GET SUPPORT GET CONNECTED Your Voices Joe What cancer were you diagnosed with? testicular cancer What age were you diagnosed? 33 What has helped you to thrive? On 26th September, it’s been a year since an A&E junior doctor first told me I had testicular cancer. It was a big surprise and indeed it still is a year on. But at the same time, it’s a massive wake-up call to seize life when you can and perhaps the biggest push I needed once all the treatment was done was to hear from others and put some zest back into normality. Finding Trekstock online was a real big help for that. There is a real comfort in networking with like-minded people who are similar ages to you and can relate to the trials and tribulations connected to thriving post-diagnosis. The formation of Cancer Lads has also been a good place for this in helping break the stigma of making gents unafraid to talk. I’ve made good connections this way and genuinely feel like I’m helping others as much as they’re helping me. Joe's Story I didn’t know I had cancer for a week. I had a testicle that had suddenly grown into a mini grapefruit that was actually making it uncomfortable to walk or sit. Nobody knew what it was but it was freakish enough to warrant an ultrasound. An out of hours local GP sent me straight to A&E. First, it was thought to be epididymo-orchitis & I was sent on my way with antibiotics & a request to come back for a rescan the next week. Then my actual GP called me in for a checkup & said it was hydrocele. There wasn’t any inclination that something might be amiss. I had read up on possible causes for the issue & knew cancer was up there but in my own head, it had been ruled out. A week later I went for the second ultrasound. The sonographers said nothing but this was much more serious than before. There was a lot more prodding & investigating. Eventually back in A&E the doctor finally confirmed that it was testicular cancer. There was no chat about good or bad. Just the news that the testicle is a tumour & you need to cut it out. It’s harsh. Before you know it you’re being walked through the freezing semen option that comes very strongly recommended. Dates are being taken all over the place & bloods are being requested from nowhere. Your whole mind is numb trying to process every possible outcome because of this & what life will be like as a cancer survivor with one testicle. Have I left things too late in life & so on. Before you know it’s orchidectomy surgery time & talk of prosthetics comes up. Yet more to ponder that you couldn’t make up! In my case, the wound took a month to heal. You feel so sore & immobile for it. Driving is a painful challenge in itself. It was all a blur after this as you sit wondering what the histology of your removed cancerous ball is going to say. For me, the consultant I saw was straight to the point in confirming it was cancer that spread. He kept calling out codes like PT3 & N1 which I looked up online. Once in the haven of Barts just over a month after initial spot, all is better. Everyone reinforces the word treatable & the team are friendly & supportive with a real community spirit. Chemo sounds less risky. Though it’s still massively nerve triggering! All my friends & colleagues tell me to be a fighter. I think it’s drawn out of the big campaigns like stand up to cancer on channel 4. It’s not a bad thing but as much as it’s my intent fear overwhelms this! The fight is indeed ongoing. That particular telethon being on during your battle is a bit of a mare, the brain goes into overdrive. Eventually I started chemo. A new innovative one called carboplatin. Only takes 1.5 hours and hair loss is highly unlikely. I felt lucky to be in the bracket to get this pioneering new treatment option. But because it’s so fast, I ended up sitting in the waiting room for hours and hours – it’s a horrid waiting game. I wish the NHS was more like a restaurant where a buzzer would tell you when your bed is available and you can wait elsewhere in the meantime. The chemo itself was freezing on the blood and the wires leave you little room to move. Wheeling the canula attached to you to the toilets was always an experience. Maintaining enough iPad battery to keep Netflix available was the big goal. Fortunately side effects were limited for me. Horrid indigestion was the worst of it, never really wanted to eat or drink. The latter was bad for treatment – kept being reminded to drink water even if it felt like it wasn’t going down. My work Christmas party was a hoot for drinking water with lemon in just to keep the illusion that it was a G&T really! Same for Christmas itself and NYE. Keeping the immune system indoors was the name of the game, barely went out. Always threw me to hear others talking about enjoying Winter Wonderland at the time in that horrid waiting room! Meanwhile I was taking trains with scarf around my face just in case – talk about paranoid! Was a big relief to have had my CT in Jan and then told that all was well the following month. I wanted to find my new normal ever since. I think I’m getting there but there’s still some thinking back to where I was a year ago. Hopefully the monkey falls of the back soon.