Couple urge people to come to cancer support group

Peter and Jenny Eckersley, from Alnwick.
Peter and Jenny Eckersley, from Alnwick.

A prostate cancer support group which was formed by a couple affected by the disease could be scrapped because of poor attendance.

Peter and Jenny Eckersley, from Alnwick, set up the forum to offer support to those suffering from the condition, as well as their loved ones.

The pair, who have been married for 27 years, decided to hold the monthly sessions after Peter, 66, was diagnosed with the illness in July 2013.

The North Northumberland Prostate Cancer Support Group was only set up in May, but the couple fear they will have to call time on it because of a lack of numbers.

And with the next meeting taking place on Tuesday in Alnwick’s Mechanics Institute, on Percy Street, from 6pm to 7.30pm, they are making a last-ditch bid to attract more people.

Peter, who is undergoing cancer treatment, said: “Our aim was to try to set up a group to cover north Northumberland, reaching people who live in places like Amble, Seahouses and Rothbury, and even further afield, like Morpeth.

“Unfortunately, we are going to have to wind the group down if nobody turns up.

“The group is free, there are refreshments and it is really informal, just a chat. It is all confidential. Whatever is said in that room, stays in that room. A lot of people thought they would be frightened but at the first meeting we had, the people who came really wanted to get things off their chest.”

Jenny, 67, explained that the group, which has been attended by health-care professionals, is just as useful for the loved ones of those with the condition.

She admitted: “I was getting quite upset and very depressed; the idea of living with someone and you don’t know what will happen to them is dreadful. My GP was very helpful, but I felt like I would like to speak to someone outside of the professional arena and the idea of the group was born. It can be really useful to talk to another wife, for example, who is going through the same thing as you.”

Peter, 66, admits it was a massive shock when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and told that it had spread to his bones. The couple, from Belle Vue Gardens, had just returned from holiday when he was given the news.

He said: “It has been tough and a real rollercoaster. Hospital visits have been constant and I have lost count of the number of times that I have had blood tests. I thought I had a water infection, but then to be told that I had prostate cancer, and it had spread to my bones, was very hard to take, and you immediately think ‘how long have I got?’

“But once I got over the initial shock, I thought ‘I am going to fight this’ and I have remained positive.”

Peter says he is open about the disease, but believes other men may not take the same approach.

For details about the group, which meets on the second Tuesday of the month, call Jenny on 07803 504217.

Learn more about disease

The Facts

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK, with over 40,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

Development can vary

The disease can grow slowly or very quickly. Most prostate cancer is slow-growing to start with and may never cause any symptoms or problems in a man’s lifetime. However, some men will have cancer that is more aggressive or high risk. This needs treatment to help prevent or delay it spreading outside the prostate gland.

SYMPTOMS

They often only become apparent when your prostate is large enough to affect the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the penis). When this happens, you may notice things like an increased need to urinate, straining while urinating and a feeling your bladder has not fully emptied. These symptoms shouldn’t be ignored but they do not mean you definitely have prostate cancer. Symptoms that the cancer may have spread include bone and back pain, a loss of appetite, pain in the testicles, and unexplained weight loss.

why does it happen

The causes of prostate cancer are largely unknown. The chances of developing it increase as you get older. Most cases develop in men aged 50 or older.

TREATMENT

Treatment options will depend on whether the cancer is still contained in the prostate, or has spread outside the prostate.

More information

Visit prostatecanceruk.org