It’s Father’s Day on Sunday and reporter MICHELLE BLADE talks to Den Bray, a prostate cancer survivor, about the work he does to educate dads about the killer disease
“Most men will die with prostate cancer rather than visit a doctor” – these are the stark words from prostate cancer survivor Den Bray.
Dad-of-two Den was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006 but that didn’t stop him trying to help others by setting up the first support group in the area especially for prostate cancer sufferers.
“We had our first meeting and thought if we get a couple of dozen people along – but 74 people turned up to CancerCare. Since then I’ve been involved in the group which holds awareness events regularly. We provide patients, partners and their carers with support, encouragement and friendship.
“The main symptoms of prostate cancer are back pain and water works problems. Also, if you have a family history of prostate problems or breast cancer you need to see your GP. As a man you are entitled to the prostate test when you get to 50 unless you have a family history then you can get it earlier. My advice would be ‘don’t be an ostrich, it won’t go away.”
Den was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006 two years after he started noticing problems with his waterworks.He said: “I had said to my GP I was having problems two years before but I thought the doctor knows best so I carried on. Two years later I went to the doctor’s again and he told me my prostate was enlarged. After tests, they said you’ve got cancer and it hits you, there is no doubt about that.
“I had my prostate removed in November 2006 which was quite a major operation. Although my waterworks are working properly the only other side effect is sexual function is done away with. However, I’d rather be here than have a bit of hanky panky.
“During my treatment I kept a diary and I said to the urology nurse, ‘is it any use’? She said it would be and that there was talk of setting up a patient-led prostate cancer support group and would I like to get involved.”
Den, 73, of Watery Lane, Lancaster,is married to Judith, 67, and has two children, Karen, 56, and Kevin, 43.
He has been volunteering with CancerCare since 1992, doing various handyman jobs and driving patients .
He said: “Volunteering at CancerCare isn’t just about shaking cans in Asda or Morrisons, there are hundreds of things you can do.
“It is quite rewarding and you feel you are actually doing something.I never expected to be on the other side of the fence, I thought ‘it won’t happen to me’.”
Ten years later, the support group is still helping and advising men who have had or are recovering from prostate cancer.
Den said: “We held an awareness testing event in Scotforth recently. Sixty-five people turned up and it was a donation of £10 to have the test done. Fifty-six people were clearand four people had a red traffic light warning, who needed to pay attention and go to their GP. We felt it was worthwhilebecause there were 8-10% positives.
“ There is a monthly meeting at Slynedales and we have speakers, not always clinical. We talk about the latest developments in prostate care.
“Since I had my operation, which left me with an incision from my naval to my pubic bone, the same surgery can now be performed by a surgeon operating a robot, which leaves just six small incisions.
“That’s how the treatment has come on over 10 years, I spent just over a week in hospital, but a man who had the treatment with the robots was in hospital for just three days.
“I hope I’m making a difference, I’ve got a good knowledge base but its important to get the right information out there.
“I’ve been discharged from the hospital but I have a test every six months to test the levels of a prostate hormone in my system. I feel fit and well but you have to keep active and have a positive outlook on life.”
Call Den Bray at The Bay Prostate Cancer Support Group0n 01524 35326 or 07707 105886.
here’s ways you can help the lancaster guardian cancercare counts campaign which aims to raise cash for cancercare and awareness of the charity
lSign up to one of CancerCare’s annual events
lOrganise your own event. CancerCare can provide you with all the materials you might need including collection tins or buckets, posters and sponsor forms. Email the fundraising team at email@example.com
lMake a donation. Text CCAR31 to 70070 with the amount you wish to donate – £1-£5 or £10 – or
donate at cancercare.org.uk/donate . Alternatively you can send a cheque made payable to CancerCare North Lancashire & South Lakeland
lJoin Friends of CancerCare. Pledge a monthly gift to CancerCare and from £5 you can help fund the free cancer support services for the rest of the year
lPlay the CancerCare Lottery
lTell CancerCare your views. What can they do to help teenagers in Lancaster who have been affected by cancer?
Contact them on 01524 381820, email firstname.lastname@example.org, send a message on Facebook at ‘CancerCareCharity’ or tweet to @CancerCarelocal.
The charity is particularly interested in hearing from young people, teachers and youth groups who would be interested in taking part in a workshop later this year which will help them shape the new Children and Young People service