100. Do You Want The Keyring or The Telegram?

Keyring

If my blog were a person, it would now be getting a telegram from the King. Up until a few months ago that same telegram would have been from the Queen.

When I started this blog, I had no idea where it would take me, if I had enough to write about and even if anyone would read it. Since that very first blog, the UK has seen 3 prime ministers (could be 4 by the time this is published) and a new monarch. I lost pops, had 2 new jobs and survived a pandemic.

Becoming a spokesperson for Prostate Cancer UK was definitely one of the best decisions I have made and one of the few good things to come out of having prostate cancer. I have met some incredible people along the way, particularly those connected to Prostate Cancer UK. I have done a lot of fantastic talks – some more memorable than others for one reason or another. I have touched, helped and encouraged others which makes me incredibly proud and love what I’m doing.

I think, in a very small way I have helped to make a difference.

As I reached the 100th blog, I started to look back at my journey and the blogs that accompanied each step. I was going to make a list of my favourite blogs: most poignant, the happiest, what moved/changed me, best reactions, shocks and surprises etc. I realised early on that that was going to be a much, much bigger task than I actually released.

The first blog, Pops. Remembering the first time I ventured into his house in the states. The plastic covered furniture. The many debates that we had and the questions he would try to avoid and usually get away with. How I saw his slow decline, up to that very last time I saw him. He was sitting at the table, slurping away at his soup and I kissed his forehead goodbye when I left. Covid and the subsequent travel ban would come along and prevent me from ever seeing him again in person. I would like to think he is up there arguing with a couple of angels over something and nothing, without the worry of pain, fragility and plastic covered furniture.

Early on I first mentioned my son, Joel. At the time he was at the cute age were turning off electrical equipment, while they were active, was a great source of entertainment for him. I wrote about our version of the short lived ‘atomic spud’. He is now this very self-assured, 6 year old whose first concern and loyalty is to his stomach. He is also beginning to master the art of sarcasm and dead pan, just like his pops. Two very funny traits, unless you happen to be on the working end of either. I was sleeping in the settee and had unfortunately managed to roll off onto the floor, apparently making lots of noise in the process. The family runs in concerned and little sweet Joel, surveys the landscape of a dazed dad on the floor and without missing a beat, he announces,

“It’s good that you’re are not dead.”

I was recently a panellist for a meeting in a large international company. Initially I thought I was going to give an awareness talk but I was just there to answer a few questions for a group within the company that was talking about black health matters. They had two other panellists, both of whom were women. One who had started her own running exercise company and the other who started a maternity support group. Sitting in a line, with a of about 50 people and a camera to an additional undisclosed audience, we began. The heat was on as I knew the camera was constantly on so I had to put on happy face and hope the microphone would not pick up the growing hunger growls from my stomach. For someone that has been enjoying the isolation of covid, I was very much out of practice and struggled at times. We were asked to say a little bit about ourselves and then the questions began. Nothing too daunting or taxing and my answers were rather short in comparison to my panel colleague’s who had lengthy answers. Then came the million-dollar question that still after four years of talks I have yet to have a good answer to.  I was asked why I thought that black men do not go and get tested for prostate cancer. However, that wasn’t all, she also alluded did I think it was also due to the historical programming and experiences.

This is when the touchy-feely Peter disappeared. To be fair, I might just have imagined he was there to begin with.  I smiled and then I said, much to the apparent dismay of the host, that that was something that I would never subscribe to. I mentioned the difference between talking to white and black groups of men, the apathy of churches, the radical differences between expected and actual attendances at talks and how black men generally just make excuses. I also said that women and the young play a role in encouraging their men to go and get tested.

I sat stunned as the last point gently reverberated around the room and I received the nearest that I have ever had to being heckled or stoned. They were not having it and why should it always come down to them. Not too stunned, mind you. Nothing like prodding the hornets’ nest with a stick.

Then seizing the chance to up my game amongst the other polished presenters, who as I said before had hogged the presentation with 5-minute answers. I got up out of my chair and re-enacted, in detail, the unbelievable and comical reactions of black men at the black business show. Where we manned a table for prostate cancer. I also mentioned that when I talk to black groups, especially, a man will tell me that they have been refused a test. Afterwards she made a quick and sly dig (in a humorous way) that I had ‘triggered her’ and she hadn’t finished with my answer and was going to come back to it. She didn’t in the end as the other panellists timed the meeting out. Afterwards that question got me thinking, really thinking long and hard about the answer. I came up with 4 reasons,

  1. Men are scared. They just don’t want to know and would rather face it if and when they have to. Even when treatments have been arranged a fair number of them still abscond.
  2. Men just don’t care. I have lost count of the number of times organisers have said they are expecting a certain amount of men only for it to be a tiny fraction of the number in reality. Not much more to add to that.
  3. It takes effort to get a test done. You have to get an appointment from the doctor, which involves the 8.00-8.15am phone scramble to secure an appointment and then you have to take time off work to go and get the test done. Then if you are unfortunate to require more tests, that’s more time off.
  4. Disconnect. For women puberty is a massive internal and external event. They become in tune with their bodies. As they get older and cervical cancer becomes a risk, they have a national screening program. For guys, puberty is

“You turn bad now and have a beard eh?”

And from then on, our single concern is trying to keep him on the straight and narrow and not get anyone pregnant. 30 or 40 years later we need to then think about prostate cancer and we know there will never be a national screening program for it.

So, I will just continue to blog and to talk for as long as I have something to say and people want to read and hear it.

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