Andy Burchall alongside his Norton Motorcycle.
Andy Burchall alongside his Norton Motorcycle.Image by: Andy Burchall
Andy Burchall alongside his Norton Motorcycle.
16 May 2022

How a Distinguished Gentleman’s Promise Saved a Life

4 minutes read time

Andy Burchall is a big fan of the The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride (DGR). A self-professed motorcycle nut who owns a bike shop, he even took on the role of Ride Host for the Christchurch Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride.

As you would expect, a push to promote men’s health is a big part of every annual ride. This year’s message, however, was a lot more personal for Andy.

It all began at last year’s DGR after a friend’s moving speech on the importance of getting tested for prostate cancer.

Andy took action. Then he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Andy tells us his story…

Can you tell us a little about yourself, where you live and what you do?

Having been a certified motorcycle nut since a young age, it’s probably not too surprising that I ended up owning a motorcycle shop. Although Lord knows why I chose to move all the way from the UK to Christchurch to do that.

Can you tell us about your involvement in DGR over the last few years and why it means so much to you?

I attended the first couple of DGR events held in Christchurch, just as a participant, as I believed it was a great way to raise money for a worthy cause and would be a lot of fun. However, in 2016 it became apparent that nobody was going to organise a ride for Christchurch, so I thought, let’s give the team at DGR a call and see if I could help. This was quite late in the piece, as I think we had got to about July, so it was a very hectic couple of months to pull things together. We had a great ride with a fantastic turnout, so of course I carried on the next year. Here we are now, in 2022, and I’m really looking forward to this year’s ride. Having seen our numbers exceed 200 riders, it really pleases me to see guys get behind this event.

You were recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. Can you tell us about your diagnosis and what motivated you to go and get checked?

Each year I prepare a pre-ride speech and try to convey an appropriate message to the guys and their partners stood before me. For our 2021 ride a good friend had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and was awaiting his surgery. I asked him if he would mind talking about this to our riders, and he courageously obliged. As he wound up his speech, he urged all the riders to get checked. Then he turned to me and said “and that means you too”. Well, to be honest, I probably would have brushed this aside and carried on in the old ignorance is bliss way of thinking. However, the comment was made within earshot of Teresa, my wife, who made me go and get a PSA test.

" Here I was, 59 years of age, absolutely no symptoms and yet I had prostate cancer. I elected for a prostatectomy and had my operation on 28 April, 2022. This was less than 3 weeks before DGR 2022. "

The PSA test is a simple blood test and doesn’t take very long at all. Within 24 hours my doctor called my mobile to inform me that my PSA score was 15. A good number is below 4, and she would like to see me. She explained that I would need to have a second test after 6 weeks. This second test also came back at 15. I wasn’t jumping to conclusions, but I was now worried. I was referred for a prostate biopsy, the result of which confirmed that I had prostate cancer. It consisted of two tumours, one on each side, the right hand one being the more aggressive of the two.

Well, that was a shock! Here I was, 59 years of age, absolutely no symptoms and yet I had prostate cancer. After months of research I elected for a prostatectomy and had my operation on 28 April, 2022. This was less than 3 weeks before DGR 2022.

As part of my journey, I received a letter for an appointment at the hospital. It was to be with a gentleman called Frank Kueppers. Now I know a guy by this name because he’s a customer of mine who rides a motorcycle, but I thought it couldn’t possibly be the same guy. Well, it turned out it was, and after a very deep conversation I left that consultation knowing that my surgery would be undertaken by a motorcyclist friend of mine. So, thank you Frank.

Were you very aware of prostate cancer before your diagnosis?

Before my diagnosis, I was aware of prostate cancer and knew how prevalent it is. However, I don’t think anyone truly understands something like this until it directly affects them.

What has been the most challenging part?

Coping mentally and emotionally with the news that you have cancer and that you need to do something about it if you want to stay around.

What is your message when it comes to men’s health?

Firstly, get checked. If you are over 50, pop along to your GP and get a PSA test done. Secondly, if you find that you are struggling, whether mentally or emotionally, reach out and get help. Organisations like Movember exist to support us, so use them. You’ll be glad you did.

What are you most looking forward to for this year’s DGR?

This year I’m particularly looking forward to seeing Christchurch DGR 2022 be our biggest and best ride yet!