Published: 12:38, 14 August 2019
| Updated: 12:39, 14 August 2019
One wrong turn could have paralysed Stephen Meekins for life.
When the former security guard to the stars started suffering with back pain, he took painkillers and thought nothing of it.
In the months that followed, the 61-year-old discovered he was living with prostate cancer, which was spreading and compressing onto his lower vertebrae.
The 61-year-old said: “If someone had called my name and I’d turned around the wrong way, I would have been paralysed for life.”
Having been rushed to King’s College Hospital for emergency spinal surgery, Mr Meekins started radiotherapy last week and wants to thank the doctors and nurses he feels saved his life.
Mr Meekins, from Chapel Street, East Malling, said: “When it started I just took some painkillers, but after about 10 weeks the pain got unbearable, it dropped me to my knees and I had to phone 111.
“When I got to hospital they said it was just my age and told me to take some paracetamol.
“The pain kept up so I went to my surgery, Thornhills Medical Practice, and they booked me in for a scan.
“I had an X-Ray but I remember a Dr Andre D’Costa insisted I got a scan as well, that’s when he found something and insisted I get to a hospital.
“I asked if I was okay to drive, he told me under no circumstances should I drive to the hospital.”
Once in Maidstone Hospital the former BT Sport and BBC bodyguard was treated by an oncology team who discovered his prostate cancer had spread up to his vertebrae.
He said: “When I arrived at Maidstone they kept me in and I was walking round normally.
“Then after four or five days they told me I was not allowed out of bed, if I needed anything I was to buzz for them.
“That night I was rushed to King’s College Hospital and I had emergency surgery on my spine.”
While under the knife surgeons placed £5,000 worth of surgical steel in three of Mr Meekins’ vertebrae, treating the two on either side.
Doctors told the father-of-two a slight twist could have severed his spinal cord, as the cancer in his prostate had spread.
Now he’s also living with a 1.5cm growth in his lung, which doctors continue to monitor.
Mr Meekins said: “I know I can’t mention every member of the oncology team, they were all fantastic, but I really want to thank one nurse, Andrew Brown. I really feel like he moved heaven and earth to get me to King’s for surgery.
“A lot of people have something bad to say about the NHS but Andrew and Dr D’Costa were incredible.”
With his treatment now underway, the former bodyguard, who has protected the likes of Ian Wright, Michael Owen and Sharon Osborne, is urging men to get themselves checked.
He said: “I had never been for a prostate check before. But I wish I had.
“I’m sure there are loads of men out there that say they’ll do it some day. Anybody I see over the age of 30 I tell them, get to your doctor.
“It’s 20 seconds of being uncomfortable but it’s 20 seconds that could save your life.
“You could be shopping, turn around to get something and you’re paralysed for life.”
Despite his near miss, Mr Meekins is facing a difficult prognosis.
He said: “They tell me its something that can’t be cured but it can be treated. Best case scenario I have more than five years to live.
“The shortest time they’ve given me is 12 to 18 months to live.
“I’ve had to give up work because of this, but fortunately the job has meant I’ve always had to keep fit.
“The oncologists have told me it means I’m eligible for any new trials or treatments that come up while I’m receiving care.”
The causes of prostate cancer are largely unknown, however most cases develop in men aged 50 or older.
Some research suggests obesity can be linked to it, while men with brothers or a father who suffered with prostate cancer are slightly more likely to be affected than those without.
While men over 50 are recommended to get tested regardless of symptoms, there are important signs to look out for.
Some of the key symptoms include needing to use the toilet more, often during the night, and needing to rush when doing so.
There can also be a difficulty in passing urine or a feeling that your bladder has not emptied fully.
Men should also look out for blood in their urine or semen.
None of these are surefire signs of prostate cancer, but they may prompt a man to get tested.
To find out more about prostate cancer, visit tinyurl.com/kmprostatenhs.