I have not had anything good to say about Awareness Stands and swore that I would not do another. Not only did I do another I did it a stone’s throw away from the last one that I did.
However, a funny thing happened. I actually, thoroughly enjoyed the day.
I know, I know!
Thy shalt given awareness stand another chance
The host, Daniel, was a young thirty-odd young man that could pass for mid or late twenties but has on him the wise head of a seventy-year old man that has seen, lived and heard a lot about life. He is the ‘Wellness’ person for the company and I know we only scratched the fascinating surface of what he had been through. This was someone that I could happily have swopped experiences, ideas and comments about the world with the whole day.
But I did have a job to do!
I was there for six hours with a short lunch break and I had a reasonable number of contacts for the amount of traffic that passed the table in the coffee break out space. Last week prostate cancer diagnosis had surpassed breast cancer figures for the first time. This is ten years ahead of when they thought it would happen. That fact, along with the other statistics had many of them shaking their heads in disbelief. I was smiling to myself when a black guy who was about to walk past got a finger gesture from me to come over. I had just started to gather together a couple of leaflets and he said he had already been tested. I smiled and put them back down and told him well done. The prostate man badge caught his eye,
“Oh, that’s what they are for! I have seen them all over the place but didn’t know what they meant or where I could get one”
That made me smile even more. He promptly made a donation and walked off smiling with his shiny new man badge.
A number of women promised that they were going to be marching their husbands and partners off to the surgery. If you are one of the guys getting your ears burned this evening, then I’m sorry but you may thank me later.
Then a black guy came over of his own accord.
Yeah, exactly! Knock me over with a prostate cancer leaflet.
I asked him, what did he know about prostate cancer and he said not much but he would like me to tell him. I spent the next couple of minutes taking him through the stats, what the prostate does and what can go wrong with it. He was fascinated and engaged. I then went on to tell him about what he should be doing and why and he was practically spellbound. I was tempted to lick one of my fingers and vigorously rub his forehead to make sure I was really talking to a black guy. I happily resisted. I sent him on his way with a clutch of leaflets.
I wouldn’t go as far to say I am back to being an Awareness Stand convert, but it was a great day!
Thou shalt keep to time and not tell porkies on how long you are going to be
This was a last-minute call for an Awareness talk at a health fair for pensioners. It just happened to be very local as well, so it seemed a win-win. I arrived half an hour before the time slot I had been allocated. Things were a bit chaotic because the building had been evacuated the day before, for the best part of the day, due to a suspected gas leak. The first I was to feel of that effect was that my talk had been put back two hours. Looking around this fare really was for the old folk, so I grabbed a programme and opted to go home and come back later.
Two hours later I returned. However, they had continued to run late and I still had two speakers on before me. They were listed as only two ten minute talks, so not a problem. The first speaker was telling us about her personal experience with breast cancer. Only three minutes into it and with the little she had shared you could tell that this was going to be a moving and uplifting story. I was really getting into it.
It was a large hall, with the seating arranged in a concave shape. The speaker was presenting to the left and the host was sitting at a table right in the middle of the stage. Along comes Mr. IT man or just someone with a penchant or strange fetish for utility belts with electrical equipment in them. He walks over to the host and whispers something in her ear. Not content with the whisper he crouches down and the two of them now get into a full-blown conversation. Apart from being loud enough for everyone to hear it was completely disrespectful to the speaker. I did tell myself to relax and that these things happen and it’s also a consequence of being in the front row – somewhere I would never usually sit. However, after the second minute, I wanted to put my hand up and ask the presenter to stop and let them complete their oh so important conversation. I sat there just working myself up and up and it was only because I couldn’t remember the speaker’s name that I didn’t address her. After the third minute, I pulled out the programme to remind myself of her name and was about to say something and then Mr. Fetish walked off. I still debate if I should or should not have said something. In the end, I said that it was probably a good thing that I just kept my mouth shut. They were having some technical problems with the next presentation, so the speaker was told that she had an additional ten minutes.
We were now at least two and a half hours behind the original schedule and the people had not been fed.
Next up was a lovely nurse for Cancer UK. Dressed in her nurse’s uniform she looked the epitome of timekeeping, efficiency and caring. On the programme she was allocated a ten-minute slot. The host came over and told me to get ready I was up next. Then ‘said lovely nurse from Cancer UK’ announced that her presentation was also interactive. I sat slightly confused, how was she going to do an interactive presentation in ten minutes. Twenty-five minutes later I had my answer.
My talk was straightforward enough. There was an old black couple at the back having a conversation through it but once I looked at them, they stopped, only to continue from the side of their mouths until I looked at them again. Eventually, about half-way through my presentation the man got stormed out and didn’t return.
When I finished my presentation the host helpfully said I only had time for one of two questions and then we’re going to break for a late lunch but I would also be available for questions afterwards.
Hmmm, that was all news to me.
I certainly wasn’t not going to cut off my questions because everyone else had hogged all the time and I was not going to compound it further by staying behind afterward.
I asked for questions and kept asking for questions until they were all asked and answered. I had already relinquished the microphone for this part so that’s thwarted your plan to cut me off. Take that with your timekeeping!
I handed out leaflets and was packing up my stuff to go and along comes the black woman who was with the man that walked out.
“Please can you talk to my husband. I have been trying to convince him to go for a test” she was almost pleading.
“Please I am worried about him, but he won’t go”
It was the second please that did it. I could have still sneaked out of the building with just the one please and the fact that they kept talking through my presentation. Old people are stubborn and set in their ways. Old black African men build themselves a man-sized shelf, attach a ladder to it and put it on an even higher level. I melted, the greasy spoon café across the road, that I was determined to get intermate with, could wait another ten minutes.
