Carole Fowler raises awareness of prostate cancer, an important male health issue that caused the death of her late husband.
This is a short story about my husband, Tony Fowler, and his love of windsurfing.
Now all you keen windsurfers out there, whether you like lakes or the sea, from Tiree in the Inner Hebrides to Rhosneigr in Wales, or the relatively safe waters of Poole and Portland harbour in Dorset, you all have your favourite haunts. Well my husband Tony loved Portland Harbour. It’s only an hour and a half from our home town in Frome, Somerset. Tony and our son Luke have enjoyed many a good time down there, out on the water for hours at a time.
This all started 30 years ago, picture the scene! We arrive at Portland harbour and park up in the car park. Now…any of you out there who use this place will know that once the ferry bridge car park is full, you have no other option than to cross the road (it certainly pays to get there early). So we have to cross the road! This very busy bit of tarmac linking the Isle of Portland to the mainland is the worst part of the day. Tony and Luke would take the windsurfers off the roof, bear in mind this is 30 years ago, so the equipment is so long and heavy you need two people to carry the darn things. Now it is time to negotiate the crossing… phew across safely! Put it down, and go back to the car to get sail, mast and boom. Eventually they are done with transporting the gear, so cross the road to go to the toilet and get their wetsuits on, ready to go after a good hour! But what’s this? Oh no… the wind has dropped…arghhh!! But like all windsurfers, they don’t worry. Time now to have a stroll along the beach and catch up with a few other guys, after all it’s a very sociable sport. What kit you got? How far have you come? Sit it out and have a coffee as no one ever wants to be the first to leave the beach. But wait…there’s some breeze on my face…get out the ‘windeeometer’ (we all called it that!). YES! It’s back… however the wind has changed direction; sometimes you get a drop in wind when that happens, so now it’s one mad dash for the water, everyone for themselves. It’s blowing a good one. Me… (the wife), is left sat on a chair, our other children running around on the beach, coats and hats on, all wrapped up. I’ve got a hot chocolate in hand and a copy of the latest edition of Windsurf; partners of windsurfers know this feeling only too well!
Fast forward to late August 2017. Tony was still loving life and windsurfing, nothing much had changed. His and Luke’s love for the sport was still very much there for all to see, and thankfully the equipment had changed so they didn’t have to struggle as much, which equated to two very happy guys as they got to spend more time on the water. However Tony was in pain with his back, but we didn’t know then what we eventually found out two months later. This was an early symptom of prostate cancer.
As mentioned previously, it pays to get to your chosen spot in the car park early. The earlier you get there, the more chance you have, and it’s the same with cancer. Tony was diagnosed with prostate cancer in November 2017, unfortunately we didn’t catch it early enough, the winds had already changed and this time it definitely was a lull before the storm as it had already spread to his lymph nodes and into his bones. There was no cure. It was already in his spine. Tony sadly lost his fight with this dreadful disease in June 2018, less than ten months from his last windsurfing session. He like many other guys out there displayed no normal early signs, all he had was a niggling backache that normal over the counter painkillers seemed to look after. When he finally sought medical assistance, the doctor originally thought it was kidney stones as he was displaying classic symptoms, until scans showed up the worst! In a few months this fit and able man, husband, father to four children and grandfather to six, who enjoyed life to the full, struggled to walk, let alone get on a board and he spent his last few weeks in a wheelchair.
With the help of the OTC at Portland we have donated 3 of his boards, sails, masts and fins as Tony had many a good time on the water, so hopefully his kit will help others to enjoy the sport too!
If we can save another family from going through this nightmare, then this story will be well worth it.
For more information on prostate cancer please visit:
Avid windsurfer, Tony Fowler. Photo by Carole Fowler.