In March 2021, icpc Health Partner and Podiatrist, Ros Riungu walked 11,000 steps every day for a month to raise awareness for Prostate Cancer.
The March The Month challenge raised just shy of £1,800,000 UK-wide - £1,200 of which came from Ros and her marching partner, Marja.
We chatted to Ros to find out:
Her personal reasons for taking on the challenge and
The surprising benefits she experienced along the way
Why prostate cancer needs to be on everyone’s radar
How you can get involved in March The Month yourself
First of all, Ros - congratulations on raising £1,200 for Prostate Cancer UK. What a brilliant achievement!
Thank you, we’re really overwhelmed by the support from the friends and family who sponsored us and cheered us on. Most of all, I’m just really happy to be able to raise funds and awareness for the cause.
Why did you decide to raise money for this cause in particular?
Honestly, I think men’s health is off the radar for a lot of people.
But the fact is that 11,900 men die every year from prostate cancer and so many of these deaths could be prevented with early detection. Raising awareness is a step towards that.
Prostate Cancer UK is a great organisation. They fund research to stop prostate cancer killing men, investing millions to find better treatments and better tests that can spot fast-growing cancers early, and could be used in a screening programme to save thousands of lives.
Do you have a personal connection to the disease?
Yes, several actually.
First here’s my close friend Dave* (early 50s). He’s one of the lucky ones, diagnosed early by a really smart young GP, who basically saved the life of a patient younger than the standard age range for this disease.
Then there’s Marein (70-something), who after a late stage diagnosis received great targeted treatment and is now doing much better with reduced intervention.
And then there’s the really shocking experience of my friend Kenny’s partner. At the end of November last year, Phil woke up one morning paraplegic. He was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which had spread to his spine. It’s likely the cancer had been developing for over a decade and we had no idea. Now he’s wheelchair-bound.
Although as a podiatrist I work with a very different part of the body, I’ve also heard all sorts of stories from my male patients about their own experiences with prostate cancer in various stages.
Their experiences are so very different but connected.
What do you wish everyone knew about prostate cancer?
Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the UK (behind lung cancer) with 11,900 prostate cancer deaths in the UK every year - that’s 32 men dying every day from the disease.
And yet, as my friend Kenny says, “How many men talk about the early symptoms? Men need to be less embarrassed about their bodily functions with our loved one, GPs, and carers. Prostate cancer is not an “old man’s disease.” Men need to talk more about their pee problems.”
I think it’s also important to note that prostate cancer is a disease that affects everyone - not just those with a prostate. One diagnosis touches so many people. We all have fathers, or brothers, or sons, or friends who could contract it and it’s not only their lives that are affected. There’s a real ripple effect and I’ve seen that first hand.
If you’re reading this it’s likely several people you know will contract prostate cancer at some point in their lives. 1 in every 8 men in the UK will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime.
There are also a lot of assumptions surrounding symptoms and testing. There’s a great myth-busting page here.
How did you find the experience of walking 11,000 steps per day for a full month?
I really benefited from the walking personally. It’s great physical exercise but it was also really good for my headspace. There were definitely days that I was exhausted and every step was a prisoner… But for the most part I was making an effort to prioritise my time and get the steps in.
On the days when I wasn’t able to, I noticed my mood was different. I came to look forward to going out somewhere, planning where I could go that I hadn’t already been and trying to make it interesting within the Covid restrictions.
Apart from getting out into the fresh air, it also led to lots of interaction - both so vital while we were in lockdown.
I tried to vary the route and that way I discovered so many new parts of the city I’d somehow missed before now. I took photos of great street art, spring flowers, sites of historical interest and places I had a personal connection to as well. I shared these images on Facebook, which led to some great chat in the comments.
The support from people was amazing. Not just the sponsorshipbut the cheerleaders, the offers of walking buddies and the people who sent the “Text me when you get home” messages.
I have lots of friends who are knowledgeable about all sorts of stuff we never normally speak about, so I’ve come away having had some great conversations about dogs, history, flowers and football. I have also had conversations about previously unspeakable things and that wouldn’t have happened without the walk or the fundraising.
And I think that’s important.
Would you do it again?
Definitely! I really want to help spread the word about this disease and do what I can to help financially. I'd love to assemble an icpc Health team for the next one. Practitioners and patients too!
Thanks so much for chatting, Ros - and well done again!
Looking for more information about Prostate Cancer UK and how to get involved in March the Month 2022? Visit their website at www.prostatecanceruk.org.
*This name has been changed to protect his privacy.