Our beloved husband and brother, Bob Willis – the former England Cricket Captain, opinionated Sky Sports broadcaster and hero of Headingley 1981 – was a healthy 66 year old when a urinary tract infection took him to the doctor.
Bob had noticed a weakening of his urine flow and a blood test showed his Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) was slightly raised.
He was referred to a urologist, who believed there was nothing to worry about but suggested returning in 6 weeks to make sure. At this point an MRI scan and a biopsy were recommended. The results were devastating. Bob had advanced prostate cancer that had spread to his bones.
The PSA blood test can help diagnose prostate problems, including prostate cancer, but there are pros and cons to it. So while PSA testing can be a good indicator for many men at risk of prostate cancer, it didn’t work for Bob. His cancer was aggressive and fast-moving, and time was lost between accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Bob’s demise was agonising to watch and, as we supported him through his illness, we learnt as much as we could about this cruel disease. What shocked us most was that, despite being the number one diagnosed cancer in the UK, affecting 1 in 8 men, there is still no test good enough for a comprehensive national screening programme that can let doctors know, quickly and accurately, whether a patient is at risk or how aggressive their cancer might be.
For Bob, it took almost five months between his inconclusive PSA test and the start of treatment because it simply wasn’t clear to medical specialists what they were dealing with. He died aged 70 in December 2019, three years and eight months later.
We have launched The Bob Willis Fund to support critical research into prostate cancer in the hope that a nationally accessible, accurate screening programme may be introduced to save the lives of much loved men.
We hope the work done in Bob’s name will help slow the relentless progress of this silent killer, raise awareness of the importance of testing and, ultimately, prevent others from having to pick up the pieces after losing their husband, partner, father, brother, uncle, grandfather, friend or colleague unnecessarily and far too young.
Co-Founders, The Bob Willis Fund