Kevin Webber is our colleague, an ambassador for both NatWest Group and Prostate Cancer UK, the recipient of a British Empire Medal, an Endurance Fundraiser of the year. And now he’s a published author.
Following the publication of his book, Dead Man Running, Kevin told us how the idea came about, what he believes allows him to continue his fight, and how facing terminal illness has changed his outlook on life.
Telling his story
Since being diagnosed with terminal cancer, Kevin has run the marathon distance more than 140 times and completed more than a dozen multi-day ultra-marathon races around the world; from Wales to the Sahara Desert. He’s raised over £250,000 for Prostate Cancer UK, and encouraged colleagues and friends to raise a further £500,000. He’s also become incredibly well known outside of NatWest Group, writing a weekly column in the Sunday Mirror newspaper and featuring in numerous podcasts and videos. Including A dying man’s story with Unilad, which has been viewed more than a million times.
‘When I first got ill, I started writing a blog which I would email to a few work colleagues,’ Kevin recalls. ‘That kind of grew, and as I met people at marathons and Prostate Cancer UK events I would email them. And the list of people I was emailing just grew, kind of through their generosity. Over the years a few people said, “you should write a book about it all”. I always liked the idea, but I didn't know how to write a book.’
"He said the average time it will work for is a year, but that that year would be good, with minimal side effects. Now it's six years later and I'm still here."
When Kevin was invited by his friend and BBC cricket journalist Mark Church to take part in a podcast with him, Mark’s mother asked if she could buy Kevin's book. That prompted Mark to ask if he could help Kevin document his journey, and the training for Dead Man Running got underway. As well as raising funds to help with Kevin's planned charity activity next year, there’s also a personal element to documenting his journey, and a message that he hopes will resonate with us all.
‘The book is mainly for my family, to show them how I felt at certain points and how important my purpose is to me,’ Kevin said. ‘Throughout this whole time, I never let them see “cancer dad”. But they’ll be able to read about him and his struggles in the book.
‘When all my meds failed in November 2015, I may have had only had 6 months to live. My doctor saw what was going on and got me onto a new drug trial. He said the average time it will work for is a year, but that that year would be good, with minimal side effects. Now it's six years later and I'm still here. It costs £100 a day to keep my drugs going, and I’m determined to repay that and then some. I take drugs as soon as I wake, drugs after I eat, and drugs before I go to sleep. There’s no way of forgetting my condition. The drugs are helping keep me alive, but I know exactly why I’ve been able to continue.’
Run for your life
Kevin is convinced that the choices he has made around his diet, fitness, and personal purpose have fuelled his incredible journey.
‘I got to know about 20 men, through forums and treatment programmes, who had prostate cancer similar to mine and who were diagnosed around the same time,’ Kevin said. ‘Only two of us are still alive now. Several of those men that died I knew very well. One who was diagnosed before me decided that what made him happy was eating more pies and chips than he had before. He loved his lager too and he didn't exercise. Another friend loved to watch cricket, so he spent a lot of time sitting watching it on TV after his diagnosis. The only other guy of the 20 who is still alive runs marathons. Now that may be a coincidence, but I don't think it is.
‘All cancer hates oxygen, and you can generally fight it better if you are fitter. If you're overweight and unfit, then there is little in your armoury to fight off infection or disease. If you're strong physically then I believe you have more of a chance. Initially my doctor said “don't run marathons”, but now he’s fully supportive. One study I saw in America had a group of men who exercised for an hour a day, and their tumours shrunk. That's just one study but I believe the basis is true.
‘I have the genes to get prostate cancer. It's there, my father had it. If your dad had it you have a 1 in 4 chance of developing it yourself. If you're black you have a 1 in 4 chance. And if you're black and your father had it, then the odds are even worse. My purpose is to raise awareness of this disease, because if it’s diagnosed early enough it's not a death sentence.’
Perspective becomes purpose
When Kevin was diagnosed in 2014, he was given a two-year prognosis. ‘When you’re given that amount of time, it really puts things into perspective," he says. ‘Today, I know how lucky I am, how precious life is. I can't waste a day, or have a lazy day when I do nothing. Every day is so important. I know that if I don't do whatever that “thing” is today, I may never be able to.
‘If someone asks me to do something like go for a beer, I'm there. Before I was ill I might have thought about the fact it would take time to get there, that I'd be tired after work, or make excuses because it was a weeknight. Now I try and do everything, to fit everything in. I might get asked to go and do a presentation and even if I don't feel like it, I have to do it. Because of those say 16 people in the audience, two may get prostate cancer. If those two get diagnosed quickly enough, they will probably live.
‘I know every day is precious. We all know that we could get hit by a bus tomorrow, but how many of us have changed the way we live because of that? Not many I'm sure. We all think it'll never happen to us. I can see the bus coming, but I appreciate that not everyone has that perspective. Everything I do now is to help people appreciate their lives and to live better lives. I know that what I do keeps me alive, but I know it won't work forever."
Doing good and feeling good
Kevin moved from his traditional customer facing role to be part of our sustainability team last year. Working on our internal volunteering and fundraising campaign Do Good, Feel Good is something that feels like a perfect fit.
‘I have been lucky,’ Kevin reflects. ‘The bank has treated me very well since my diagnosis. My “banking” job now is to hopefully encourage and motivate everyone to be a better version of themselves and do more for others. Doing good and feeling good is something that we can all do, every day.
‘You don't need to raise £4 million or plant hundreds of trees, amazing as that would be. It's little things like holding a door for someone, saying “thank you” more. Do good for you or someone else, and you will find you feel better. Say “thank you”, make someone smile, and they will smile back. I guarantee it.
‘For me, if I stop pushing myself my story becomes stale," Kevin says, summing up. ‘Today is my 633rd day of consecutive running. I average 14 kilometres every day, and I’ll keep going until I physically can't. I'm always tired, but I can't stop. This is my purpose. I am so proud to work for an organisation whose purpose, thanks to our CEO Alison Rose, dovetails so well with mine.’
Learn about and get help with prostate cancerVisit Prostate Cancer UK