'My body became a battleground ... but life after cancer does go on'
As national charity Prostate Cancer UK starts a new campaign to raise awareness of the disease, Caroline Jones spoke to Stuart Watson about his experience of the condition.
ASK Stuart Watson about the time he had cancer and there will be no mention of the words "battle", "struggle" and "bravery".
"Others were fighting the battle – my body was just the battleground," the 69-year-old said.
But Stuart is all too aware it was the early detection of his prostate cancer which saved his life – or at least saw him avoid a serious encounter with the disease.
It was this which prompted him to champion the need for early diagnosis in other men, as he became a charity volunteer and campaigner.
And, from politicians to small social groups, he is happy to share his story with anyone if it can make a difference.
Stuart, who lives off Lime Lane, Oakwood, said: "I don't use words like battle or struggle and it's not about bravery because, when you are diagnosed with cancer, it's nothing like that.
"You are diagnosed and you make decisions. You have to approach it rationally.
"I have no real opinion about the fact I had prostate cancer, other than that it prompted me to want to raise awareness of the disease.
"After all, the solution lies in that early diagnosis and to follow it up with appropriate treatment – and no one should die of ignorance."
It was in 2004 that Stuart was diagnosed with prostate cancer, during a routine check-up. He said he had not noticed any symptoms before he was given the news and referred to hospital.
Stuart said: "My story represents an example of someone who – if the cancer is detected early, it is still localised and it doesn't occupy too much of the prostate – it is imminently treatable.
"Often, people hear the word cancer and thinks they are going to die but, as my experience shows, you can get through it, survive, and live a perfectly normal life again."
Stuart's cancer was detected through a blood test and, after he was sent to hospital and doctors confirmed the diagnosis, he was initially offered radical surgery.
He said: "I really didn't think that would be appropriate, particularly as I'd heard there were a lot of side effects with this."
Stuart instead received a form of radiotherapy treatment called brachytherapy – where radioactive material, called radioisotopes, are placed directly at the site of the cancer or tumour.
Over the course of a year, the material inside Stuart's body slowly destroyed the cancer and, in 2005, he went into remission.
Stuart said: "I was told there was no salvage therapy at the time to follow the brachytherapy – this is treatment given after the condition does not respond to standard treatment. So, if it hadn't have worked, I'd have been looking at and thinking about alternative therapies. But, eight years this June, my cancer is still holding in remission.
"I recognise how lucky I am because prostate cancer had not been on my radar. If it hadn't been for that blood test, I could have died."
After going into remission, Stuart decided to become a volunteer for Prostate Cancer UK, formerly the Prostate Cancer Charity.
The charity predicts it will become the most common cancer by 2030.
Stuart said: "The amount of men being diagnosed with prostate cancer – and dying from it – is roughly about the same number of women dying from breast cancer, but knowledge of both and the money spent on researching them are miles apart. A lot of it is because men are their own worst enemy really. Any discussion about matters below the belt is usually strictly off limits for them."
The charity said cancer of the prostate is already the most common form of cancer for men and, as a result, it has launched its Sledgehammer Fund campaign.
Running until the end of March, it aims to raise cash to fund new research and "raise the profile" of the disease.
Latest figures show there are nearly 500 new prostate cancer cases each year in Derbyshire and more than 130 deaths.
Owen Sharp, chief executive of Prostate Cancer UK, said: "The nation must wake up to this disease which kills 10,000 men nationwide every year, yet is simply not on our radar in the UK. It's imperative that people start talking about prostate cancer today."
Since he became a volunteer for the charity, Stuart has spoken at political party conferences, been involved with days of action at Westminster and done numerous talks about prostate cancer to groups and clubs.
He also volunteers for the Prostate Cancer UK helpline.
In 2011, he was nominated for an award from the Sheila McKechnie Foundation, which supports the work of people lobbying for positive change in their community.
He was later named as a runner-up from a shortlist of three finalists and out of hundreds of applications.