How does your day start?

I wake myself up at 7am. I have a bath and listen to Today on Radio 4 - it keeps me up to date. I also like the fighting and confrontation and its inquisitive nature. I have a large cup of milky coffee, a ritual for me. It is also essential for me to sit at my kitchen table and stare into space for 10 minutes. Then I'm ready to face the world.

No time for a healthy breakfast then?

No. I eat hospital food in the canteen, which is pretty vile, but they do make an effort and it's definitely better than it was. I'm very good and only eat vegetables. If I'm working I need some comfort food to sustain me around 5pm: rich milk chocolate.

How do you get to work?

By train. It's totally unreliable. There's never a day goes by when I don't strike up a conversation with somebody about the awfulness of it.

Do you like your job?

Oh yes. For the past 13 years I have been working for the Institute of Cancer Research specialising in research. Recently I've been involved with the Institute's Everyman campaign which raises awareness of male cancers, specifically testicular cancer (Freefone 0800 7319468).

It's not the sort of thing a bloke wants to watch for.

That's the problem! There are about 1,000 new cases a year of TC which mostly affects men between 25-35 years, but the incidence is rising and there is no known cause. Luckily, if it's treated early, there is an overall cure rate of 97 per cent. The message we are trying to get over is that men discovering changes to their testicles should pluck up the courage and go to their doctors to get checked out.

What's your role exactly?

I've carried out various pieces of research. These include finding out how a group of men has coped with cancer and its cure, and how they perceive their doctors' treatment. What has come up is a reluctance to seek out medical help, and even when they do so symptoms are sometimes missed by their GPs who generally have little experience in dealing with this condition.

Do you find the job draining?

I visited a young man in a hospice not long ago and came home in the depths of despair. He died two days later. The work is absolutely exhausting, emotionally as well as physically. I'm one of those people who has to have eight hours' sleep or I'm lost.

So what do you do for light relief?

I've a really good circle of friends of all ages. I get out a lot and enjoy drinking wine and talking.

What else?

I love cinema and opera. I lived in India until I was 11 and go back a lot, as I feel happy there. I've done some work in a cancer institute there and found it very humbling. And my two children, Leo and Rosie, are very important to me and have helped me in my work by teaching me the language of youth.

What's your home like?

For 15 years I've lived in a ground-floor flat in a turn-of-the-century mansion block. There are constant problems: leaks from the flat upstairs and external walls that let in water. Having said, that I love it. There is an open fireplace and the floors have been sanded. In the hall a talented artist called Fred has painted a trompe l'oeil, a scene of an Italian wood with a path running through it that goes on and on. It makes it seem that I'm living in a huge place. My son Leo says, "We've got land now."

PETER CROSS

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