Health

Checking for prostate cancer could save your life


Gary with his son Teddy

Gary with his son Teddy (Image: no credit)

Gary Pettit, 51, is a commercial director who lives in Loughton, Essex, with his 48-year-old wife, Kelly, and their children Grady, 20, Casey, 17, and Teddy, three.

Gary says: “Whenever I watch our toddler kicking a football with his brother or playing at chefs in his toy kitchen with his sister Grady I realise how lucky my wife Kelly and I have been. We count our blessings every day.

Eight years ago, I’d just had my 43rd birthday and thought I was bullet-proof. I’d moved jobs in the City and, while I wasn’t a fitness freak, I went to the gym a couple of times a week. I flew all over the world with work but I always loved coming home to my family. Kelly and I often said it would be nice to have another baby. We knew there would be a big gap between Grady, Casey and a new one, but somehow we just didn’t feel complete without baby number three.

Grady, Casey and Teddy with mum Kelly and Gary

Grady, Casey and Teddy with mum Kelly and Gary (Image: no credit)

I had to have a routine medical for my new job, but soon after I got a call to say my blood tests had showed I had a raised PSA (prostate specific antigen), which would need further investigation. I didn’t know much about the prostate, but my dad, Allan, had treatment for prostate cancer so I didn’t waste any time in getting a biopsy done.

I was at work when the doctor called to say I had prostate cancer. I’m one of those guys who takes things in his stride, but when you hear the word cancer it stops you in your tracks. I rang Kelly with the awful news. Naturally, she was upset. Then I had to ring my mum, Joan, who’d seen my dad battle prostate cancer, too.

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I’d been told the treatment options but I just wanted surgery to get the cancer out of me. Fortunately, MRI scans showed it hadn’t spread anywhere else. Kelly and I were advised to freeze some sperm as the operation would mean I could no longer produce semen. So we agreed to go ahead with that.

Exactly a month after being told I had cancer, I had eight hours of surgery at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London to remove my prostate gland. I knew it was a big operation but I had every faith in my consultant, Chris Ogden. We didn’t tell the kids much – they were only 10 and 13 at the time – but Kelly waited in hospital while I was in theatre.

As I came round from the anaesthetic, Mr Ogden told me he’d got all the cancer out. He also said it was very aggressive and in the weeks between the biopsy and the operation, pretty much all of my prostate gland had become cancerous.

I knew I was a lucky boy – that would have spread very quickly.

I was discharged from hospital the next day and was in bed at home for a few days. Kelly was a genius for looking after me and the children would come by and tell me what they’d been doing. After about a month I went back to work.

But the thought of a baby stayed with us and in 2015 we decided to use some of the frozen sperm. Thanks to IVF, Kelly got pregnant but, sadly, she miscarried just before she was 12 weeks. It was a painful time for both of us, especially Kelly.

We had one last chance, so we used the rest of the sperm we’d had frozen and amazingly Kelly fell pregnant again. We were both terrified we’d lose this baby, too, and Kelly was so sick during the first part of the pregnancy she ended up in the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow for three weeks. 

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“If we can just get past 12 weeks,” we’d say to each other, as Kelly went for endless checks on the baby. Once we got to 12 weeks, we told my mum, Kelly’s mum, Norma, and our kids. They were all so excited at the thought of having a baby brother or sister and a new grandchild.

The months went by with no more problems and at 38 weeks, Kelly had an elected Caesarian section at The Portland Hospital in London. I was with her as our baby boy was born, weighing 7lb 4oz, in June 2017. He had perfect features, lots of hair and plenty of screaming about him.

From that day, the whole family doted on him and we called him Teddy Allan – Teddy after Kelly’s dad and Allan after mine. Both our dads had passed away but we know they would have loved their little grandson.

Now, Teddy loves taking on his big brother, who plays for Luton Town Football Club, or playing with Grady and our King Charles spaniel, Rusty. He also has Kelly running around after him. As a family we go on holiday to Dubai and we all love eating out.

Kelly and Gary with baby Teddy

Kelly and Gary with baby Teddy (Image: no credit)

I always say that Chris Ogden is the man who saved my life and I wanted to give something back, so I started helping Prostate Cancer UK. I have a few well-known friends, including the actor Ray Winstone, former football manager Harry Redknapp, Adam Smith, head of boxing at Sky, and Bianca Westwood from Sky. I also know boxers Johnny Nelson and Spencer Oliver.

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They all help me when I organise charity functions – some come along and do a talk. I’ve also manned the helpline and told my own story at the charity’s events. Whenever I talk about prostate cancer, I urge young men to keep getting themselves checked. People often say it only affects men over 50. That’s just not true. It can affect younger men, too.

I always see myself as just your average Joe, but it got me in my forties. If I hadn’t been checked at 43 I wouldn’t be here now and I wouldn’t have known the miracle of having our third baby.” 

Teddy with brother Casey, who plays for Luton

Teddy with brother Casey, who plays for Luton (Image: no credit)

PROSTATE FACTS

Prostate cancer – the most common cancer in men – develops when the cells in the prostate start to grow in an uncontrolled way.

About 400,000 men in the UK are living with, or after, prostate cancer. The disease mainly affects men aged 50 and over, while those whose father or brother who have had it are at higher risk. 

Black men are more likely than others to get prostate cancer. One in four in the UK will be diagnosed with it at some point.

Although most men with early prostate cancer don’t show any symptoms, some may experience changes in the way they urinate.

Treatment for prostate cancer includes radical prostatectomy (removal of the prostate), radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

For advice, call a Prostate Cancer UK specialist nurse on 0800 074 8383 or visit prostatecanceruk.org





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