[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 26 February 2007, 09:04 GMT
Celebrity Health - Andy Ripley
Andy Ripley. Photo Credit: Rugby World/Danni Beach
Andy says treatment has made him feel more feminine
In a series on celebrities and their health, the BBC News website talks to former England international rugby player Andy Ripley about his battle with prostate cancer.

Andy, 59, played number eight for England between 1972-6.

An all-round athlete, he is also a qualified yachtsman, ran 400 metres in the UK athletics championship, was World Veteran indoor rowing champion and champion of the World Superstars television series.

HOW DID YOU FIRST REALISE SOMETHING WAS WRONG?

I had been at a friend's party in June 2005 and I remember we drove back home. We live in the middle of nowhere.

I was feeling very cold and had a huge pain in my chest. My wife said she would call for an ambulance, but I said not to.

She called NHS direct and they said I could be having a heart attack and sent an ambulance.

I was in the hospital for 20 days and became almost pyjama institutionalised
Andy Ripley

The doors opened and these guys in green jumped out of the back. They said how much they had admired my playing.

They took me to East Surrey Hospital. They were great.

HOW DID YOU GET DIAGNOSED?

They did all the heart tests and found it was a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot that blocks an artery in the lungs), but they did not know what had caused it and so did a series of tests.

Although it was not routine one of the nurses did a PSA test and the results came back that my levels were 133.

I remember saying 'Is that good? and she said 'no'.

I then needed to have four digital rectum examinations.

My prostate cancer was only picked up because I was in hospital. I had not had any of the symptoms, such as weeing a lot in the night.

I was in the hospital for 20 days and became almost pyjama institutionalised.

Because I was on a heart ward, people would come in and spend four days in hospital and by then would either have been moved elsewhere or sent home.

I was like the 'old lag', I saw so many people come and go.

I had a biopsy and was told it was locally advanced prostate cancer.

I knew little about prostate cancer, but I row for a veterans' team and one of the veterans had told us that he had the early stages of prostate cancer.

He told us all to go and get tested, but the next week none of us had.

Ironically while I was commiserating with him my levels were already in triple figures.

WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION TO THE DIAGNOSIS?

I felt unbelievably strong. I have three children and have been married for 30 years.

The pulmonary embolism could have killed me, but it didn't.

I have had this cancer for 20 months now and I have seen people with cancers at the Royal Marsden being corroded from within and perhaps that is the future destiny, but at the moment I have no symptoms.

The only hard part was telling my three children. I told them when they came home. They knew I had been in hospital and I said 'I have locally advanced prostate cancer' and we had a group hug.

Cancer is a big word.

WHAT WAS YOUR TREATMENT?

There was no point having any surgery as it was certain to have spread outside the prostate, because they got it so late.

They gave me hormone treatments Zoladex and Casodex to shrink the tumour, although it is not a cure.

HOW DID YOU FEEL DURING THE TREATMENT?

I felt fine. The Zoladex cuts off the testosterone and that can lead to hot flushes, although I have not really had any.

I have been on it for 12 months.

Prostate
Many men do not know where the prostate is located

I have no libido whatsoever. I can still have an erection, but I have no drive, although I do still occasionally have sex.

But there are also upsides to the treatment. It has made my skin very soft and I shave now just out of habit. It has made me feel more feminine.

For the first time I now love shopping.

HOW DO YOU FEEL NOW?

The treatment does appear to have worked. My PSA levels are undetectable and they gave me radiotherapy.

They kept me on the hormone treatment, but I have asked to come off it because I want a go at the world indoor rowing championship at 60. My doctor thought it was so I could have sex and asked if I wanted Viagra.

I said no, it really was for the world indoor rowing championship and he said I was a sad man. Life is wonderful and I want to enjoy it.

WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO OTHER PEOPLE WITH THE SAME CONDITION?

Everybody is different and they need to go their own way, their own route.

I would say to them not to give up their control - it is their cancer.

My life has been enhanced and since I had cancer, I have never loved so much or been loved so much.

Find out what you can about your cancer and make your choices.

Enjoy every day and remember life is wonderful and a thing of value.

Andy Ripley spoke to promote the work of the Prostate Cancer Charity.

Prostate Cancer Awareness Week is March 19 -25, 2007


RELATED BBC LINKS

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific