the Decathlon store at Holywood Exchange in Belfast every weekend. That gives me a real feel-good feeling because I know what great work the charity does right across Northern Ireland and I’m proud to be able to help.
“Any man who is concerned at all about his health must forget any embarrassment he may feel and make sure he goes to the doctor as soon as possible. Most cancers are curable if they are caught early enough.”
Gerry McElwee, Head of Cancer Prevention at Ulster Cancer Foundation, said, “UCF sees Men’s Health Week as an opportunity to empower men to adopt lifestyles which can significantly reduce their risk of cancer.
“The latest figures show that in 2009, 1,964 men in Northern Ireland died of cancer. In 2008 there were 962 incidents of prostate cancer and in 2009, 205 deaths.
“Traditionally men are reluctant to talk about health issues or seek professional help. Men’s Health Week is all about making men more aware of preventable health problems, helping them recognise the warning signs and urging them to seek early detection and treatment.
“We also want to highlight the many free services we have as part of our ManAlive programme including a freephone helpline, one-to-one counselling, and supporting men as they make changes to nutrition, exercise and smoking behaviours.
“Our specially adapted Man Van goes out into rural communities in the Southern Trust area to make health checks and advice more accessible to local men. We bring our activities into the workplace too, for example we run workplace smoking cessation programmes for men and women, and operate PACE (Physical Activity and Cancer Engagement), a 12-week physical activity programme, and a 30 minute Male Quick Fit version, which will be targeted at businesses throughout the year.
“Our message to men is that it’s never too late to adopt small changes to your lifestyle – a healthy diet, increasing physical activity, moderating alcohol consumption, stopping smoking and taking care in the sun are all positive measures that can dramatically reduce your chances of developing cancer.“
Signs and symptoms of prostate cancer
Men with early prostate cancer are unlikely to have symptoms. If symptoms occur, they may include:
-Experiencing difficulty or pain when passing urine
-Passing urine more frequently, especially at night
-A feeling of not completely emptying your bladder
-Blood in your urine
Copies of a CD-Rom which can help men become aware of the signs and symptoms of prostate cancer is available by calling UCF’s freephone helpline – 0800 783 3339.
Men’s Health Events
UCF are holding a number of special Walk with Papa events on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 19thg, including at Castlewellan Forest Park and Gosford Park, Co Armagh. Get the whole family to turn up on the day for charity – family registration fee £10. Starting times vary so check www.ulstercancer.org for details.
The Man Van will be at: Lislea Community Hall, June 13, from 5.30pm; Annalong Pharmacy, June 17; Newry Agricultural Show, June 25; Armstrong Cup, Armagh, June 23-24, 6pm.
Mountain Bike Madness, Sunday, June 26th in the Mournes. Registration £25 plus participants must raise minimum of £175. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or tel: 9068 0765 for details.
UCF services include:
* 8Man Van health checks and advice
* PACE – Physical Activity and Cancer Engagement , 12 week programme for men
* Male Quick Fit -short 30 minute sessions
* Smoking cessation clinics
* Confidential Helpline
* Support Groups for patients and families
* Transport for hospital appointments
* Creative writing and art therapy sessions
* Health awareness sessions at local venues
* Schools/community/workplace programmes
* Family Support
For more information about Ulster Cancer Foundation log on to www.ulstercancer.org or call 9066 3281