THE BLOG

Jeff Stelling: Men United March Against Prostate Cancer

25/03/2016 16:06 GMT | Updated 25/03/2017 09:12 GMT

Ten days. Ten walking marathons. One cause.

That cause is Prostate Cancer UK's fight against the disease that kills over 10,000 men in the UK each year - and the marathon man is soccer talk legend Jeff Stelling. Hot news is he hit £200k of fundraising - less than half way through the 10 walks. That's unbelievable Jeff!

So why ten? Well, in Prostate Cancer UK terms, it's a magic number. We've just set ourselves the target of halving deaths from prostate cancer within the decade. And that's what Jeff is now walking to raise funds for. Ten years to tame prostate cancer - ten days, ten marathons, one big step for men.

So this week I'm marching with the man Stephen Fry broke his digital silence to call 'the greatest living Briton'. Jeff's feet are in bits, he was so tired he fell asleep in his bath last night, and he's already on his second pair of trainers, but his pilgrimage through a footballing heartland means our mission to crack prostate cancer for good is one step nearer. In my first month as Chief Exec of Prostate Cancer UK, I've found it so inspiring to join the team who've hit this road to fight prostate cancer.

This is Men United on the march. It brings everyone together in that fight. Women, men, Rotherham supporters like Bridie and Cheryl, Hartlepool supporters like Jeff, Colchester supporters like me, politicians of different flavours like Nick Clegg and David Blunkett - it truly is Men United. And every painful step is bringing us nearer the one goal. Not just getting to Wembley, but saving men's lives.

I've a very personal reason for caring - my husband's father and grandfather had the disease. And because family history is one of the big risk factors, I know that my husband and my son are in the high risk category.

We've tramped through Yorkshire with amazing football bosses and legends like Beefy Botham and Alistair Campbell taking the high road alongside our Sky Sports hero and his wingman, valiant Russ Green of Hartlepool United FC. Mates doing something really worthwhile together and having fun.

But one thing men have in common that's much less fulfilling is the risk of prostate issues. Testosterone is at the heart of the story. Testosterone doesn't usually cause problems but if a man has aggressive prostate cancer, it can make the cancer cells grow faster. In other words, testosterone is prostate cancer's favourite food. So the irony is, what makes the man can actually break him, even when he goes to the gym, feels great and thinks he's fit and strong.

This walk is incredible, not just for the famous faces and famous footballing feet marching with soccer's star anchor man but for the many sole-mates who have been devastated by prostate cancer but have joined Jeff to do their bit. They're sharing their stories and throwing themselves into raising the cash our researchers need to shift the science and get the better diagnosis and treatments to save more and more lives. To help us tame prostate cancer in ten.

The Jeff effect is elating, very moving and uplifting - not just because of the fantastic turnout of well-wishers he's attracted, not just because of the online buzz that's uniting people who can't be here but are now fired up to do their own Men United hike or bike, and not just because of the huge generosity people are showing - but because of the presence of strong men who are living and dying through the reality of prostate cancer and their wives and partners. And widows and orphans who shouldn't need to learn to live without their loved ones.

The hard truth is that one man in eight in the UK will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. And one in three of those diagnosed will die of it. Men often in the prime of their family and business life, men we love and need in our lives. A few years ago, our charity set up Prostate Cancer Awareness Month in March. But in 2014, we stopped it because prostate cancer doesn't just happen in one month - a man dies every hour of every day of every month of every year. We created Men United to reflect that - bringing people together to fight prostate cancer and support each other in an active new way.

Jeff is half way through his ten marathons. And we've got ten years to tame prostate cancer. With a man dying of it every hour, it's not just an epic journey, it's a race against time.

Ten years and counting.....