Bonner aims to help save lives with cancer awareness campaign

Packie Bonner at the launch of ‘Man to Man: Irish Stories of Hope in Prostate Cancer’.

Packie Bonner at the launch of ‘Man to Man: Irish Stories of Hope in Prostate Cancer’.

Tue, Jun 3, 2014, 01:00

Former Ireland goalkeeper Packie Bonner has said the experience of three former teammates who contracted cancer in middle age has spurred him to get involved in a prostate cancer awareness campaign.

Former Ireland internationals Kevin Sheedy and Alan McLoughlin are both cancer survivors, but Bonner’s former Celtic teammate, Tommy Burns, died of skin cancer in 2008 at the age of 51.

“As men we’re macho. We think we’re invincible,” said Bonner. “When you think back to the 1990 World Cup, I was 30 years old, we thought we could take on the world and we were as fit as fiddles. Time moves on. Now I’m 54, and realise we are all vulnerable. We’re all in the same boat.”

Sheedy, who has just published his autobiography, said a public awareness campaign made him go to the doctor with suspected bowel cancer. He is currently in remission. McLoughlin is recovering from kidney cancer.

Bonner is the public face of Man to Man: Irish Stories of Hope in Prostate Cancer. The recently launched book contains 11 personal accounts of men’s experiences of prostate cancer, including the story of Labour TD Willie Penrose and John Dowling, chairman of Men Against Cancer.

‘The save’

“There was a period when I was embarrassed about people talking about the save [against Romania in Italia ’90], but then I realised that was something that lived in people’s minds,” he said.

“I feel I can now use it as a positive. I’m not embarrassed by it any more. People want me to use my name to help out.”

Bonner said he was shocked by the death of Burns. Bonner was assistant when Burns was manager at Reading.

“Tommy was the kind of guy who would look after everybody else. Unfortunately, he left his own thing, not knowing how bad it was.

“He was a very religious person. He had that crutch to hang on to but it was so tough for him.”

More than 3,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in Ireland each year and, after skin cancer, prostate cancer is the leading cause of cancer in men.

In Ireland, some 17,000 men are living with the disease and 500 men die of it each year.