THIS is the story of a man who popped into his doctor’s with a cold and came out having been told he might have cancer.

Dennis Westcott is my father, a genial 73-year-old, seemingly without a care in the world.

Officially retired after a lifetime on the docks in Grimsby, he nevertheless ‘works’ every day at a health and well-being centre, helping those less able than himself.

Fit as the proverbial butcher’s dog, he maintains the physique of a man many years his junior without even trying. Whereas many grandads are content to sit and watch their grandkids play football, climb trees and jump becks, he is often there leading the way.

What follows, then, is a lesson for all men who have yet to have their prostate checked.

“I had a really terrible cold and usually I don’t go to the doctors because I don’t need to,” my father recalled. “It wasn’t disappearing so after going to the chemist I ended up at the doctors.

“He checked me over, told me it was nothing serious and I was all set to walk out the door when he said: ‘Mr Westcott, when was the last time you had your prostate checked?’.

“I told him 18 months or a couple of years ago and so he asked me to hop on the bed. He did what they do in these circumstances, said he wasn’t happy and would make a hospital appointment for me.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

After attending for the appointment and being submitted to the associated tests, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

“I believe the first thing I expressed was surprise, because I didn’t feel ill,” he said. “This is the thing about it. You don’t feel ill and suddenly they tell you you have got cancer.

“I said straightaway, and I remember this like it was yesterday, ‘Is it terminal?’

“The consultant said ‘No, no’ and that obviously reassured me. If he had said it was terminal I might have been on the floor. He said ‘it’s a condition we can do something about and we are going to treat you’. Thankfully, it hadn’t spread anywhere. He said he hoped I would be around for the next ten years at least.”

What followed was several weeks of radio therapy at Castle Hill Hospital, in Hull, and then numerous follow-up appointments that see him now with the cancer under control.

Not everyone is as fortunate as my father.

Current figures show that 11,819 men are dying from prostate cancer in the UK every year – the equivalent of one man every 45 minutes. This compares with 11,442 women who die from breast cancer.

One of the men my father made friends with during his treatment has since lost his life, his cancer having been more aggressive and lain untreated for too long.

It’s for that reason that he is now urging other men to do what he did, albeit inadvertently, and speak with a doctor.

“The chap I met was younger than me, probably ten years so, and he is no longer here,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it.

“It made me think what might have happened to me. If I hadn’t gone to the doctors, if the doctor hadn’t thought to ask me if I would be examined, if the consultant hadn’t confirmed the cancer, who knows what might have happened?

“I don’t go out of my way to tell people, but if it comes up in conversation I will talk about it. I would just say ‘please go and see your doctor’.

“I am an example of someone who has been fortunate, but this is serious. Men don’t talk like women do about things – a lot more do these days, but not nearly enough. Because it’s happened to me we talk about it, but otherwise we probably wouldn’t. Men are a different species..

“I would definitely encourage men to speak with someone. It’s like anything, we always fear the worst, but it doesn’t have to be that way.”

In order to increase awareness of prostate cancer, I am cycling from Yorkshire to Holland in June. I will be joining 400 other cyclists and a few celebrities as well as we look to raise many thousands of pounds for Prostate Cancer UK.

We will be setting off from two points, my group going from Barnsley to Hull and a second group going from London to Harwich. Both then join up in Rotterdam before the glorious ride to Amsterdam, finishing at Ajax’s fantastic Amsterdam Arena.