Could a small step for fourteen experts become a giant leap for Men United?

I watched the new Star Wars trailer the other day and it got me thinking that science fiction is getting ever closer to reality. Maybe not Wookies or lightsabers (much to every little boy’s – or even grown man’s – disappointment). But back when Star Wars was first released who could have imagined that today NASA would be getting ready to send people to Mars in the next 15 years or so? Continue reading

Eastenders, Stan Carter, and the choices we make

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost, The Road not Taken

These days many of us take choice for granted. In the spare second I get away from the office, I can switch on the TV and choose from hundreds of different channels to flick through. My father at my age probably only had the choice of watching one of three channels, and my grandfather would most likely have spent most of his spare time trying to secure a decent radio signal.

For obvious reasons, I’ve been choosing to watch EastEnders on BBC One this week. We’ve been working with the BBC – strictly under wraps – for several months, providing support and guidance on Stan Carter’s prostate cancer storyline. In case you missed it, you can catch up on iPlayer.

Stan party

Stan chose not to tell his family that he had prostate cancer for a long time. He didn’t know how they’d handle the news, and he didn’t want to worry them.

“How long have you known, Stan?“

“Long enough.”

“What does that mean? Months?

“Three years if you wanna know.”

Many of you expressed your sympathy for Stan living with his diagnosis on his own for three years. A prostate cancer diagnosis can be earth-shattering and there’s always going to be a lot to come to terms with. Men forced into this position can often feel like they should take on the strong and silent role. Think John Wayne taking a gut full of iron before manfully riding out one last time. I can empathise with that. I prefer to deal with things myself than call in the troops, and I’d rather get lost or take a ‘scenic diversion’ than ask for directions if I can possibly get away with it. I bet there are a few men reading this now who know what I’m talking about. Women too.

The EastEnders cast and crew have done sterling work breaking down barriers around an issue that’s still hampered by a lack of awareness and understanding.

Here’s what you’ve had to say about this over the last few days:

No one should have to face prostate cancer, and the difficult decisions it brings, alone. We’re there to support men like Stan every step of the way. You can speak to our Specialists Nurses on 0800 074 8383, or using our live chat service; chat to men who’ve been there, done that and got the t-shirt through our one-to-one support. You can find out all you need to know about prostate cancer, from diagnosis to end of life care using our Information Standard accredited booklets and online resources, and get support on your own patch, through our community support services.

Our community support aims to help improve men and their families’ whole wellbeing, including support for emotional and psychological needs, physical activity, nutrition and complementary therapies. By the end of March this year, we’d teamed up with over 50 community-based organisations to deliver more than 60 projects across the UK – and by the end of August, our community support teams had reached 14,993 people in local areas. For Stan, whose prostate cancer is at an advanced stage, one of the choices he had to make was whether or not to continue treatment and have chemotherapy.

“There must be something they can do. Chemo?”

“I’m not putting my body through that. Not at my age” Stan sitting

Understandably, Stan’s decision stirred up a lot of emotion:

But whether you agree with him or not, Stan has the right to choose how he wants to be treated. If he (and men in his position) decide the disadvantages of treatment on offer outweigh the benefits then who are we to argue? That right to choose how they are treated is something all men should have and it sure as hell shouldn’t be decided for them by where they live.

Last week, the first National Prostate Cancer Audit report showed up some truly disturbing gaps in prostate care in parts of England and Wales. Only 50 per cent of NHS trusts in England and 60 per cent of hospitals in Wales provide all the personal support services a man needs after prostate cancer treatment.

NICE may say that high-dose rate brachytherapy combined with external beam radiotherapy should be an option available for men with intermediate and high-risk localised or locally advanced prostate cancer, but only 11 of the 54 radiation centres in England offer this. And it’s not available at all in Wales.

That sit well with you? It doesn’t with me, and I know it doesn’t with the hundreds of thousands of people in the UK who have signed up to Men United. Each time I sit down in front of one of the leaders of our current healthcare system – usually in a little room in Whitehall – I know I’ve got 10,000 more people standing right behind me than the last time I spoke.

Stan’s choices are limited by the progression of his prostate cancer. Our leaders’ choices are shrinking due to the strength and growing voice of our movement for men. They’re at a fork in the road with two options ahead. Continue down the same care-worn path of putting men’s health on the back seat, or take a step onto the road not taken – a bumpier track, granted – but one that leads to a better future for men. I know which way I’m headed.

Sign up to Men United.

Growing together since 2007

We’ve been big fans of the hairy upper lip since 2007, when Adam and JC – two of the original four mo-bros – first walked into our offices and suggested we team up to tackle prostate cancer in the UK. And that, as they’ve probably never said, was the start of a long and beautiful hairy-lipped friendship. Continue reading

Going global – the True NTH programme

It doesn’t take long – three to four minutes of the evening news should do it – to realise just how disjointed and isolated we can be as a species. Our countries have never been better connected in terms of technology, but in many respects we’re just as distant as when travelling between continents involved months at sea.

