In sickness and in health: Ken, Shirley and cancer

Ken Wilson and his wife Shirley have enjoyed an incredible 68 years of marriage. But for many of those years together, both of them have been facing a cancer diagnosis.

Ken Wilson

Cancer has been a big part of Ken Wilson, aged 88, and his wife Shirley’s lives. They’ve both had multiple diagnoses throughout their 68 years of marriage, and Ken is now living beyond cancer. After having the all-clear, Ken is sharing his experiences with us for Bladder Cancer Awareness Month, which is marked every May in the UK.

Bladder cancer is the 10th most common cancer in the UK, and it may come as a surprise that men are more than 4 times more likely to develop this type of cancer than women.

Ken’s journey with this disease started in December 2005, when he first had a basal cell carcinoma – a type of skin cancer – removed from his right ear, resulting in him losing part of his ear lobe. The following October, Ken was shocked to hear that he had now developed bladder cancer – a diagnosis he has been living with for 15 years.

Hearing the words “you have cancer” just once in a lifetime can be devastating – and Ken has had to hear it many times, as he was, in 2010, also diagnosed with bowel cancer.

If something doesn’t feel right, get it checked

Speaking in April 2023, Ken says: “For the past 18 years, my wife and I have been through numerous trips to the hospital, countless check-ups and treatments, but we are still here and enjoying life together.

“I’m very fortunate to have had a positive mindset, which helped throughout my cancer journey. It was lucky that I spotted something wasn’t right early enough so I could receive treatment quickly – which ultimately has saved my life.

“I’m here and alive, and I might not have been if I hadn’t had the operations for my bladder and bowel cancers. My motto in life is: try and look on the bright side and if you think things aren’t going as they should, then get it checked by the doctors.”

Looking ahead and making healthy choices

One of our Cancer Prevention Recommendations is to be physically active. Any movement counts and can help protect against cancer – as well as improving many other aspects of your physical and mental health.

One of the ways in which Ken and Shirley try to live this Recommendation is by gardening. Whether you’ve got an allotment or a tiny plot, gardening can count as moderate intensive exercise – think of all that bending, weeding and lifting – and can be a great way to get more active.

Check out our exercise calorie calculator to see what other activities you could try.

Resources for you

We have lots of free booklets and guides to support you in making healthy choices. Choose any to download, or request a copy through the post.

> Order resources here

If you, or someone you love, is going through cancer, we’re here to support you. From answers to common questions, to advice on side-effects and free recipes tailored for people living with cancer, browse all our resources.

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