Errol McKellar found out he has prostate cancer by accident. It was 2010, and Errol had made an appointment to see his GP after his wife complained of his snoring. While sitting in the reception, waiting for his name to be called, he picked up a leaflet from the charity Prostate Cancer UK.
“I read the leaflet and I thought I'll go and make an appointment to come back and do this test,” recalled Errol. “When I got to the reception, she said "Mr McKellar, you don't need to make an appointment, this is a simple blood test, it takes less than ten minutes." Little did I know at the time that that was gonna change the rest of my life.”
After further tests and scans Errol was diagnosed with prostate cancer within a matter of weeks. Recalling the diagnosis, he said: “I burst into tears. I pictured the word cancer and it frightened me.”
He underwent an operation to remove his prostate followed by radiotherapy.
“I kept saying to my wife: ‘I'm very lucky to still be here cause this has all happened purely by accident.’ And she just turned to me and said: ‘Look, this cancer only knocked you down, it didn't knock you out’. I took those as inspirational words.”
Errol returned back to work and pledged to raise awareness of the disease. When men visited his Hackney garage, Errol, 61, encouraged them to talk to their GP about prostate cancer. And every customer was offered 20% off their bill if they agreed to get checked.
He said: “I think men take a great deal of pride in their motor cars, right? They'll spend loads of money on fancy wheels, paintworks, the best stereo in the world but they won't do the important things like looking after themselves the same way they look after their car. You know, a car has to have an MOT once a year. Why don't we say to ourselves that week in the year I'm gonna take that time out MOT my body?”
Errol now travels around the country giving talks in schools and football clubs. He has advised more than 5,000 people about the disease, and 46 men have been diagnosed as a result of his guidance “I set my target to talk to a 100 people a day,” Errol said.
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among men in the UK, and disproportionately affects the Afro-Caribbean community. One in four black men will be diagnosed with the disease at some point in their lives – double the risk faced by white men.
Errol said: “It’s personal to me and I can get a message out there, particularly to Afro-Caribbean men, about their risk and why we need to raise awareness of this problem. Having a conversation with somebody else, about the reasons why being stronger and knowing more, is important.”