Take prostate cancer as an example. Each year, hundreds of thousands of men across the globe are diagnosed with prostate cancer, and the many who survive it often experience significant side-effects from treatment. Incontinence, loss of sexual function, and fatigue to name just a few. Experts in each country battle on a daily basis to improve the lives of these men, but their learnings – both good and bad – sometimes don’t travel further than the local hospital they’re developed in.

With this very problem in mind, the Movember Foundation have launched True NTH, a global programme designed to trial and implement new ways of significantly improving the lives of men (and their partners) living with prostate cancer. Crucially, the aim is to collaborate internationally, and develop and perfect programmes that can be rolled out anywhere in the world.

True NTH

The True NTH programme will make a huge difference to the lives of men living with prostate cancer.

A worldwide network, True NTH consists of 77 leading global experts from 23 difference organisations from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the USA. Prostate Cancer UK is leading on five projects funded by the Movember Foundation that are looking to improve prostate cancer care and support in these four areas:

  • Better treatment decisions for men
  • Exercise and diet
  • Supported self management (helping men to manage their own recovery)
  • Improving continence (both bowel and urinary)

These projects aim to provide practical, cost-effective solutions to everyday problems faced by many of the 250,000 men living with the disease in the UK.

The Movember Foundation is a global force to be reckoned with. In 330 days – one month of activity per year for the last 11 years – Movember have raised over £346 million across the globe. People often associate fortitude and determination with a stiff upper lip, but the Movember Foundation are proving that a hairy one can be just as formidable. I am proud to be working with the Movember Foundation in the UK, and look forward to report back on the progress of True NTH in the coming months.

Royal Mail and Prostate Cancer UK: a partnership to be proud of

When you received a letter in the post in the last two years, chances are you’ll have seen a simple message in the postmark: Royal Mail is supporting Prostate Cancer UK. That statement of fact, franked onto millions of letters across the UK, still makes me smile two years later.

I remember distinctly the first time I had a letter land on my doormat at home that had this special postmark stamped on the top right corner. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen it of course, but these things always look better in the flesh, and it reinforced how lucky we were to have landed such a huge and influential partner in the Royal Mail.

Dr Fox models the Royal Mail poststamp

Neil Fox models the Royal Mail Prostate Cancer UK postmark

Royal Mail was our first major corporate partner as Prostate Cancer UK, and they helped us launch our new identity. For many people, seeing our logo on their post may have been the first time they had heard of us. Our identity as the largest men’s health charity in the UK has skyrocketed over the last few years (in this year’s Third Sector Charity Brand Index we’re 29 out of 150; in 2011 we weren’t even on the list) and it was Royal Mail who helped light the fuse. That’s some legacy.

Friday 29 August was the last day of this special partnership, and I would like to thank all 150,000 members of staff at Royal Mail for all they have done for us and for men over the past two years. Royal Mail have put everything into this partnership, and through their endeavours, have raised over £2.3 million with match-funding to fund 34 specialist prostate cancer nurses to provide men with support in communities across the UK. You read that correctly: £2.3 million.

Royal Mail staff take on the gruelling Lands End to John O'Groats for Prostate Cancer UK

Royal Mail staff take on the gruelling Lands End to John O’Groats for Prostate Cancer UK

How did they raise such a colossal amount of money? How didn’t they would be an easier question. I’ve rarely seen such levels of engagement with a workforce this big. From simple ideas like the Give a Quid days, which raised over £70,000, to full on challenges, like the Graduate Challenge programmes, which brought in almost £150,000, the staff of Royal Mail just kept on giving their time, money, and commitment to making a better future for men. The Royal Mail Choir, made famous through the BBC programme, even released a charity single.

Graduates

Royal Mail graduates arrive at the Prostate Cancer UK London office having cycled from Cardiff

It wasn’t just money that was raised through our partnership with Royal Mail, they helped us spread awareness of prostate cancer across the UK (including within their own workforce). Through taking part in our awareness campaigns such as the Sledgehammer Fund and Men United v prostate cancer, and distributing thousands of our Know your prostate guides, they’ve helped us increase the understanding and awareness of this horrible disease.

Royal Mail take a sledgehammer to prostate cancer

Royal Mail take a sledgehammer to prostate cancer

With partnerships as strong as these, now and in the future, I’m confident that we will crack prostate cancer. On behalf of Prostate Cancer UK, thank you to everyone at Royal Mail for all your hard work and support. You have made a real difference to the lives of men with prostate cancer, and there’s no better tribute than that.

Footballers’ focus on prostate cancer

Through our partnership with The Football League, we’re in and out of grounds almost on a daily basis. We’re on the back of every single Football League player, are serenaded by the England Supporters’ Band, and supported by top internationals for our own goal (sorry) of making life better for men with prostate cancer. This Sunday is no exception. Continue reading

A forum for the future

Sometimes, you’ve just got to keep it simple. I’ve just spent the last few days at the Prostate Cancer UK Forum in Baltimore, which we’ve co-hosted with world-leading cancer specialists Johns Hopkins University.

Keeping the forum simple is what makes it the success it is. We invite the world’s leading prostate cancer clinicians and researchers, throw them into a room for three straight days to give these specialists from across the whole spectrum of the prostate cancer field the chance to meet, share ideas, and work together on future projects. It’s that simple. Continue reading