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Here's a story I can't spin: I have cancer, and I want to help other men fight it, sa


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Max Clifford, the man who trades in others' secrets, has for the past six months been harbouring one of his own.


"Last October I was diagnosed with prostate cancer," he says. "I've decided to go public because I am nearing the end of nine weeks of radiotherapy.


"I was lucky to have had an early diagnosis. Without it I wouldn't make it beyond two years, but as a result of my treatment I stand a good chance of living for a long time.


"I hope that by speaking out I can encourage other men to have a regular checkup and perhaps save their lives, too."


His timing is particularly poignant as five years ago, almost to the day, his wife of 37 years, Liz, died of cancer.


She had been diagnosed with terminal bone cancer six months earlier, and many felt she fought against the odds to be with him for his 60th birthday celebrations in April 2003. She died two days later.


They have one daughter, Louise, now 36, who has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis since childhood.


Last weekend, the UK's best-known PR man celebrated his 65th birthday but his problems began nearly five years ago.


"I had an annual health check after Liz died," he says. "I was given a clean bill of health but told my prostate levels were high.


"My doctor advised four-monthly check-ups including a PSA blood test."


Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and about 27,000 older men are diagnosed with it annually.


PSA is a protein manufactured in the prostate. An abnormally high reading should always be investigated and can indicate cancer - but not always. In 15 per cent of cancer cases the prostate is normal.


"My check-up last October revealed the PSA had doubled and the doctor recommended an ultrasound and a biopsy.


"I don't have private health insurance but decided to have private treatment because I wanted it dealt with as quickly as possible. I went to see Dr Nick Plowman, a prostate cancer specialist.


"It was a real shock when he told me that two of the 12 biopsy slivers taken showed malignant cancer cells. Like anyone else the C-word is one you never want to hear."


Max had to wait six weeks while it was investigated to find out whether it was a slow-developing or aggressive cancer.


In the meantime, a bone and body scan were taken to see if there were any secondary cancers.


He says: "I kept wondering what was around the corner."


Max is by nature a positive person and told himself to make the best of every minute. He decided he wanted to know the truth, however bad.


"My attitude is to face things full on. It's not about being brave, it's about being realistic.


"It was particularly hard telling Louise because of what happened to Liz. But other than her and my partner Jo, I didn't want anyone else to know.


"I am good at keeping secrets and I am sure no one has noticed what has been going on over these past six months."


Jo Westwood, 45, a former nurse, who has been with him for three years, watched him closely.


"It was particularly difficult for Max to wait for the results of the tests because what happened to Liz was often at the back of his mind," she says.


Max adds: "When I eventually saw the specialist again he told me that, as far as they could tell, there was no cancer anywhere else in my body.


" He explained that my cancer was the intermediate type - not slow-developing but not aggressive either.


"We discussed my options. I could have radioactive seeds implanted in the prostate, undergo a course of radiotherapy, or have my prostate removed."


Jo, 45, was with Max at the time and felt alarmed. "I asked the doctor, 'If he doesn't have anything done, what are you saying?'


"He replied, 'Max may have two years left.' I started to cry but forced myself to stop because it was not about me. It was about Max and he was remarkable in the way he composed himself as he took it on board."


The specialist explained that the seeds kill the cancerous cells over a period of time, but would take a while to work.


Max wasn't keen. "I wanted to get it sorted as quickly as possible," he says.


"The large size of my prostate also meant an operation would be difficult, so the specialist recommended radiotherapy and I agreed."


The Cromwell Hospital in London has a special radiotherapy machine - one of only three in the country - that is accurate within a hair's breadth, so as well as maximising the attack on the cancerous area, there is less radiation to areas close by, such as the bladder, and consequently there are fewer side-effects.


"I started the treatment in February and for the past nine weeks I've been to hospital almost every day, Monday to Friday. Each treatment takes about 20 minutes and gives me six minutes of radiotherapy.


"Many people suffer side-effects including lethargy and diarrhoea but - touch wood and whistle - I just feel more tired.


"I still have a good appetite, play tennis three times a week and swim in my own pool nearly every day."


Max continues: "I've now had 35 treatments with three to go and have been told I have an 85 per cent chance of a complete recovery.


"Once the treatment is over I have to wait about six weeks before we can see if the cancer has cleared.


"Although it's very much in my favour, nothing is certain. It has jolted me to redo my will, which I haven't touched for 20 years."


Max's family were poor and his father, an electrician, could afford only a bicycle, but Max drives a new Bentley, uses private jets and has luxury homes in Surrey and Spain.


And although he left secondary school at 15, he is regularly invited to speak at the debating society at Oxford and Cambridge universities.


He has raised and donated six-figure sums to Chase, a voluntary organisation that provides services for terminally-ill children, and is behind a hospice, Christopher's, near Guildford, Surrey, where Jo is a volunteer.


Max is a patron of Chase and has set up Max's Magic Fund to ensure money is available when financial help is needed for either equipment or a sick child's family.


"Chase help care for many little ones as young as two who are not around for long," he says.


"And when you see things like that how could I complain if, at 65, I am about to start the final chapter?"


He certainly isn't thinking of retiring.


"I get as much excitement and satisfaction from my work now as I did when I started as a Press officer for EMI record company in the Sixties.


"I am busier than ever but I am also trying to be sensible. I don't drink or smoke and have been having lots of pomegranate and cranberry juice because I've read that it's good for the prostate."


His upbeat attitude has affected Jo. "I am trying to be as positive as possible because Max is, and he gives me strength. But every so often I say 'Please God, let it be OK.'"


Max has always regarded himself as being extremely lucky.


"My life has been full of love and laughter," he says. He is hoping his luck holds a little longer.



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