‘Happy Birthday! Now go and get your medical!’

“I was always very fit and energetic. I played sports, ran marathons but when I passed 50 I promised myself I’d get an MOT for my birthday every year. I had it in my reminders, it said: ‘Happy Birthday! Now go and get your medical!’ I was a busy man with four kids, running my own company but I never really knew what stress was. I only realised what it meant when the recession hit and the phones stopped ringing. I had a rough six years trying to save my business… I was in my mid 50’s when I went for my routine health check. The doctor told me that my PSA – a controversial marker for prostate cancer – had risen a little. He said, ‘There is nothing to worry about. It is probably just stress but let’s just keep an eye on it, and check again in six months’. Six months later, it went up another 0.5%. Again, he said ‘there is nothing really to worry about’, but he would prefer to get it checked with a physical test. I knew what the ‘physical test’ meant. That’s what they call the ultimate test, the test where you have to leave your macho-ness behind. I remember going to the oncologist… it was not a great feeling. When the doctor finished he said he didn’t like what he felt and we have to investigate further. After more tests and a few months waiting the results came back. They said, ‘We are sorry, but you have prostate cancer. It’s stage six and we will have to remove it’. This is probably a cliché to say, but I reorganised my priorities in life. Luckily the operation went well and I survived. Getting over my pride and having 10 seconds of discomfort was what saved my life. I asked the lads at my local to do the same. One said, ‘Well you are doing yoga now, so you must have lost the plot’. Another said: ‘Leave him alone, he’s only there to see the birds in the leotards!’ But then a fella came to me and said he wanted to speak to me in private. He said he was diagnosed with the same and could use some advice. He is only 49. Pride is a weird thing when your life is at stake. You don’t need it. Leave it behind, and if you are over 45, set yourself a reminder.”

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