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How reading the Evening News saved Norwich man's life

PUBLISHED: 15:00 09 May 2011

Robert Wilkinson (left) says he owes his life to Mel Lacey and the Norwich Evening News. After reading Mel's stories, in the Evening News, about his cancer charity he went for a check up with his doctor and discovered he had prostate cancer.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Robert Wilkinson (left) says he owes his life to Mel Lacey and the Norwich Evening News. After reading Mel's stories, in the Evening News, about his cancer charity he went for a check up with his doctor and discovered he had prostate cancer. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2011

A man who was diagnosed with prostate cancer after reading about a survivor in the Evening News has thanked him for helping to save his life.

Mel Lacey, a former policeman, was diagnosed with cancer two years ago after being prompted to go for a test by a friend who was suffering from the disease.

Now, in turn, his story has prompted Robert Wilkinson, 62, a former friend of Mr Lacey’s who had not seen him since they were 18, to go and get himself checked out. Mr Lacey, now 62, had no symptoms but the PSA (prostate specific antigens) blood test pointed to a problem and he was referred to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital where the cancer was diagnosed and treated. The father-of-two’s bid to set up a Blue Ribbon Foundation for men to help others with cancer has been followed closely by the Evening News over the past two years.

Mr Wilkinson, a former self-employed carpenter, said: “I’m very grateful. If it hadn’t have been for Mel I would’ve just let it go so I’ve got a lot to be thankful for – he helped save my life. It seems a bit dramatic, but that’s what it boils down to.”

But it is not just Mr Wilkinson who has been helped by Mr Lacey. He said another friend who went to see the doctor following his brush with the disease has since been diagnosed and treated.

Mr Wilkinson, who lived just off Dereham Road, Norwich, until he and his wife moved to Coltishall last year, said he would urge other men of a similar age to go and get themselves tested.

His own test indicated a problem and in November last year, following a biopsy, Mr Wilkinson was given the news he had prostate cancer.

The father-of-two and grandfather-of-three has since had his prostate removed and is on the road to recovery.

He said: “We’re a funny breed, men, we just don’t talk about these sorts of things, but we should do.”

His wife Diane, who first read the article in the paper a year ago, said she is grateful to Mr Lacey for helping raise awareness about the disease through his bid to create a cancer charity.

She said: “Very much so. I saw the article and said you’re about the same age as him so next time you go to the doctor see if you can have a test. I insisted and he did. Had he have not gone because of his article it could’ve been worse.

“We’re very, very grateful to Mel for bringing this to the fore. Men have got to brave up and do what us women have been doing for years – have these tests and get in there and get it checked out. Life is more important than being embarrassed for a couple of minutes.”

Mr Lacey, who has now been reunited with Mr Wilkinson for the first time since they were 18, said he was delighted his story could help someone else.

He said: “When I had the dream of starting a charity to raise the profile of men’s health issues, especially cancer, I said that if by doing so, it saved just one life it would all be worthwhile. To think that, together with the support of the Evening News, it has actually helped save the life of an old friend I have not seen for about 44 years, is absolutely fantastic.”

The BRF, which has now been granted a charity number, has a major new backer after HastingsDirect.Com, the national insurance company, has agreed to sponsor the charity.

Anyone interested in supporting the Blue Ribbon Foundation should contact Mr Lacey via mel.lacey@talktalk.net

Have you got a story about a lucky escape? Call reporter Peter Walsh on 01603 772436 or email peter.walsh@archant.co.uk

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