It will be a poignant moment for devoted Boro fan Sharron Garbutt when she carries out the match ball before the club’s home game with Queens Park Rangers on Saturday.
Three years ago, Sharron’s husband John, a fellow Season Card holder, was diagnosed with prostate cancer that had spread to his spine. Despite intensive treatment, the disease claimed his life within months.
Since John’s death, Sharron has campaigned for Prostate Cancer UK, the Football League’s official charity, who will combine with staff, players and fans at the Riverside on Saturday in a special day of action against a disease that affects one in eight men.
Sharron, from Billingham, said: “If I can help to save one man’s life by raising awareness of this disease, then I will feel John’s death was not in vain and that I have achieved something amazing.
“John would have been so jealous to see me walking out to the centre circle with the ball. It’s a fitting tribute to my husband who was such a proud Boro fan.”
Sharron, who sits in the West Stand Lower, used to accompany John to matches and looked forward to travelling to away matches in their camper van.
“I’ve learned a lot about prostate cancer since losing John and the main thing is that it can spread so quickly,” she added. “My husband was a fit and active 64-year-old man who was never off work and he had no symptoms prior to coming down with a bad back.
“He had an MRI scan that showed he had a tumour in his spine. He had radiotherapy, which helped, but within 11 months the condition took his life.
“It came as such a huge shock to us because John had been travelling to work at Corus, where he was a fitter, on his motorbike just days leading up to the diagnosis.
“The message is that prostate cancer can have devastating consequences if it is undetected in the early stages.”
Boro head coach Aitor Karanka and QPR manager Harry Redknapp will sport the iconic Prostate Cancer UK Man of Men pin badges on the sidelines, and supporters will be able to follow suit and badge up themselves. There will be added information in the matchday programme and on the big screen, and also via social media.
The charity is currently engaged in its high profile ‘Men United v Prostate Cancer’ campaign, which aims to build a united front of men against the disease. Big names from the world of show business such as Stephen Fry, Sir Michael Parkinson and Damian Lewis, together with England sporting icons Les Ferdinand and Will Carling, have already signed for Men United, a unique team ‘managed’ by comedian Bill Bailey.
From the Riverside Stadium to Rodney Parade and Brunton Park to Home Park clubs from up and down the country are taking steps to make a change. Men are being asked to sign and also test their health knowledge by completing a simple online test.
Prostate Cancer UK’s Director of Fundraising, Mark Bishop, said: “We’ve been blown away by the positivity generated by our Men United v Prostate Cancer campaign and as official charity partner of the Football League its fantastic to be able to further enhance that synergy as part of these special days.
“It’s great to see clubs up and down the country join together to make a difference to men’s health, not just on behalf of its own fans but on behalf of all men across the country too, men like John. Sharron’s magnificent efforts have been rightly recognised as she keeps the legacy of John burning bright and we hope she enjoys her special day.”
The pioneering partnership between Prostate Cancer UK and The Football League aims to reach over 16 million fans across the terraces up and down the country, raising awareness of the disease that affects one in eight men some time in their lives and kills more than 10,000 men a year.
NOTES TO EDITOR
For further information please contact Jim Knight on 07595 520595 or the Media & Communications Department on 01325 729902.
About The Football League’s Official Charity Partnership with Prostate Cancer UK:
With 250,000 men – enough to fill Wembley Stadium three times over – living with the disease in the UK, the partnership will help to increase awareness of the disease and help raise funds so that more men survive it and enjoy a better quality of life.
Prostate Cancer UK – the Official Charity Partner of The Football League – aims to reach millions of football supporters through engagement activity across over 60 football grounds to raise awareness of the disease which now affects 1 in 8 men in the UK, that's a death rate of 10,000 deaths a year. As well as raising awareness of the disease, the official partnership will help to raise funds so that more men survive it and enjoy a better quality of life. Men United - aims to galvanise the football community and inspire a movement for change in men’s health to win the battle against prostate cancer once and for all.
Prostate Cancer UK will launch a range of fundraising and awareness activities across the season and supporters can receive exclusive football stories via a Men United e-newsletter – football one - and sign up for the second annual charity challenge by cycling from London to Amsterdam. Also, the Men United Hall of Fame will seek to showcase and award members of the football community for outstanding work undertaken on behalf of men’s health across the season.
About prostate cancer:
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men in the UK. Over 40,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. Every hour 1 man dies from prostate cancer.
One in four Black men will develop prostate cancer at some point in their lives.
Prostate Cancer UK fights to help more men survive prostate cancer and enjoy a better quality of life. It funds research into causes and treatments and provides support and information.
If you have concerns about prostate cancer please call Prostate Cancer UK's confidential Helpline on 0800 074 8383 or visit www.prostatecanceruk.org. The helpline is free to landlines, staffed by specialist nurses, and open from 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday with late opening until 8pm on Wednesdays.
About Men United:
Men United v Prostate Cancer is our call for men to join together in a movement against the common enemy of prostate cancer. The aim is to build a united front of men against this disease. We want to get the message out about one of the UK’s biggest man killers, support men affected by it, and intensify the search for more reliable tests and treatments for the future.
Men are being asked to sign for Men United by visiting www.prostatecanceruk.org/menunited where they can also test their health knowledge by taking a quick quiz.
The core audience is men over 45 who urgently need to know about this disease, and to do something about it. Men United is not exclusively for men. This is a movement for men, but women will be critical supporters and activists within it. But, the core idea is that men are very consciously facing their health and banding together to right a wrong.
Whether they’ve been diagnosed or are simply concerned about prostate cancer, men can find out about the disease at www.prostatecanceruk.org.