Widow's pride at husband's prostate cancer campaign
The grieving widow of a Wigan man has spoken of her pride at his campaign to make testing for prostate cancer mandatory.
Kevin Vardy, from Appley Bridge, lost his battle with the disease in September but in the last 14 months of his life set up an online petition and worked with scientists to improve tests.
His wife Susan told how the petition to ensure men receive a specific test for the disease on a regular basis once they reach 50 has received more than 53,000 signatures and how he battled tirelessly to raise awareness. And she revealed that her husband will have a lasting legacy as researchers intend to name a new test after Kevin once it has passed clinical trials. However, she said his achievements are also painfully bittersweet as 54-year-old Kevin will never get to benefit from the improvements he did so much to bring about.
Susan, 60, said: “What he achieved since his diagnosis should be highlighted. Until the last couple of months when he became too poorly he gave all his energy to it.
“It’s hard losing someone when you expect another 20 years with them. It could have been a different outcome if he had had the tests when he asked for them.
“I’m very proud but very sad because it is all too late for Kevin. I wish someone else would have done it for him and it was his life that had been saved. He put everything into it when he was well. I thought we should have been making the most of the time we had but he was absolutely determined and I’m glad I supported him through it.”
Kevin became concerned he was suffering from prostate cancer as there was a history of the disease in his family and he was experiencing pain in his back, pelvis and abdomen but he was initially talked out of having the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test.
By the time Kevin was diagnosed with prostate cancer it was too late. His condition was terminal.
Doctors told the devastated 53-year-old and his wife Susan, there was nothing they could do.
Tragically, Kevin had asked for a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test many months earlier because he had an inkling he was suffering from the illness, especially as his dad died from the disease, but he was dissuaded from having one.
Speaking before his death, Mr Vardy said: “I had real pains in my back, pelvis and abdomen.
“Looking back the consultant said it had been going on for three years when I was about 50.
“It just went really bad, I had to go to work with a hot water bottle in June, even when it was really hot.
“One of the times I went to the doctor I asked about having a PSA test. It’s one of those things where it’s an indicator of things going wrong, it doesn’t tell you one way or the other what is wrong.
“The doctor talked me out of having it at the time and referred me to a chiropractor.”
Eventually he referred himself to a neurologist through his health insurance where his exact diagnosis was confirmed following an MRI scan.
The cancer which began in his prostate, had now spread to his bones and vertebrates.
“Four weeks down the line and it had got into my bones,” he said.
“If I had left it, God knows where I would be. Because of my father dying of prostate cancer I eventually got diagnosed.
“I went to see a neurologist and he did a digital rectal exam which was very unpleasant. Prostate cancer is one of the most treatable cancers but for me it had gone too far and had got into my bones.
“I requested an MRI scan and they said it had spread to my bones and was in three vertebrae and that one was all cancer. It had also spread to my hip and ribs.”
Kevin was put through rigorous treatment and while it took a long time to diagnose, praised Wigan, Wrightington and Leigh NHS for their treatment once it was apparent he had cancer.
While a PSA test is not as accurate as Breast Screening (Mammogram) or Cervical Smear it is a good indication to suggest further investigation. Kevin passionately believed that regular tests could highlight changes in men and increase the likelihood that the illness will be caught sooner rather than later. He said: “If you have one every 12 months, you can spot changes and problems early. You can then start to take action early.”
Tragically Kevin was right. But for him it was too late.