“OK I will talk to him”, I smiled.
I came out of the room and saw him on a table on his own caressing a bowl of soup.
I would have loved to have crept up on him like a swift ninja but when it comes to prostate cancer speakers, we all seem to have squeaky shoes, a flashing light on our heads and a bell around our necks when it comes to other men.
The silent dialogue between the two wild west gunslingers having a standoff went as follows,
I say – You know why I’m here don’t you? You know I don’t want to be here but your wife sent me.
He says – I just want my soup, you know how hungry I am. You only got a small taste of what I have to put up with. You know I have to go back home to that.
I say – We could just make this easy on each other. I too have a plate of double egg and chips I want to go and talk to.
He says – Shucks, bring it on.
“Your wife wanted me to try and convince you to get a PSA test”
“I’m eighty-six” He smiled.
Wow! I would not have put him past seventy. Either I’m well impressed or he was forty yesterday and she has rapidly aged him with her nagging.
“You know she is worried about you and you know she is not going to stop”. I said and he smiled again.
“How about this. Why don’t you go to your doctors and ask for a health MOT and ask them to add a PSA test on it?” He nodded in agreement, the additional set of tests made it seem he was getting his moneys worth. We and briefly chatted some more. I shook his hand, job done.
I had not taken ten steps away from the table when his wife accosted me again.
“You didn’t talk to him, you said you were going to talk to him” she was giving a statement not asking a question.
“I did talk to him and he has promised to go and get tested. Look he is over there eating his soup”
With that, it was all smiles and she thanked me. At eighty-six, its unlikely that doctors would be doing anything radical if they found anything wrong with his prostate. As they have often said – ‘You are more likely to die of something else’
Maybe in his case an ear embolism.
Thy shalt keep order and thy shalt not have too much sex
A mixed group of thirty-odd black African Nigerian and other West African men and women students who are studying health studies should prove to be an interesting talk. The five men that were in attendance would be feeling the heat. The tutor got the class quiet, well most of it. I introduced myself and made the mistake of telling the group to please just shout out if they need me to clarify something. In the group of thirty-odd students there were only five men. It would certainly prove to be interesting.
I began with the prostate cancer statistics and they were suitably shocked, and frequently interrupted. I have absolutely no problem with interruptions – after all that’s what I told them to do. However, this bunch was having none of the orderly ‘oh sorry you go first’ or ‘sorry you spoke first’ nonsense. I became a ringmaster trying to work out who was first while also trying to get them to pay attention and stop their personal conversations.
Five minutes into the presentation and apart from wearing a ringmasters hat, I was also fielding questions that bore no relation to the current slide on the screen but would be addressed later in the presentation. Then quite randomly, I was still talking about risk factors, one woman said that someone that she knew had the operation to remove the prostate (prostatectomy or radical operation/surgery) but the doctor didn’t tell him that he would not be able to have kids afterward and now he is devastated. That momentarily stumped me, I had trouble believing that story but she would have no reason to lie. I had to ask the group to leave the questions to the end as I was getting held up continuously. Oh, and I had to tell one of the guys that I would wait for him to complete his phone call.
I continued my presentation and the questions were still coming but at a much slower rate. One woman asked me if I would come and speak at a mosque. I told her I just needed an invitation. I continued. Another man told me that he had heard that you get prostate cancer from having too much sex. I dealt with that one quickly and moved on. I got to my personal prostate cancer story and started with my dad’s diagnosis and treatment. I explained about my dad having permanent seed brachytherapy. Instantly I was asked why I didn’t have that treatment. I had to explain that different patients may be forced to have certain treatments only.
I looked at the lecturer. I should be getting a taste of her salary for this. They were working me hard and not letting up.
When I finished they applauded loud and enthaustically. I wondered if any of the men were going to make a doctor’s appointment. Unfortunately, I didn’t get that impression.
A couple of the students asked me if I would come and talk to their church. I told them about my experience with churches.
“They are generally not interested unless they are having a ‘health day’. Unfortunately, prostate cancer is not waiting for a health day” I mocked.
“If you want me to speak at your church, just invite me” I added.
Someone asked the usual question about foods that prevent or cure prostate cancer. I tackled that in my usual gentle manner.
I handed out my blog card and a couple of them asked where was my phone number? I told them that they could contact me via the contact page on the blog.
“Oh, you don’t want us to contact you?” Another one added. Exasperated, I wrote my number on the board.
“if you want me to come to your church call me. If you know someone that needs to talk about prostate cancer get them to call me.”
I handed out prostate cancer leaflets. I quickly ran out. Not because I didn’t have enough but because a few of the students wanted more for friends and family and it was a struggle to get them to give some back for those that didn’t have.
As I was leaving the room the Muslim woman who had asked me before if I would come to speak at her mosque. Stopped me.
“They are telling the women that if they have lots of sex they will not get prostate cancer. They are always wanting it”
I wanted to smile, I couldn’t believe it. I could also see how that rumor could proliferate quickly and comprehensively – it’s a man’s perfect storm. Nothing like bending a global health risk to guarantee you sex on tap. I told her it was rubbish.
However, you know what, I Googled it later that evening as you do. They have done some studies. Not hardened clinical trials but research has shown that there could actually be a link between frequent ejaculation and lower prostate cancer diagnosis. You would need to be having sex over twenty times a month. Again, nothing like a large scale clinic study but more of an observation and if you dig some more you will find another study dismissing the idea.
If the talk ever happens, it looks like my work is going to be cut out at the mosque and I’m certainly not going to be popular.