Captain John on the mental impact of cancer

Wednesday 05 October 2022

Maggie's Dundee

I’ve been married to my wife Margaret since 1979, and we have a son and daughter who are both grown up. We now also have two grandchildren.

I used to be a Captain in the British Army until I retired. 

I have always done a lot of fundraising for different charities. In 2017, I did one hour of fitness every day for a month, and my friends and family voted for the money to go to Maggie’s.

At that point I wasn’t aware of what Maggie’s did. But I went along to present them with a cheque in December 2017 and they showed me around the centre which I found very impressive.

Little did I know that I would need Maggie’s less than two years later.

I was diagnosed in June 2019 with a particularly aggressive form of prostate cancer, which did its best to bring about my early demise.

Because I was fit from being in the military, my doctors decided to give me a very strong dose of chemotherapy, as well as hormone therapy and radiotherapy.

Maggie’s support

My diagnosis really floored me mentally. I just couldn’t deal with it.

I went from being a 60‐year‐old guy who was very fit and healthy, to being given a diagnosis of cancer.

It really affected my head and at one point, I fully intended to take my own life.

My wife couldn’t help me, my boss couldn’t help me. It got to the point where my suicidal thoughts became quite obsessive and I said to my wife that I was going to go to Maggie’s.

I began fortnightly sessions with a psychologist at Maggie’s, which I found very, very helpful. I’m not sure if I would have got through it without their help.

After the first three sessions, my perspective totally changed. I think it can be easier to open about these things to a professional.

I also joined the prostate cancer support group just after my diagnosis.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first arrived. The first thing I thought was ‘why am I here?’, because most of the gentlemen there were a lot older than me.

But I went back the following month and I realised that I could learn a lot from them.

Life after cancer

I really wanted to do all I could to give back to Maggie’s. So far, I’ve walked around all the Maggie’s centres in Scotland to raise money.

I was recently asked to join the fundraising board so I could help even further and am really enjoying getting involved with all that I can. I love to come up with new ways to raise money – soldiers are good at thinking laterally!

I was asked to help get the choir in Maggie’s Dundee up and running safely again after Covid, because I was a health and safety officer in the army. At the first session, Michelle who runs the choir suggested I joined in and I thought ‘why not?’ I never expected to enjoy it as much as I do.

Being part of the choir really lifts me and I look forward to it every week. People are all at different stages of their experience, with some going through treatment right now, but everyone leaves smiling.

We performed in a Christmas concert in Dundee Cathedral, which was very special.

Starting a new business

When I left the army, I did a course in DIY and I learnt all sorts of skills. I thought that now, as a civilian, I could be a handyman.

Everyone advised me against it ‐ starting a new business at the age of 63 would be stressful, both financially and physically. But I wanted to prove them all wrong.

I traded my car in for a van and began ‘Heroes Handyman’. The feedback has been amazing and thanks to word of mouth, it has taken off.

When I was first diagnosed, I used to wake up and within 10 seconds I’d be thinking about my cancer. Now I can go for days or weeks without thinking about it once.

I would never have taken this leap without the support from Maggie’s. They gave me my mind back.

Their encouragement changed me completely and now I think age really is just a number.

I still attend the prostate cancer support group, who meet up once a month at Maggie’s. Now, when new people come in like a rabbit in headlights, I know how they feel.

I’ve become the one who can reassure them by sharing my experience, and that feels great.

We’re here for you

If you or someone you love has cancer, Maggie’s is here with you. 

Come and see us at your nearest Maggie’s, call us on 0300 123 180 or email us at

Last review: Jun 2023 | Next review: Jan 2024

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