3 Pearls of Urology Wisdom from Stephen Fry

05 June, Tim Burton - 

On 4 June 2019 The Urology Foundation (TUF) was joined by the inimitable Stephen Fry and more than 400 guests as he was interviewed by BBC Panorama journalist, Jane Corbin.

As well as helping TUF to raise money that can be invested into life-saving research, Stephen also shared some pearls of wisdom about life with and after prostate cancer.

The words we use

Stephen spoke about how the words that we consider taboo are often a poor reflection of what should be considered taboo.

He asked us to imagine an alien visitor “one of those so beloved by the ethicists of our world” and what that alien might consider to be taboo words in our language. Probably they would assume that the most taboo words would be those words that reflect the very worst of humanity, things like murder and torture.

Yet, how often do we say things like “the traffic was torture today” or “I could murder him for saying that”. We very blithely use words that reflect the very worst of what humanity has to offer, and yet we shy away from words that reflect some of the most beautiful and some of the mundane parts of our lives. Often those words are urological, referring to sex or to going to the toilet.

Where is the sense in that?

The shame we feel

Stephen also took some time to question why we should feel any shame about our bodies. We all have them and bodies come with things like a penis, a clitoris, a rectum, a prostate, so why should we be ashamed to talk about these parts of us? 

Stephen’s point was that we should break down the taboos that surround urology disease. He said that he himself didn’t feel particularly awkward over talking to those close to him about his prostate cancer diagnosis and that his only concern was to reassure them that he would be fine, so as not to cause them undue worry.

Whilst prostate cancer surgery (Stephen underwent a robotic prostatectomy that was performed by TUF-trained surgeon, Mr Ben Challacombe) can sometimes lead to some unpleasant consequences, such as having to use a catheter, it isn’t something we should be ashamed to talk about.

The way we communicate

On an evening that was all about life’s awkward conversations, Stephen was at pains to say that discussion is a worthy thing and should be encouraged, provided that it is 50/50. Our discussions should always be 50% talking and 50% listening.

Stephen took time to point out that one of the things he valued so highly from his TUF-trained urologists was that they were good communicators and took time to explain for him very carefully what the his diagnosis and treatment would mean.

Whether you are talking about prostate cancer or any other topic, the message here is to be patient, to be willing to explain carefully what you mean, and, just as importantly, be willing to listen and to try to understand what is being said.

Our evening with Stephen Fry was a real joy. We’re very grateful to Stephen and to Jane for donating their time so that it could happen and we’re very grateful to everyone who came along.

If you’d like to hear about our other upcoming events, please sign up to hear more here.


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