What do Billy Connolly and Ashley Shepherd have in Common?

What do Billy Connolly and Ashley Shepherd have in Common? main image

I’m Ashley Shepherd, founder of over 50s website Over50choices. He’s Billy Connolly, comedian, actor, writer, artist and general all round mega star; so what could we possibly have in common?

Well unfortunately for us we have both signed up to the prostate cancer club, joining the 40,000 men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year.

I’m pleased to add that like the Big Yin, I underwent an operation and now almost 4 years on, I’m still clear. I do have 6 monthly blood tests as a precaution which are always anxious times, so forgive me for ‘touching wood for good luck’ whilst typing that wonderful word ‘clear’ but so far so good.

Being diagnosed with prostate cancer gave me the inspiration to set up the website which has a strong focus on funeral planning and how to pre-arrange everything. It may sound all doom and gloom but I found the process of planning, thinking about how I would like to be remembered and most importantly putting plans in place to protect my family quite cathartic. Funnily enough this is also something I share with Billy as he has just filmed an ITV documentary ‘Billy Connolly’s Big Send Off’ focusing on attitudes to death, belief systems and rituals and plans for his own funeral.

Having prostate cancer is a sobering experience. It sneaks up on you and completely knocks you off your feet, taking friends and family with you. Life quite literally will never be the same.

I didn’t have any symptoms; I guess I was lucky that the dreaded disease was discovered in a routine staff medical whilst I was working for AXA Sun Life Direct. I was only 46, which is young for prostate cancer so they kept telling me – lucky me. It’s probably one of the few times in life when it’s not good to be recognised as being young.

Thanks to my Dad who had prostate cancer when he was 66, the doctor decided it was necessary to give me the ‘finger treatment’ – I think you know what I’m talking about!

Let’s be honest, that’s the reason most men are frightened of being checked isn’t it? The ‘finger treatment’. Well let me tell you, I have had better experiences and it’s certainly not something you would ever look forward to but compared with the consequences of not detecting it early, the wiggly finger wins hands down!

I have to say the Prostate Cancer UK Campaign, ‘Men United’ fronted by comedian Bill Bailey is a stroke of genius. This is exactly what is needed to raise awareness of the most common ‘men’s cancer’ in line with the UKs most common cancer, breast cancer. Sisters have been doing it for themselves for years; fund raising and battling to beat the killer; isn’t it about time us brothers united too?

I ‘m sure I speak for Billy and many others when I say ‘Men, sort yourselves out. Brave the wiggly finger and get yourself checked’.

Billy is older than me; at 71, he still looks good with his flowing locks and trendy beard but sadly he has also been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, something I am thankful to say I do not share with him. You can guarantee though that whatever life throws at him, the big man will face it with humour and his notorious zest for life.

My father is now 84 and I’m pleased to say still going strong, apart from his dodgy knees! His blood count is starting to creep up but the doctors aren’t concerned which I guess is understandable given his age.

Life isn’t fair sometimes is it though?


Why should Billy Connolly get prostate cancer and Parkinson’s? Isn’t it enough to have one horrible life changing illness? Of course there is always someone worse off than you, just listen to the news, but cancer and Parkinson’s; it’s a bit harsh.


We wish him well and look forward to watching him when the program airs.

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