Ray: Talking about men’s health is “not an embarrassing thing” – it can save lives
The meeting was the idea of Gary’s sister, whose instincts that “they were similar, for some reason” were true. Over a decade later, Ray and Gary, a financial futures broker from Loughton in Essex, have spent days on the terraces and on the race track, long breakfasts, nights on the town and family holidays. They even started a sports management business together.
“Honestly with God, he has become one of my closest friends,” says Ray, 64. “Not just because of his bubbly, it’s an education to be around him.”
The joke between them is constant, “like Morecambe and Wise”. But eight years ago, when Gary, 51, called Ray to tell him he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, Ray, for once, found himself at a loss for words.
“My first reaction was the same as anyone else,” he recalls. “You think, ‘What do you say to someone who has just been diagnosed with cancer?’” Gary’s father was treated for prostate cancer at age 53, his uncle has died and his family has been “ravaged” by cancer.
Ray was devastated when he lost his mother, Margaret, to bowel cancer when she was 54 and he was 28.
But despite their family history, neither man knew much about prostate cancer when Gary was diagnosed at 43.
He had no symptoms, but warning signs were seen during a PSA blood test as part of a routine medical examination when he was moving businesses.
The biopsies confirmed the diagnosis and Gary underwent hours of robotic surgery. He also had a sling to support his bladder and after a “long way back” he is off medication and feels fine. Gary’s open-mindedness, Ray says, allowed him to help his friend through treatment and educate himself.
“He always spoke about it very openly – he announced it to his entire office! I was out of the question that I was going to start joking about this very serious complaint, but his reaction allowed me to say everything I did. meant.
“I was able to open up, really talk to her about it and find out a little bit more about the disease. It made things a lot easier.”
Speaking openly about what may be considered embarrassing or taboo is something that Ray and Gary say can save lives.
Because to make your organs, don’t talk “It’s about catching it early, that’s the crux of the matter,” says Ray. “We want to make men understand that you can talk about it, that it’s not an embarrassing thing.
“The problem is, when we talk about prostate cancer, it’s about your sex organs. Men panic, they don’t want to talk about it and they don’t want to think about it. But the sooner they do. find, if you’re unlucky enough to have it, the better your chances of survival. “
However, even after the shock of Gary’s diagnosis, neither man immediately changed his lifestyle.
“Even when you receive such news, you still feel immortal, in a way,” says Ray.
Instead, it was the arrival of the next generation that slowed them down.
Ray’s first grandchild, daughter Jaime’s son Ray, named after her grandfather and now five, was born in 2016. Gary and his wife Kelly, already parents to Grady, now 21, and Casey, 18, stored sperm before her treatment and was able to have ‘miracle baby’ Teddy, now four.
“When I had a grandson, I knew I wanted to see him grow up,” says Ray. “All of a sudden we have this little man coming and I want to be there. I want to see him in his teenage years, have his own family if possible. It got me thinking more than anything else. get tested for prostate cancer once a year, and if I’m looking for a job and there’s a medical exam, I’ll ask them to check it. “
It is also important to check for testicular cancer. “Well, I do it pretty regularly, actually,” Ray said, laughing.
He is looking forward to a move towards healthier lifestyles. Gone are the days of people disappearing into the (now closed) bars of Pinewood and other studios, he says. “It’s probably a good thing.”
You might not see Ray ordering a kale smoothie, but he’s looking to hit the gym more as Covid restrictions loosen. “I’m really overweight. I love to drink, I love to eat and I love to have fun. So it’s not that I’m in the gym every two minutes, but now that I want to get in, I don’t. can’t, because I injured my back about two or three years ago and then there was the Covid. So I couldn’t get the treatment I want. I have to do it myself. “
He and Gary want men of all ages to know that staying alert to prostate cancer risk is an important part of staying healthy.
“I have seen a very good friend of mine survive this disease and it is important that other men, including myself, be aware of it,” says Ray. “If I was diagnosed I would be absolutely disgusted with having prostate cancer, of course I would. But I would look at Gary and think there is hope.”
- For more information, see Prostate Cancer UK (0800 074 8383; prostate canceruk.org). Watch The Sit Down, featuring Ray Winstone and his friends talking about football, business and prostate cancer: prostatecanceruk.org