I was 22 years old when I was diagnosed. In the summer of 2011 I was in bed with my girlfriend and I came across a small lump on my left testicle. I am not one who usually fiddles with my balls or anything like that but as a guy you know what your testicles feel like and I had never noticed this lump before!
I told my girlfriend that this lump wasn’t normally there and she suggested that I rang the GP in the morning. I went to see the doctor and he referred me to hospital for a scan a week later. It was then confirmed as stage 2 testicular cancer.
I had no idea at the time that testicular cancer was a young person’s disease. I had no pain, no symptoms and no cancer in the family. I don’t smoke or drink heavily and haven’t been subjected to high doses of radiation! All I had was a small lump which subsequently changed my life in a big way.
In retrospect the most important thing I did was to get it checked out early. Unfortunately I had to have an orchiectomy (removal of left nad) operation and then three cycles of chemotherapy over 9 weeks. Having cancer is the easy part; it’s the treatment that’s the bitch.
Chemotherapy killed off the cancer but caused all my hair to fall out and made me ill for a long time. I had to spend 3 nights in hospital at the start of each cycle to have one type of chemo drug pumped into me through an IV drip. In the second week and third week I had to go back in only for one day to get a ‘top up’ and then the cycle starts again.
I was feeling so ill during the first week of each cycle that I found it mentally difficult to even compose a text to my family to update them on my situation. I was on many drugs just to combat the side effects of chemotherapy including 3 types of anti-sickness drugs, and even those drugs have their own side effects such as a type of steroids that caused me to get no sleep while I was on them.
Constantly feeling sick, being sick and lack of sleep is no fun at all, especially when you know that you have to go through it again twice in the second and third cycle. During the second week of each cycle I slowly got better as the chemo drugs were wearing off and doing their thing but I was well aware that my white blood cells were almost non-existent which meant that if I caught anything like a cold then it could be very serious indeed and delay the next cycle.
During the third week I had a short respite where I felt 80% well again before beginning the next cycle but as the cycles went on my recovery time took longer. While in hospital I spoke to people who had many more cycles than myself and I couldn’t even imagine dealing with that.
Life after cancer
I am so lucky that I have a fantastic girlfriend, family and friends who were there through the thick of it. Since then I have had another operation to remove my lymph node in my abdomen, where the cancer had spread to. Luckily the biopsy found that the cancer was dead and as precautionary measures I have 5 years surveillance (more blood tests and scans).
If there is anything that I have learned and would advise you to do is if you come across something which you feel is different, tell someone such as a GP as soon as possible. It is better to get it out of the way than leave it to see how bad it gets.
Post-cancer I’ve spent a lot of time being a patient representative. This involves drawing from my experience as a patient and aiding the development of current and future localised cancer services. I have also been raising money for lots of cancer related charities and recently hiked Mount Snowdon!