A Braintree firefighter has bravely opened up about his battle with terminal cancer in a bid to raise awareness of the disease.

Paul Burder, watch manager at the fire station in Railway Street, was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in April, having suffered with back pain for months.

Mr Burder, 59, had first experienced issues before Christmas 2018 and hoped a rest from his carpentry and joinery business over the festive period would ease the pain.

However, his back problems began to worsen and before long he had to seek medical advice.

He said: “One night, I was in agony. I’d never known pain like it and had to call out an emergency doctor, who prescribed some strong pain relief.

“My GP initially suggested the pain was stress-related.

“That seemed strange to me, but I trusted his opinion and began to think about changes I could make to my lifestyle.”

Alongside his back pain, Mr Burder began to suffer numbness in his jaw and a quick trip to the dentist soon made it clear there was something more serious going on.

He underwent numerous scans and X-rays after being referred to Chelmsford’s Broomfield Hospital and within weeks, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer which was so advanced, it had spread to his bones.

All this came at the same time Mr Burder had been promoted to watch manager at Braintree fire station.

He said: “I’d lost lots of weight and I wasn’t in a good place.

“I didn’t want to leave the house – it hit my family very hard, particularly my two youngest daughters, then aged 14 and 16.

“We explained everything to all four children from the start.

“It’s important to talk about cancer and how each of us is feeling so we can support each other – it’s something we all have to live with now.

“I’ve continued with my watch manager duties but had to be taken ‘off of the run’, so I’ve been non-operational for a few months now.

“Watching your crew go out without you has been very hard to take because I’ve been an on-call firefighter for 35 years.

“However, I’m hopeful that I will be fit enough to return to active service before Christmas.”

Mr Burder has undergone chemotherapy to treat the cancer and slow its growth.

He admits it is difficult to undergo treatment while knowing the cancer cannot be cured.

But he insists that despite suffering mentally with “ups and downs”, he wants to remain positive.

And in an effort to make a difference, he has shared his story and issued a plea to others to get themselves checked should they display even the slightest symptoms of prostate cancer.

He added: “People often still think that if they have cancer a lump will appear somewhere and it will become obvious.

“That’s just not the case.

“There aren’t many symptoms of prostate cancer, but one is an increased need to go to the toilet in the night.

“Of course, as an on-call firefighter, I’ve been getting up and down overnight for years getting called to incidents, so I thought nothing of it.

“My advice is clear – if you are a man over 50 then you should consider regular prostate checks.

“No-one likes the idea of a physical examination, but it can be as simple as having a blood test.

“Just ask your GP for a prostate-specific antigen test.

“If prostate cancer is caught in its early stages it can be cured.

“So please, go and get yourself checked – you won’t regret it.”