A POOLSIDE tribute to Olympic champion Adam Peaty has inspired a Uttoxeter man to keep fit while battling advanced prostate cancer. Steve Derry, 58, took up swimming on the advice of medics in a bid to get a fit as possible before gruelling chemotherapy. And after hearing of his plight, gold medallist Adam paid a visit to Steve's home during the festive season.
Steve was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in June. He was told the secondary prostate cancer had spread throughout his skeleton and chemotherapy might be able to stop the spread of the disease.
A regular sportsman, Steve was told running or high-impact sports could damage his bones, but swimming would help him stay fit to deal with the impact of chemo.
A dedication to Adam at Uttoxeter Leisure Centre’s swimming pool helped Steve stay focussed as he prepared for the debilitating treatment.
Steve said: “The leisure centre pool is named after Adam in honour of his of Olympic, World, Commonwealth and European titles and before the swimming sessions started I used sit alone in the reception area and gaze at Adam’s picture above the pool and the list of his swimming titles alongside the picture.
“I used to tell myself ‘if Adam can achieve all that success then surely I can keep trying to swim a few lengths of the pool and get fit for my chemotherapy.’
“I asked the leisure centre staff how many lengths I would need to complete in order to swim a mile.
“The answer was 64 lengths which seemed an impossible target given my condition. “However I started to gradually increase distance from 20 lengths per session to 30, then 40 and so on.
“The hospital informed me two weeks’ prior to my chemotherapy start date. The very thought of chemotherapy was frightening enough but I kept going to the pool during that time.
“In the week prior to starting chemotherapy I went swimming five times and managed to swim the 64 length mile target on each occasion.
“I amazed myself to be honest. I couldn’t believe it. I had managed to swim a total of five miles in the week before starting chemotherapy and helped by Adams picture above the pool.”
In the run up to Christmas, Steve decided to share his story as far and wide as possible to raise awareness of prostate cancer and encourage men to find out more about checks for the condition.
During the festive season – just says before more chemotherapy treatment at Derby Hospital Combined Day Unit – Steve received a visit from the former Painsley Catholic College student, who brought along his gold medal from the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Steve added: “Adam is a fantastic young man and the whole of Uttoxeter is so very proud of him.
“I remember getting up in the early hours of the morning and having tears in my eyes watching Adam win Olympic gold at Rio in 2016.
“Whatever happens to me, I will never forget the day Adam called in at my home.
“It was a fantastic gesture and Adam is a wonderful ambassador for his sport.”
• Steve was suffering increasing back pain when a trip to the hospital resulted in a chock cancer diagnosis.
Now, as he faces repeated chemotherapy to halt the spread of the disease, Steve is urging men to find out more about the condition.
“I want to tell my cancer story to hopefully help and inspire other men who may be in a similar situation, but, most importantly, try and help raise awareness of prostate cancer,” said Steve.
“I had no symptoms of prostate cancer. All I had was a back pain which I was trying to run off on a treadmill at home.
“I am a massive sports fan and have enjoyed good health all my life and over the years have participated in local football, ran half and full marathons including two at London and in 2014 completed a charity cycle ride from Paris to Uttoxeter.
“Cancer has turned my world upside down.
“My initial back pain deteriorated to the extent that in the early hours of one morning I could barely walk and had to go to Derby hospital A&E via ambulance.
“During the weeks that followed blood tests revealed I had a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) reading of 441 which is around 100 times higher that you would expect for a healthy male of my age.
“MRI and bone scans confirmed I had secondary prostate cancer of an aggressive nature which had spread throughout my skeleton and was evident in my shoulders, spine, breastbone and hips and legs.
“Desperate to stay fit in readiness to fight my cancer the hospital staff actually advised against all impact sport such as jogging and even cycling as bone cancer can weaken bones and increase the risk of fractures. However, they told me that I may like to consider swimming an exercise instead.
“Swimming has never been one of my pastimes which is mainly due to the fact that as a young child in the 1960s I had to go for swimming lessons at the then outdoor pool in the town.
“Invariably the pool was extremely cold and all I wanted to do was get out of the water as quickly as possible. As such I never learnt to swim properly.
“Following the hospital advice and determined to battle my illness I purchased a pair of swimming trunks and made my way to the Uttoxeter Leisure Centre which has a fabulous heated indoor pool and thankfully is a far cry from the outdoor pool of the 1960s.
‘I informed the poolside staff of my condition and forewarned them that they may need to keep an eye on me particularly in the deep end of the pool.
“The leisure centre staff were brilliant and we kept things as light-hearted as possible despite the circumstances.
“I was actually on small daily doses of morphine during my initial visits to the leisure centre but to my surprise managed to swim 20 lengths of the pool although somewhat slowly.
“I continued to visit the pool between hospital appointments and whenever I felt well enough to do so.
“During the weeks that followed, the swimming sessions became a real focal point and I started to feel more and more confident in the water.
“Being diagnosed with cancer was devastating and although I was very positive and determined to fight I have to admit I also occasional bad days too.
“So far my chemotherapy combined with hormone injections is going well and my PSA blood test reading has now reduced from 441 to 0.1.
“Although I cannot be cured the hope is that the cancer can be halted and prevented from spreading further.
“I am sure that the swimming helped both physically and mentally. I just take day at a time and hope to be back in the pool once my chemotherapy treatment is complete.
“My story should be a stark warning to all men aged 50 and over.
“I would advise all such men to get wise to the risk of prostate cancer which is now the third biggest killer in the country affecting one in every eight men.
“Cancer doesn’t always happen to other people it can happen to you.
“Prostate cancer can be a silent cancer with few if any symptoms and we currently have no agreed national screening available for the disease.
“The only test we do have at the moment is a PSA blood test which can be unreliable.
“However, until we have something else I would urge all men aged 50 and over to speak to their doctor about a PSA blood test.
“Apart from staying well, the most important thing for me at this time is to use my story to contribute in raising awareness of prostate cancer.”
• Anyone affected by prostate cancer can call Prostate Cancer UK’s specialist nurses service 0800 074 8383 or go to the charity’s website: www.prostatecanceruk.org
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