In 2004, he became European champion: the handball hero speaks openly about his cancer

In the past, the European handball champion Klaus-Dieter Petersen (340 international matches) did not hesitate to fight a duel. But now he had to face an insidious adversary: ​​prostate cancer.

Klaus-Dieter Petersen (54) was eight times German champion with THW Kiel. In 340 international matches, he held the bones as a pivot and chief of defense for Germany, celebrated the 2004 European Championship title and silver at the Olympics. But what he has achieved now puts everything in the shadows.

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THW Kiel’s youth coordinator, whom everyone calls “Pitti”, returns to the hall with his boys and his office these days. He is battling prostate cancer…

BILD am SONNTAG: Mr. Petersen, how are you doing now?

Klaus Dieter Petersen: Good thanks. I survived the operation and rehabilitation well. The abdomen heals, but it will take time. I guess I won’t be able to really use my abdominal muscles for six months. The stomach is full of scars so I felt a bit like Swiss cheese at first.

How and when did you learn of your illness?

It was a simple cardiological exam that you do from time to time as a former competitive athlete. It was found in the blood tests that the PSA value was too high and my doctor told me that I should see a urologist. It was early September.

In your book “The heart must be fuller than the pants” you outline your journey. Be honest: how full were your pants when you were diagnosed?

(laughs) There were a lot of people. It was a real turning point in my life. Prevention is also that we can find something, and that was my case. Now was the time to clear the first hurdle in your head. Thank goodness we have a good network at THW Kiel. The MRI then showed that there was something in the prostate that didn’t belong there. But I even had to smile, because the MRI report also indicated that the right hip was very badly affected by osteoarthritis.

Our 2004 European Champions Daniel Stephan, Klaus-Dieter Petersen and Stefan Kretzschmar celebrate their semi-final win over Russia at the European Championship

Photo: photo alliance / AP Photo

What happened next ?

Of course, first I discussed everything with my wife Saskia, then with my daughters Marthe and Lena. Of course, it was important for me to tell them personally. After that, I informed the employer, later friends. There was a lot of support, which was very important to me. And that Saskia said, “Let’s climb the mountain together, we can do it.” Then I asked about the dangers of prostate cancer, surgical methods, and chances of recovery. It was clear to me: there is a nasty little animal that needs to get out of my body, and so I decided to have an operation. But the exact result is only available after the operation, when the pathologist has more or less examined the tissues.

And what happened to it?

Fortunately everything was discovered at an early stage, the cancer had not yet reached the wall of the prostate. The lymphatic system is not affected, so radiation therapy or chemotherapy is not necessary. With the Da Vinci method, in which a robot assists the surgeon, it was possible to protect nerve pathways important for continence and the ability to have an erection.

European champion !  In 2004, Petersen celebrated his greatest triumph

European champion ! In 2004, Petersen celebrated his greatest triumph

Photo: imago

Anyway …

Men are always afraid of masculinity. Things like quality of life come to mind, after all I don’t want to spend the rest of my life running around in a diaper. Everything is satisfactory: I have two children, and my life project does not really include becoming a father again.

What symptoms have you noticed?

None. This is what makes the disease so dangerous. It was only after the operation that I realized that people were running there.

How did the first adventures go?

The nurses immediately kicked me out of bed. I should walk down the aisle and later outside. At first I was still in the urinary catheter, but I still had to move – for the sake of the muscles, to prevent thrombosis and to stimulate the metabolism of the joints and of course the intestines. Then rehab – I couldn’t go back to my office after 14 days. In St. Peter Ording on the North Sea, I could only think of myself. I brainstormed with doctors, walked with alpacas, hiked, and was unavailable – except for my family, of course.

What did the diagnosis do to you?

I got pulled out of the fast lane, had to use the turn signal and park on the right. And tell me: Pitti, now take care of yourself. And tell others if you don’t feel well. I learned for myself that you don’t always have to be so superficial with people, but you can also tell the truth once in a while.

Are you changing anything in your life?

I want to organize my time management a little differently, to take more time for myself and my family. This means: I’m not always just the garbage collector of others, but I can also advance a little myself.

Klaus-Dieter Petersen with his wife Saskia and their dog Ida on a walk in the forest.  The family gives him strength in difficult times

Klaus-Dieter Petersen with his wife Saskia and their dog Ida on a walk in the forest. The family gives him strength in difficult times

Photo: Lühn

Why did you choose to go public?

I want to shout to men: take your precautions! Fortunately, mutuals offer a lot. Early detection is the alpha and omega, I can only advise everyone to stick to preventive health checks. If, like me, something comes out of it, you have a chance of being cured.

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