Serving with cancer: International Men’s Day 2021

International Men’s Day is a globally recognised day, marked each year on 19 November, which focuses on the value men bring to the world, their families, and communities. For the British Army, we are shining a spotlight on men’s health and wellbeing.

On this International Men’s Day, we share the story of a Scottish soldier who is living day to day with advanced prostate cancer, and how he is supported by those closest to him, including his Army comrades.

For Sergeant Donald Campbell of 7th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland (7 SCOTS), and his family the cancer diagnosis in 2019 was devastating. Despite following up his symptoms with his, Donald was still shocked to learn that they didn’t catch it early enough.

The sooner you catch this in the bud, the better." Sergeant Donald Campbell, 7 SCOTS

Initially Donald was treated for a urine infection. He said: “I tend not to go to the Dr, but this pain I had been getting when going to the toilet had lasted about a month, so I did have to do something about it.

“To be honest, it has affected us mentally, I suppose, but we are a strong family. Initially everybody was devastated when you get the words, ‘you’ve got cancer,’ but as a family we’re getting on with it.”

Cancer affects soldiers as well as civilians - it does not discriminate. Men should regularly check for abnormalities in their bodies including any new lumps, aches, dullness, or changes in function, and report any changes to their GP or Medical Officer.

Donald echoes the advice: “I would advise people not to delay, just act on it straight away. The sooner you catch this in the bud, the better. If you get pains, get to your doctor, or get to your Medical Officer straight away,” he says.

Fear of what will happen to their job/career if they were ill can prevent people from getting a lump, ache or change examined by their doctor; along with male pride, embarrassment, and fear of diagnosis.

Focusing on work and family has been one way Donald says helps him. “I am being positive, although it does spring in from time to time, what I’m dealing with.”

For people living with cancer, the support of their military family is vital, as Donald’s Commanding Officer, Lt Col Duncan McKinnon, says: “The Royal Regiment of Scotland is first and foremost a family regiment and looking after our people is just who we are and what we do.

“Sgt Campbell and his family are part of our family and we will make sure they get all the support they need. That is an easier task given the selfless drive and dedication Sgt Campbell gives to his role.”

Support available through the Army

Wounded Injured and Sick management system (WIS) is in place to support all military cancer sufferers on their journey through the Army Recovery Capability and Pathway. Support and courses are offered and delivered by Personnel Recovery Centres including Tedworth House and facilities such as the Battle Back Centre.

Personnel Recovery Officers or Unit Welfare teams will help support soldiers individually through their journey and the Occupational Health Team will help advocate a graduated return to work within the limits of the illness.

The CanDID Network also provides support by connecting service personnel who share similar circumstance, experience, and mind-set.  It supports service men and women personally affected by illness to reach their full potential in and out of the workplace and support the chain of command and line managers to better understand and accommodate the needs of those they are responsible for.

Important links:

Mind - www.mind.org.uk/information-support/
The Samaritans - www.samaritans.org
Movember - uk.movember.com
Prostate Cancer UK - prostatecanceruk.org
Mankind - www.mankind.org.uk