“Cancer Black Care is about giving people support regardless of where you are in your cancer journey.”

Published: 13 March 2024
Paul was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 49. Read his story and learn why he is passionate about the work of Cancer Black Care.

"I was 49 when I found out I had prostate cancer."

As I was over 40, I sought a free NHS health check, only to be met with inquiries about existing health issues. Despite feeling physically well, I couldn't ignore the uncertainty about my internal wellbeing. The initial responses left me feeling dismissed, prompting me to assertively pursue the necessary health checks until they were finally conducted.

I hadn’t had any symptoms, my prostate wasn’t swollen but my PSA blood test results were high. When I found out I had cancer it was tough as my dad had had prostate cancer and I had it as well. So, that was the start of my journey.

I went for a biopsy and other appointments and what struck me was I was the youngest there. I found I had to ask a lot of questions and push for answers about my treatment plans. This made my journey feel really hard.

"When they said the 'C' word, that's when I realised I am not superhuman."

When I got my diagnosis, I thought wow, where do you go from here? I had never been sick before, and this was not like a broken leg.

Since then, I have had a radical prostatectomy surgery, radiotherapy and hormone treatment. It has been a long journey and I know my body will never be the same. My energy, my personality and my relationships have all changed because of my cancer journey. I find myself yearning for a deeper understanding from others, a wish that people could comprehend the multifaceted repercussions of my unique cancer journey.

I've got to touch wood as there are many people that don't get this far because by the time they find out about their diagnosis, it is too late to cure the cancer.

“I wanted to raise awareness about Black men and prostate cancers.”

Navigating the healthcare system proved challenging for me, feeling at times as if I were invisible. Having encountered disparities in treatments and wading through a sea of misinformation, I became acutely aware of the need for advocacy. Motivated by a desire to be a voice for those who may feel unheard, I resolved to speak up on behalf of individuals facing difficulties articulating their needs. Recognising the importance of support, I committed to helping others on similar journeys, determined to make a positive impact.

A year ago, someone told me Cancer Black Care are looking for a chief executive. I thought about it deeply because I absolutely loved my job and I wasn't looking to leave, but this was an opportunity to create change and work in an environment that I'm equally passionate about, and lead from the front.

Discovering that I secured the job brought immense excitement in March 2023. Since then, it's been a whirlwind of emotions. The tasks ahead are extensive, with a current emphasis on short-term goals such as education, raising awareness, influencing, fundraising, and cultivating relationships within the Black community and among people of colour.

"I didn't look for support when I was going through my diagnosis."

Attending 99% of my appointments alone became a lonely and often frustrating experience. Initially, I chose to keep my diagnosis private. My brother, my sister, and I each navigated our cancer journeys in distinct ways, adding unique layers to our shared experience.

As part of my work with Cancer Black Care, I want to make sure there is support that caters for Black people and people of colour because sometimes the needs are different. It's about debunking all of the myths.

The treatment of prostate cancer is more successful if it is diagnosed earlier.

3 black people gathering with Cancer Black Care charity.

I want to make sure people know about the risk factors around those kinds of cancers and that the cancer risk is higher with Black men.

In South London (Camberwell), we host a monthly support group that welcomes participants at any stage of their journey, including caregivers. The group boasts impressive attendance and is facilitated by dedicated volunteers who initially joined as members.

Remarkably, these volunteers have been generously contributing their time for nearly two decades. As we embrace positive transformations, I am eager to celebrate the invaluable contributions of these dedicated individuals.

It's about being a beacon and a voice for change.

I want to make sure that we are on all the social media platforms and people can find us. We are relaunching the website too, so it's quite challenging and there's a lot to be done. I am working hard on bringing in funding so we can grow the service and represent other areas in the UK.

I want people to look us up and support what we are doing, so we can do more for people with cancer. This is just the start; we can continue to develop and reach those that need our support the most. That's what's most important to me. We need to be that light and when people do come to us, we are able to support them wherever they are on their journeys.

"I think we need to create a space where younger people can talk.”

3 black people are smiling with a cancer black care banner.

Within our current groups, there's a noticeable trend towards an older demographic, typically aged 50 and above. The intention is to initiate a new group catering to a younger audience, likely those under 35. Reflecting on my own experience with a cancer diagnosis.

I recognise that my sons, who were 26 at the time, would have appreciated an environment where they could connect with someone of a similar age and share their thoughts. We know there are lots of young people and teenagers that are affected by cancer in different ways.

We also want to create a buddy system where we can accompany people to appointments who might need just a hand on their shoulder. We can ask the questions that they might not ask because of our own experiences on this journey.

"It's about feeling you have a safe space to share with people who are like you."

Paul, a black man speaking on a microphone at Cancer Black Care meeting.

Embarking on my cancer journey felt isolating, particularly when I recall how my sons reacted upon learning about my diagnosis. Their response initially deterred me from sharing my news with others; it felt like I couldn't bear both my burden and theirs.

I opted to disclose my situation to more people after my surgery, thinking it would be easier. However, it didn't unfold as smoothly as I had hoped. Being a close-knit family, my decision irritated them, and our bonds faced some challenges.

But I had to do what I needed at the time, which is quite important. Sometimes though being in an environment where you can talk about these things, you can learn from other people's experiences and feel less alone.

This is why I choose to share my journey – cancer is undeniably challenging and stressful, a perpetual rollercoaster ride, like snakes and ladders, with many ups and downs.

By fostering a supportive environment, we aim to encourage Black individuals and people of colour to open up and seek guidance, whether they're navigating their own cancer journey or supporting loved ones. Recognising the uniqueness of each person's story, Cancer Black Care finds strength in holding a safe space for all.


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