The Long Road to Better Men's Health
“Those who stay involved to help people with cancer tend to be those that still have symptoms. The ones that recover understandably leave it all behind and get on with their lives. I couldn’t do that, I wanted to give something back.”
It was the week before Christmas 2015, a time when people are wrapping up at work and looking forward to spending some quality time with family and friends, that Forfusion’s Managed Services Director Graham Hoare received his devastating prostate cancer diagnosis at the age of just 48.
“A lovely end to the year, eh?” exclaims Graham, but what particularly resonates is the positive light he sheds on the situation. “But as long as you’re still here, you have to keep going. I was very lucky, if you can call it lucky, in the fact that my prognosis was good. The cancer hadn’t spread from the prostate. It was very treatable.”
The operation to remove his prostate was a success and, despite a few side effects, Graham left hospital less than a week later. He does admit, however, that he was guilty of underestimating his recovery time.
“I went back to work way too early.” He says. “At the time of my operation, I owned 25% of an audio-visual business, so I was naturally itching to get back amongst it. Within six weeks, I knew it wasn’t working. I was mentally and physically scrambled.”
As a bit of a self-confessed audio visual geek, Graham has specialised in audio visual for a large portion of his career, spending around half of his 24 years in the RAF working in video conferencing. Upon leaving, he embarked on a career with a few companies before joining Forfusion in 2017.
“It was a busy old life.” Explains Graham. “I spent a few years at various places, running projects to integrate audio-visual capacity with IT functions to improve operational efficiencies. When I sold my share in the business, I had no idea how long I was going to take off work. It ended up being a full year.”
It was during this year that Graham set himself two goals; to get physically well and share his experience with those in a similar predicament. In September 2016, 200 days after his operation, he completed the Great North Run in under two hours.
“I can’t really put the emotion I felt into words when I finished that.” He goes on to explain how things snowballed from there; “Following it, I was doing a lot of cycling and got chatting to a few keen cyclists in my local gym about fundraising ideas. I received fantastic treatment at Lister Hospital in Stevenage and wanted to repay them in some way.”
In 2017 Graham formed the Twin Towns charity and that June cycled with nine others from Ingelheim in Germany to Autun in France, two of Stevenage’s twin towns. The trip covered five countries, 770 gruelling miles and raised over £30,000 for the hospital.
“The money contributed to all sorts, from iPads for the Children’s Ward to Dementia Ward machinery. Our biggest purchase was an ultrasound machine and probe for prostate biopsies. Not only do they give a sure diagnosis, but also eradicate the risk of infection by taking the procedure out of theatres.”
Witnessing first-hand the difference fundraising made to a local organisation had a profound effect on Graham, inspiring him to continue. Now Chairman of the Men’s Health Fundraising Committee for the East & North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, Graham’s goal is to not only develop the fundraising activity, but also raise awareness of men’s health and the prevalent stigmas attached to it.
NCBI studies have shown that around 50% of men over the age of 50 develop an enlarged prostate, but they are three times less likely to visit a doctor than a woman with a comparable health issue.
“Across the board, men don’t seek help. We tend to keep quiet and put up with it.” says Graham, reflecting on his own experiences before his illness. “The primary focus is fundraising, but the awareness side is vital too.”
“Men’s health is such a big subject and there are a lot of improvements to be made, starting with men themselves. I know from my experience, I’m much more likely to talk about a problem now than I would have before my illness.”
The future looks bright for both Graham and the charity. “We’ve started a campaign to attract 1,000 fundraisers who will pledge to each raise £500, hopefully allowing us to hit a target of £500,000 in the next 18 months to fund men’s health projects. “I’m very excited to see what the future holds!”