Brian Whitters

Brian's story

Brian Whitters contacted his GP practice in September 2015 after noticing he was getting up more frequently during the night to pee and was tired all the time which wasn’t normal for him.

Further tests led to the father of three being diagnosed with prostate cancer but it had been found in the early stages, meaning his subsequent treatment was successful.

Brian, now 64 and living in Barra, is a volunteer for Prostate Cancer UK as he wants to help raise awareness of the symptoms amongst men and their families in the hope more men with prostate cancer get diagnosed at that same early stage.

Speaking about his diagnosis, Brian who was living and working in Reading at the time, said:“The GP explained my symptoms could be a range of different things, but that she’d like to do tests, specifically a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test, to get an indication of whether I was at risk of prostate cancer.

“At that point I almost fell off the seat, because that was the first time cancer had been mentioned. That hadn’t entered my head.

“I learned within a week of the test happening that my reading was high, meaning I was at higher risk. The next stage involved a digital rectal examination, which lasted about five seconds, to feel the surface of my prostate. Concern was expressed at that point, and I was referred to the hospital for further tests.”

Brian initially met with a consultant oncologist who discussed an approach of watchful waiting – regular screening to check his PSA level didn’t rise – but after a further digital rectal examination, he was sent for a biopsy.

Brian said:“Ten biopsies were taken at the one time which was rather uncomfortable, but necessary. When I was called back for the results I took my wife, where my diagnosis was confirmed.

“The prostate cancer specialist nurse explained the options available to me due to the cancer being diagnosed at an early stage – a radical prostatectomy surgery, a type of radiation therapy called brachytherapy, and radiotherapy. We went away to think about it, but I knew I wanted the cancer out of my body so opted for the radical prostatectomy.

“Before my surgery I was sent for a bone scan which showed the cancer hadn’t spread. I knew the journey ahead was long, but I felt fortunate to have been diagnosed relatively early.”

Brian’s surgery was successful, and as he embarked on the road to recovery, he and his wife Joan made a huge life decision.

Brian said:“I remember being wheeled back up to the ward and my wife said to me ‘you’re retiring’. Before my diagnosis I was running international companies doing ethical auditing. It was a high-powered job that involved constant travel and a lot of stress but the diagnosis had changed our priorities, so I made the decision to retire.

“Weekly testing thankfully showed my PSA levels were falling. To help with my recovery we went to Barra, a place we’d visited a few times, for a three-week holiday and just never left.”

Regular PSA testing continued until Brian was declared cancer free five years later.

The couple have settled in Barra, with Brian initially taking a job as a chef in a local hotel and then as a mental health support worker. He now runs the home, supporting Joan who works as a carer.

Speaking about his quality of life now, Brian said:“I’m happy where I am, I’m able to make a difference through my volunteering and I’m back at university studying Gaelic at the University of Highlands and Islands.

“My diagnosis sent my life on a different path, but I’m content. I’ve become the house husband, and we have a great life. I was never content when I was working because I was always travelling and dealing with problems. When I look back, I had a fantastic career but its behind me now. I couldn’t ask for more than what I have.”

Encouraging people not to ignore symptoms, Brian said:“My recommendation is to go and speak to your GP about any persistent symptoms. Use my story to explain that the problems you have may be an early indicator. The earlier the diagnosis, the better the outcome may be for you.

“Talk to your husband, father and son about the possible symptoms and encourage them to go if they’re experiencing something that isn’t normal for them.

“When I’m doing my talks, I see men flinch when I bring up the digital rectal examination. But it was five seconds of slight discomfort, which I know saved my life.”

Share your story

Have you influenced a loved one to get checked early? Or did you get checked early and now live a full life? If you'd be willing to support our campaign, we'd love to hear from you – your story could encourage someone else to take action.

Get in touch

Real stories