Fermanagh men who were inspired to form a prostate cancer support group by their own cancer journey urge local men to get tested for the disease.
Raymond Funston from Enniskillen, discovered he had prostate cancer after a routine medical check up in September 2012. He later helped to start a local support group for other men affected by the disease with support from the Big Lottery funded Action Mental Health’s Men’s Shed Fermanagh in Drumcoo, Enniskillen.
The project, which is funded by Big Lottery Fund’s Connecting Older People programme, is a friendly environment where men over 60 can come and meet new people, take part in activities and share skills.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, with over 40,000 new cases diagnosed every year. Most cases are in men aged 50 and over.
It usually develops slowly, so there may be no signs you have it for many years.
Raymond said: “I had gone to the doctor at the ripe old age of 70, to take a driving licence medical as I was driving a mini bus on occasions. During our conversation I asked my doctor for a PSA test – it is the blood test that can detect the early signs of the disease.
“A couple of days later I had a phone call from my doctors surgery telling me my PSA reading was high and asking me to come in again for another test. I made another appointment, had another test and it also had a high reading. I was shocked because I had no symptoms.
“I then started my cancer journey, having all the different tests including biopsy and scans. At the end of all those tests I was admitted to City Hospital in Belfast to start radiotherapy in March 2013.
Thankfully, Raymond’s treatment was successful and finished in May 2013.
He said: “I didn’t want other men to go through what I had. Since then I have become very passionate about encouraging men to go to their doctor and have a PSA test.”
After Men’s Action Network delivered a prostate cancer awareness talk in the shed last year to mark Movember – the men’s health campaign – it started a widespread discussion about the men’s experiences of prostate cancer.
One member of the Shed is currently undergoing treatment, one has finished treatment and the third man is being actively monitored by the hospital. The more they talked, the more they realised through their experiences they could help others.
It was then that Raymond, Paddy Gilgunn and Jim Curran from the Men’s Shed started the Fermanagh Prostate Cancer Support Group in May this year.
Raymond said: “Action Mental Health offered us space in the shed for our initial meetings and we starting meeting on the last Friday of each month. Our numbers range from 10 to 15. All the men who come to the group have or have had prostate cancer or are waiting for test results. We are also very pleased that some of the men’s partners also come along for support.”
The group has developed with support from the Shed project officer and the Men’s Action Network who helped them get the word out to other local men.
The support meeting quickly outgrew the shed and the men decided to hold their next meeting in Enniskillen Hotel, who kindly offered a room.
Raymond said: “The great news is due to publicity in the local newspapers about the launch of the group, a young man of 21 approached a pharmacist about having symptoms. It was later confirmed that he had prostate cancer which was at an early stage and he began treatment.
“I would like to urge men, especially those of us aged over 50, to get checked out, even if you have no physical signs of prostate cancer. Early detection and diagnosis is so important – ring your surgery today and get a check on your PSA.”
Contact Sonya Slevin, Project Officer, Men’s Shed Fermanagh, on 07866384117 for more information on the support group.
If you experience any of the following symptoms speak to your GP.
- Having to rush to the toilet to pass urine
- Passing urine more frequently than usual especially at night
- Difficulty and pain in passing urine
- Blood in the urine
These symptoms can be caused by problems over than prostate cancer, for example enlarged prostate.
The Fermanagh Prostate Cancer Support Group meets on the last Friday of every month at the Enniskillen Hotel at 10.30am.
You can get more information about prostate cancer at www.prostatecanceruk.org