When Gordon Beresford was diagnosed with prostate cancer, his daughter Aimee set out to raise awareness of the disease within the rural community. Emily Ashworth meets them to find out more.
They say there is a special bond between a father and his daughter, and for Gordon and Aimee Beresford that only became stronger when Gordon was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2011.
In the UK about one in eight men will be diagnosed with the disease and, according to Prostrate Cancer UK, it mainly affects men over the age of 50.
And as this disease is one which can lurk beneath the surface, or be misdiagnosed for other illnesses, Aimee wants others to be aware and be proactive after going through it by her father’s side.
At the time, Gordon did not notice any major changes to his health and put any minor issues down to ageing, a common self-diagnosis made by many.
He says: “I was blissfully unaware anything was wrong.
It was taking me a long time to go to the loo, but I put that down to my age and getting older.
“That’s the thing with prostate cancer – the signs are not always obvious or not always there.” But luckily, after mentioning this to a friend, a practice nurse, Anna Knight, he was advised to go and see a doctor.
Gordon says: “I would never have gone if she hadn’t of said anything, and it would probably have been too late.” Prostate cancer is slow growing, and Gordon’s was fortunately contained.
But after they removed it, doctors did further tests and found it was very close to spreading.
This is when it becomes difficult to treat, causing rapid growth of other cancers.
Aged 55, in November 2011 he underwent keyhole surgery, a long operation which lasted from about 1pm until 8pm.
Unlike other types of cancers such as breast cancer or cervical cancer, there are no regular checkup calls for prostate cancer, and this, says Aimee, is something to look at.
"Just go and get checked for peace of mind. It’s a simple blood test. You can’t look after your farm if you’re not well"
Gordon says: “I haven’t got the time to see the doctor unless I’ve got an actual appointment for something.
“People think, I will do it next week. Especially in farming, you’re always busy. “And men are stubborn. I was surprised, but people deal with things differently.
I just got on with it” Aimee, 24, who works full-time on their beef and sheep farm at Halton West near Skipton, North Yorkshire, says: “I wish they would roll something out.
They need to develop the diagnosis process. “It is common in people over 50 but it does affect younger people too.
“Once you get to 50, you qualify for a test, but it’s not like breast cancer where they send for you to go and get it done.
You have got to ask for it yourself. “And prostate cancer is now the most common in the UK.
“If you go to get checked regularly, there is less to worry about.” Aimee was just 15 years old when her dad was diagnosed, and she recalls it was difficult for her to make sense of the situation.
“I was upset,” she says. “For me, it was the word cancer, the C word.
I wouldn’t even say it.” A few years later, aged 22, she began her Facebook page, ‘How do you check yours?’ to begin to raise awareness of the disease, especially targeting those in the farming community.
She says: “I’d had it in my head for a few years that I wanted to do something, then decided I wanted to do a charity ball.
“So, I put my mind to it and set a date.” Aimee, alongside her sister Kate, 23, put all their efforts into creating the ‘How do you check yours?’ charity ball, which took place in November 2019, a blacktie event held at Stirk House near Gisburn, Clitheroe.
Through Facebook, word of mouth, the auctions and being part of Coniston Cold Young Farmers and Upper Wharfedale Young Farmers, Aimee and Kate spread the message and within a month, tickets for the ball had sold out.
A total of 255 people attended, much to their amazement, all who enjoyed a three-course meal, a band and a raffle, plus a live auction and a silent auction run by Ted Ogden from Skipton mart.
And the outcome was quite the surprise, raising over £12,000 for Prostate Cancer UK.
Aimee says: “We were shocked. We aimed to raise £3,000.
“People came forward with all sorts of prizes and contributions.
And people who couldn’t attend the ball came forward afterwards with donations.
I feel chuffed to have given something back.” Delighted with the funds raised and the feedback from the event, Aimee does plan on organising another ball, but first on the cards is planning her wedding.
Gordon says: “I’m incredibly proud of Aimee.
“Just don’t tell her.” But it is about breaking this cycle of ‘I do not have symptoms and I do not have time’ and going forwards, Aimee wants more conversations on the topic.
Plus, given the private nature of the matter for many, she wants more men to take it upon themselves to go and get checked.
She says: “Just go and get checked for peace of mind.
It’s a simple blood test. You can’t look after your farm if you’re not well. “We just need more awareness.
Farmers aren’t going to just suddenly start going to the doctors because we tell them to.”
THOSE who wish to support the charity and donate can do so at justgiving.com/fundraising/howdoyoucheckyours, or by typing in ‘How do you check yours?’ on the JustGiving homepage.
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It is important to remember that most men with early prostate cancer do not have symptoms, but here are some signs and symptoms from Prostate Cancer UK to look out for: