SOME of the best health ambassadors are people with personal experience of the illness they are talking about.
Trevor Walker is no exception.
Frank, honest and with a dash of gallows humour, he talks to organisations around the UK about his fight with prostate cancer.
One week he could be addressing a group of GPs or medical students, the next a Rotary Club. The 71-year-old survivor has even braved a 300-strong Women’s Institute meeting to spread the message!
Prostate cancer affects only men and, in many cases, there are no outward signs of illness. A specific blood test is the only safeguard, though even that isn’t fool-proof.
Trevor’s wish is that all over-45s receive an annual test and tirelessly campaigns on behalf of Prostate Cancer UK.
“My mantra is ‘better tested than permanently rested’,” says the former building society manager, who was himself diagnosed 16 years ago.
“I’m an optimist by nature but felt the world come crashing down around me when the consultant told me he had found a cancerous growth.
“I remember struggling to take it in, which is why it is always good to have someone with you. My wife, Babs, was wonderful. Anyone who tells you they aren’t scared when they receive a diagnosis like that is lying.
“However, you have to make the best of things because life is for living at the end of the day.”
Trevor, who lives in Morgans Lane, Hayes End, says the forgotten victims are often loved ones who have to share the bad news and help their partners adjust to life-changing circumstances.
Two of the side effects of prostate cancer are incontinence and erectile problems, which can put further strain on a marriage.
“It can be tough,” said Trevor, ‘but the biggest danger for men is to pretend nothing is wrong and soldier on. That can be potentially fatal, so don’t be afraid to speak with your GP.”
Trevor says one of the commonest questions he is asked is where and what is the prostate? He takes a walnut from his bag to illustrate the average size and shape of the gland, whose job is to produce semen.
One in eight men will get prostate cancer and people are genetically predisposed.
If someone in your family has prostate cancer you are two-and-a-half times more likely to be affected and this rises to one in four among Afro-Caribbeans.
However, diet and exercise are seen as good preventative foundation stones.
“I am lucky. I got my life back and decided several years ago that I wanted to help other people through my experience, which is why I joined Prostate Cancer UK as a volunteer,” he said.
“It really helps to talk with someone who has been through a similar experience and realise t there is hope and life is worth living.”
Hillingdon Hospital has arranged the following talks about prostate cancer throughout June and July: June 16 - continence, plumbing and waterworks issues June 23 - Sexual dis-function and its effects on relationships June 30 - Fatigue, exercise and prostate cancer July 7 - Long-term side-effects after radiotherapy July 14 - Hormone therapy, diet and prostate cancer All the talks will be held at the Reg Hopkins Centre, Lansdowne House, St Peter’s Way, Harlington, Middlesex, UB3 5AB.
For booking and more information, ring Lorraine Barton on 01895 279169.
You can also speak to your GP or a specialist nurse at Prostate Cancer UK on 0800 074 8383. For details, go to prostatecanceruk.org Trevor is also happy to come and talk to any groups and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 07768 96612.