Age: 19

Cancer type: testicular cancer

When the doctors told me they thought I had cancer… it’s a cliché, but your world just stops. Everything was going on around me but it didn’t feel like it was really happening – I just couldn’t believe it, I was playing football two weeks earlier! I started emergency chemotherapy, and had to stay in the intensive care unit for about three weeks.

Then I was transferred over to the Teenage Cancer Trust unit. It didn’t feel like a hospital at all. I had my own private room with beds for me and dad, who stayed all the time, and my own bathroom. On other hospital wards you get eight or nine beds all crammed together so I felt lucky to have my privacy. The nurses were lovely, and there was a TV and Xbox which helped keep my mind off things. It just became home for a while.

Ben in hospital

It was touch and go as to whether I’d be allowed home for Christmas – but on Christmas Eve I managed to convince them to let me go. At that point I’d had quite a bit of chemo so was feeling fatigued, but we tried to make things as normal as possible. I managed to have a big Christmas dinner and fitted in a snooze afterwards to wake myself back up. We still had fun as a family, and I played new Xbox games with my siblings like we usually would.

After Christmas, I’d go back in every two weeks for my treatment – dad was my chauffeur and drove me up to Clatterbridge every time. I brought up my Xbox games and iPad to keep myself entertained, and Helen from Teenage Cancer Trust did a big pizza night on the unit.

In mid-January I was transferred to the Bristol Royal Infirmary so I could be nearer my family. I finished chemo in April, and then I had to have two surgeries. The biggest one was to remove two lymph nodes on my liver.

Ben during cancer treatment

I had another surgery in August 2019 to remove my right testicle. After I’d recovered from that I was at the point where I wanted to get back to normal and go back to uni. Me and my girlfriend Chelsea decided to move in together up in Chester – going through such a difficult experience together meant that she knew me at my darkest, but also it was reassuring to have someone to keep an eye on me. My uni have been brilliant and really supportive.

Going through treatment, I learned that it’s the support circle you have around you that’s the most important thing. Having mum and dad there the entire time, my siblings stepping up and helping out at home, my girlfriend putting her life on hold to come and see me, that all made a huge difference. You might be going through an awful time, but know there are people around you who want to help.

Ben with his girlfriend

This Christmas will be a little different because of coronavirus, but the plan is to go back home and have a family Christmas in Bristol.

My advice to people going through treatment at this time of year is to really throw yourself into Christmas. While I was going through treatment I had to go home for Christmas with my PICC line still in, and was really unwell, but it’s important to do what you can.

Try and make it as normal as you can, if there are any particular traditions you have – still try to do them. Christmas is a great opportunity to forget about treatment, so try not to spend it worrying about what’s ahead. And most importantly, eat as much as you can!