Nine years ago a good friend of ours, Simon, was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  To say it came as a shock is a huge understatement.  Simon and Denise had been our friends for over 20 years and were an inspiration to us.  They lived life to the full, always away at weekends enjoying the best that Britain has to offer and constantly having such a positive outlook on life.

After the diagnosis, the first thing they told us was that they were ok, they would be ok and they were ready to deal with it - such was their outlook on life. Their doctor mentioned that if ever Simon was given the chance to be part of a clinical trials,  he should take it, as they would be monitored so closely and be able to take part in the very forefront of ground-breaking medical advances. Fortunately Simon was offered that chance, and after completing some stringent tests, was entered into an experimental program at The Christie in Manchester. 

Simon lived with Prostate Cancer for 8 years.  He had regular tests to see if the cancer had spread beyond his prostate, received ongoing experimental treatments including several rounds of gruelling chemotherapy and superb care from the Christie. However – despite all this - Simon lost his fight last year and passed away peacefully with Denise by his side. 

I use the word “fight” with interest.  I recall Pete telling me about a conversation he had with Denise  about how much he admired their fighting spirit to keep battling and never give up; she had a different view. She said they didn’t see it as a fight, more that they had become friends with the cancer, and were all travelling on a journey together. They felt a fight brought out unnecessary anger, so they treated it more as a companion in their life; some days were good, some days were tough. On the good days they would go out and have fun; on the tough days, they would rest up and take it easy. 

Being friends through this was hard. We kept asking how they were but it felt a stupid question knowing they were sharing a life with such a cruel disease. We felt useless -  wanting to do something to help but couldn’t.  When we told them this,  they said that just wanting to stay friends,  to carry on as normal with them, and have the courage to ask them how they were, love was enough for them and they treasured those gestures.  Some friends and relatives had found it too difficult, they didn’t know what to say, took on the grief themselves and often just faded away. 

Denise said that in the end, he just got so tired and it was time for him to go. They were thankful for the many years and great journey they had together but that journey had come to an end. Typical of the couple, Simon’s funeral, whilst sad, was also a reminder of life, their life, and how good it could be.  

As time went on, I began to understand just how powerful the work of the Prostate Cancer Research Centre had been.  They spend each and every day researching into new ways to treat and hopefully eventually cure Prostate Cancer and Simon was a direct beneficiary of their work.  I know that their work prolonged Simons life considerably, increased his ability to carry on a normal life and allowed him and Denise to spend longer together than either could have  hoped for at the beginning of their journey. Two years ago, Pete and I decided to give something back.  We crazily entered the Isle of Wight Challenge, which was to circumnavigate all 106km of the Isle of Wight’s coastline in 24 hours, raising money for Prostate Cancer Research.  In the worst moments of the challenge, fatigued beyond description, with every step feeling like we were walking on broken glass, we reminded ourselves why we were doing this.  Raising money for a charity that was simply saving people’s lives.  We pressed on & thanks to the generosity of scores of friends, family and colleagues, we proudly handed over £4,000 to the charity.

Recently we have learned that another friend has been diagnosed with Prostate Cancer and is currently undergoing aggressive treatment.  Pete and I are hitting the trail again.  This time the 100km Wye Valley Challenge, again in aid of the Prostate Cancer Research Centre.  We want to continue to raise the profile of this cancer, recognize the great work the Prostate Cancer Research Centre do, support our friend and the thousands of others who are living with Prostate Cancer, and – if we finish – raise a glass in memory of Simon.

So, my final thoughts if you find yourself in a similar position -

  • Be normal.  If you know anyone who has cancer, or indeed any other condition, then  don’t shy away from them.  Feel free to ask them how they are, talk about normal stuff, talk about the cancer, talk about whatever’s on your mind, but talk to them, don’t hide away or ignore them because you don’t know what to say or don’t feel you should talk about it. 
  • Look after yourself.  If you have any unusual symptoms, get them checked out – early intervention is always best
  • Help others.  An unashamed plug here. The money you give will quite literally save lives, so please sponsor us and help other people like Simon.

Thank you.

You can help Andrew and Peter with sponsorship and support on their Wye Valley Challenge by following this link:

https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/peterandrewwyevalley