Matthew Reed, founder and managing director at Equipsme (pictured), had an additional reason to celebrate this Christmas as he was given the all clear for prostate cancer from his consultant just before Christmas.
Health & Protection readers may remember that to mark men’s health awareness month Movember we spoke to Reed about being tested for prostate cancer, securing an appointment quickly due to the company’s own benefits offering and why his experience meant he had become more than happy to talk about his private parts in public.
Providing an update on his situation, Reed told Health & Protection while as the leader of an health insurance company he is usually “pretty good” at compartmentalising, it was impossible not to worry as he waited for a diagnosis.
“So it was an incredible relief to get the all-clear from my consultant just before Christmas,” Reed revealed. “I could take the kids to late night Xmas shopping without wondering about whether or not prostate cancer was about to affect all our lives.
“I feel incredibly lucky, because not everyone gets good news. Not everyone catches it early. Not everyone gets answers as quickly as I did through Equipsme.”
Incredible eye opener
Reed quipped that while his experience was a “rather extreme” way to go about mystery shopping his firm’s services, it has proven an “incredible” eye-opener.
“I’ve always been proud of what we do to open up private healthcare to more people,” he continued. “Now I’ve been at the sharp end of our services – occasionally literally – I’m prouder than ever. And incredibly grateful to have had it there as back up when I needed it.
“From my GP referral through consultations, blood tests and MRI, onto my final appointment just before Christmas, was a matter of weeks.
“What’s more, I didn’t have to bother the winter-beleaguered NHS. And that happens to be one of the key reasons people cite for not to take their symptoms to a doctor – they don’t want to be a ‘bother’. It might be nothing, after all – all very typically old-school attitude.”
Signs of cancer
But Reed warned that while some symptoms may be nothing to worry about in some cases, in others they might be.
“If you’re getting up for a wee in the middle of the night you might just have an enlarged prostate,” he added. “Or you might have cancer.
“I might have been looking at surgery and chemo this year. You can’t ‘might’ when it comes to your health – you have to know. And the earlier you know, the better the outcomes, and the less you’ll be a drain on the system. (As reminder, diagnosed at stage 1, almost 100% of men live five years or more. By stage 4, that drops to only 50%).”
What we should be doing
And since sharing his story, Reed says he has been “really surprised” and “quite humbled” by the responses he had had from people who have read about his experience.
“And I’d like to stress that talking about this stuff isn’t brave, it’s normal,” he said.
“This is exactly what we should all be doing ordinarily and I was reminded by a female friend that we blokes have it easy on the embarrassing front.
“And this is also exactly how private medical insurance should be working for normal people, alongside public health services.”
Time for change
All of which has meant Reed remains on a mission to to raise awareness.
“Men, and I can say this , are rubbish about talking about this stuff,” he continued.
“We don’t go to the doctor when we should – in fact some surveys show three quarters of us avoid the GP when we’re ill.
“There is balance between the improved awareness and the strain on services but in general we don’t put our health first. It’s absolutely time that changed.”