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Rival Sheffield fans unite in raising awareness of prostate cancer

Gary Birch & Bill Wood
Gary Birch & Bill Wood

Both Owls and Blades fans will be hoping to get one over their fiercest rivals across the city on Sunday.

But not Wednesdayite Bill Wood and his Unitedite friend Gary Birch, who won’t care about the score in the 128th Steel City derby.

The two men from opposing sides of the footballing city were diagnosed with prostate cancer within months of each other and their bond won’t be divided by the derby clash.

After a five-and-half-year wait the time has come again for banter, jibes and the steely determination to secure the bragging rights – but football is taking a back seat for these two mates.

The pair, who have both now had surgery to remove their prostates, are keen to speak about the danger signs.

They said this game means more to them than any other, but in a different way.

Bill, aged 65, from Holmesfield, said: “It’s not about the score; it’s about being at the game when I didn’t know if I would be able to before.

“That may sound dramatic to some people but to be diagnosed with cancer is a real shock; your entire world is turned upside down. Everything seems to stop – work, family, social life – all because of the word ‘cancer’.

Unitedite Gary, 56, said: “If you’d asked me a year ago if I wanted to have my photo in the derby programme talking about my illness I would have told you that there was more chance of me buying a season ticket at Hillsborough.

“But if Bill and I can convince one man reading this to go to get checked, it’s worth it.

“We stand at opposite sides of the ground as rivals, but we’ll always be on the same team. We’re cancer survivors.

“We owe thanks to the amazing healthcare professionals who operated on us and cared for us.

“We owe a lot to our family and friends who have stuck by us and encouraged us.

“Please use our story today as an example, and a reason to get checked and keep on top of regular appointments. We’ve been lucky, some aren’t as fortunate.”

Bill said:“As I take to my seat in the North stand, I’ll just be Bill the Wednesdayite again.

“I’ll cheer, I’ll shout, I’ll clap and I’ll sing. That’s something I didn’t know if I’d be able to do just a few months ago.

“I’m eternally grateful to our healthcare system and to Prostate Cancer UK for supporting me, and my family, through this.”

Gary is getting on his bike for the Grand Depart Classic in June to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK.

To sponsor him visit Prostate Cancer UK Just Giving Page