Prostate cancer survivor Robbie - 'If you notice anything unusual, please, please get checked'

As an officer in Dublin Fire Brigade, Robbie Connell is used to dealing with adversity. But nothing could prepare the 53-year-old for the shock of a prostate cancer diagnosis in November last year.

“I got a test done but I wasn’t really worried. Then I got the call to say the results had been referred on, and I thought ‘this isn’t good’,” said father-of-six Robbie from Meath.

“I remember going to see my consultant after getting a biopsy done. When they start by saying ‘we need to talk about your results’, that’s when the fog descends and despite my usual instinct to lighten bad situations with humour, it feels like your world has collapsed around you.”

Even before his own diagnosis, Robbie had been keenly aware of the devastation a cancer diagnosis can bring having lost his own father at the same age.

quotations Created with Sketch.

We went on to discuss treatment options, and it was at that point you realise your life as you know it has changed.

Robbie Connell fireman

Up until that fateful moment Robbie was used to offering a shoulder for others to lean on, both through his family life, and a steadfast commitment to his beloved Trim Celtic Football Club.

But as the prospect of surgery to remove the tumour loomed, he found himself in the unusual and vulnerable position of having to rely on others including his brothers and wife Aisling for strength.

“I received a call before Christmas with a date for my prostate surgery. At that point I did as we all do when we’re faced with faced with adversity; I fibbed that I couldn’t, saying I was out of the country on that date. The truth is I was having difficulty facing up to such a big moment.

“I’m lucky in that I received amazing support from my brothers, who said the right things and exactly what I needed to hear, and my better half Aisling who was my rock of support throughout.”

He eventually received the surgery in January and the tumour was successfully removed. But for Robbie there will always be a need for constant vigilance given the ever-present possibility that he may need further treatment in future.

The road to recovery has not been easy for the energetic Meathman, but Robbie has taken the opportunity of his own experience to highlight the risks of cancer for men and raise money for support services and research, including taking part in the Irish Cancer Society’s Marathon in a Month challenge in June.

After an eventful 10-month journey so far, Robbie’s plea to others is straightforward: “If you take anything from my story, if you notice anything unusual in yourself, then please, please get checked.”

Contact the Irish Cancer Society Support Line

If you have a concern or query about cancer, you can speak confidentially to an Irish Cancer Society Cancer Nurse through the Freephone Support Line on 1800 200 700.

Monday to Friday, 9.00am - 5.00pm