FC Halifax Town: Kit man Alan’s message to others after battling against prostate cancer

Alan Jackson. Photo: Matchday ShotsAlan Jackson. Photo: Matchday Shots
Alan Jackson. Photo: Matchday Shots
“My message to anybody reading this is to go get checked.”

If it had been up to him, FC Halifax Town kit man Alan Jackson wouldn’t have even made a doctor’s appointment.

Other than feeling a little tired, Alan felt fine and thought there was no reason to go to the doctors.

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But thanks to the persistence of his wife Kim, an appointment was made and it was discovered Alan, known as Jacko, was in the early stages of prostate cancer.

“I didn’t suspect anything was wrong,” says the 72-year-old.

“Christmas 2019 I’d had a day or two in bed with what felt like flu, and I just felt a bit run down, not a lot of energy.

“My wife said ‘get yourself to the doctors’. I said ‘I’m alright’, I’m just a bit tired’ but she made me an appointment and they sent me for some blood tests.

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“I’d not got any symptoms. I went for these blood tests and a day or two later I got a phone call saying ‘can you come to the doctors’.

“I thought maybe my blood sugars were low or something like that, but he said my PSA (prostate-specific antigen) was up from what it should be.

“He said I had the early signs of prostate cancer, which was a bit of a shock, to put it mildly.

“From there I had various scans, had 10 biopsy’s taken from my prostate, not a very nice operation up my backside, and they found I had early prostate cancer.

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“I went to see the surgeon and radiotherapist and was given the choice of whether I wanted an operation to have my prostate removed or I could have a course of radiotherapy.

“I was told if I had the radiotherapy and it didn’t work, then I couldn’t go back and have the operation.

“I went for the radiotherapy in May, early June, but it got cancelled because of Covid, so I eventually had it done around August time.

“I went every weekday to hospital for four weeks, then more x-rays, more scans, more blood tests.

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“Before the treatment started, the PSA was over four, but after the treatment, it had been reduced to below one.

“I don’t think there’s a cure as such, unless you have your prostate out, but it’s under control now.

“I’ve been very lucky because I had no pain, no trouble going to the toilet, nothing.

“All the way through the treatment, they were brilliant with me at St James’ Hospital, it was very well organised.

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“You’ve got to be very positive, it does help to overcome it.

“I finished the treatment on the same day we went back for pre-season training, which was good because I’d had my treatment and I was back doing the football, which was something to concentrate on.

“I would say to anyone over 50 to go and have a blood test because it’s a simple thing and if they catch it early enough, the treatment’s relatively harmless, not invasive, and it saves your life.

“It’s no good hiding from it, you’ve got to accept it and do something about it, and if you do something about it early enough, you’ve got a chance.”

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Alan, who re-joined Halifax in summer 2019 having worked for the club for two years under Chris Wilder, says a positive mental attitude helped him get through his diagnosis and treatment.

“I went to St Luke’s Hospital and Airedale Hospital at different points and they were always very positive,” he said.

“They weren’t saying ‘don’t worry’ but they were saying ‘we’ve caught this early, you’ve got a good chance’.

“I think their positivity made me positive. Never at any time did they say ‘it’s got you, you’re not getting away from it’.

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“I am generally a positive person and I do try to see the best in everything, and I think it helps to be positive and if you have positive people around you.

“My wife was very supportive, and the lads at work.

“When I was first diagnosed with it, I asked the gaffer if I could have second or two with them, because I’d told the staff but I didn’t want the lads hearing about it from somebody else and whispers going round.

“So I said to them ‘listen, I’ve been diagnosed with it, as far as I know I’m going to be alright’.

“But I wanted them to know that if I was having a bad day and I blew up, to just ignore me and I’ll be alright tomorrow.

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“The lads were always positive and asking me how I was going on, and if I needed any help.

“Catching it early and being positive - that’s what you’ve got to do.”

Alan says sharing his feelings about his diagnosis also helped him to cope.

“I think the more you talk about, other people are then encouraged to talk too.

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“It’s happened to me, it can happen to anybody, so don’t be kidded by the happy-go-lucky Jacko, there might be things going on in the background.

“Just by looking at me, you’d never have guessed there was anything the matter, but if you deal with them early enough you can deal with them.”

Alan, who has been married to Kim for 12 years and lives in Haworth, says the worst part of his experience was the uncertainty of how serious the illness was.

“I think initially it bothered Kim more than it bothered me, because she was like ‘oh bloody hell, what’s happening here?’ he said.

“I imagine one or two things went through her head.

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“Having the tests and the scans was the most worrying time, when I was first diagnosed and we were going here, there and everywhere having scans and biopsy’s and all sorts, taking samples.

“Then when we saw the radiotherapist and the surgeon, that can you something to focus on because it’s a case if ‘if we do this, then this happens’.

“It was worrying before we knew what was going to happen to me, going to see these people and not knowing if they were going to say ‘you’re going to have a good outcome’ or ‘you’ve got six months to live’.

“The surgeon said I’d have to lose some weight to give me a better chance of success if I chose to have the surgery, or even to have a better chance of the radiotherapy to work, so we started walking, and I lost two-and-a-half stone.

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“So in a strange sort of way, getting diagnosed, and during the pandemic so you’re at home, all of a sudden I had some time to myself when I could get myself right.

“I’ve ended up having a good result, but I’ve been lucky. Some people aren’t as lucky as me.”

Alan can now look forward to more quality time with Kim, their five children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

“I think it makes you appreciate your time,” he said. “I hate wasting my time, I like to get on with things, get it done and move on.

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“It just makes you think about time, about people around you.

“I was lucky that I had good support of my wife and family and once I had my treatment, I was back at work, and then you’ve got 30 lads around you every day, so it keeps your mind active.

“I didn’t find it easy, it wasn’t easy, but I tried my best to stay positive. That’s the trick.

“I’m the luckiest man alive because I hadn’t got any symptoms, I never thought there was something wrong.

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“It’s six or seven months since I finished my treatment now.

“My message to anybody reading this is ‘go get checked’. Go to the doctors and say ‘can I have a blood test?’

“If you leave it and leave it, you’re starting to leave it until you’ve got it bad and then there’s less you can do.

“I thank my wife because I wasn’t going to the doctors, my wife made me the appointment.

“I’m not one for going to the doctors, which is maybe a man thing. Couple of paracetamol and it’ll go away - I would have done that if my wife hadn’t made the appointment.”

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