Testicular Cancer - PFOA member
We have received this from a member recently. He has asked if we would publish it to help others. Thanks to my good mate (many will know who he is!) for doing this. We wish him a speedy recovery.
Having been an ARV officer for over 8 years I was more than happy when our small department finally got issued Safariland leg holsters to carry our pistols in. Having worn the old hip-holster for some time I, like the other lads on the department had become use to the awkwardness of and reduced comfort of wearing a hip-holster in a car with overt body armour.
Needless to say I, like most other blokes need to ‘re-adjust my gentleman bits’ when I get into the seat of the ARV. I thought the discomfort I felt in my balls was a by product of sitting in a job car for too long wearing all this gear?! So for a short period, thought nothing of it – However I did notice that my right testicle was solid compared to the normal feeling ‘left one’. Not wanting to be labelled a Doctor Dodger and suffer any ridicule from my wife I made an appointment to visit my GP to see what the problem was. He politely listened to my situation and then, the moment of dread came when he – not ‘she’ said, “Okay let’s have a look at them then!” He rubbed his hands together to ‘warm them up’ as I stripped my underwear off and lay on his bench. The awkward feeling was now also a ‘cold hairy fingered feeling’ on my nuts. But at least I would be closer to receiving an answer or diagnosis of the problem.
He asked, “How long have you noticed this?” I replied – not sure, a few weeks maybe?
“Any pain?” – No I said, just feels ‘heavy and solid’ compared to the left one.
“Certainly feels different to the left, it might be a number of things. Put your shorts back on.”
I put my shorts back on as the Doctor was washing his hands in the basin. He said – I’m sure it’s nothing serious, maybe a cyst or some infection? He then prescribed a course of penicillin for 6 days and said he was not entirely sure what it was but it would be beneficial to have an Ultrasound scan at the hospital. I thanked him and went on my way.
A few days later a letter from the’ X-Ray and CT scan department’ came through the post with a date 4 weeks away. Great, 4 more weeks of uncertainty – but what can I do? A few days after finishing my course of drugs my testicles started to ache. A real deep ache. I was back on shift and the guys knew all about my ‘aching balls’. I had ALL the usual jokes and comments and general banter.
I ‘d never had ‘this aching’ before and called my GP. The next day I had a ‘telephone appointment’ with him and updated him. He said that this did not sound right and asked when my scan was for? I informed him it was 4 weeks away and he said he would speed this up. A few days later I got a new appointment in 6 days time. Excellent I thought. 11:40am Ultrasound scan. I drove down to the hospital by myself as the wife was working and did the usual wait for 45 minutes before it was my turn. As your waiting in this very busy hospital I was hoping that the person conducting the scan would be a bloke – not a woman. Usually the reverse would be preferable in any other ‘single man’ type encounter, but on this occasion I was more than happy when the EX-army officer called me forward.
No messing about – pants down and on the chair. Grip and hold your penis and pull it up to your stomach. By now I’d noticed the female nurse and other lady in the dimly lit small room. ‘Oh well’ I thought, ‘man-up’ and think of England. The officer slapped on the gel and began. He asked after a minute or so, “Who referred you?” I explained and then...... he said it. “You have a tumour in your right testicle – it’ cancer”. I don’t recall what I was thinking, but it all seemed surreal and not happening to me! He didn’t mess about, he walked me straight to the Urology department and explained the situation en-route. Once in the reception area he walked me through the waiting people and straight to the nurse’s station. He explained the situation and wanted to see the consultant straight away. The consultant is with a patient at the moment doing his rounds. I sat down and overheard the conversation to the nurse. “This young lads just been told he’s got ‘testicular cancer’.....it’s come as bit of a shock”. Before he left he shook my hand and said some comforting words. I then waited 20 minutes while the nurse did some admin. She then came to me with a small A5 binder – “Patient Information – Test.” ‘Test’ I lately figured out meant – ‘Test-icular’. She stated that I need to come in next week (5 days time) for a Pre-Op assessment at this time and CT scan at that time. In the same breath she said that she had booked me in for surgery the day after! Blimey Ultrasound to operation in 7 days!
The operation is to remove the infected testicle. It’s medical name is an ‘Orchidectomy’. After staring at the only thing on the wall in front of me (a medical poster describing how to check your Prostrate) I was seen by the Wing Commander (Urology Consultant and RAF officer). He explained that he implicitly trusted the ex-army officer and referred to him as “Doctor Balls”. He’s felt a lot of balls over the years. I was shown the Ultrasound scan and could now just about make out what the fuss was about. A grey image of my right testicle pitted with hundreds of little shaded holes. “That’s the tumour.” he said “look at the left”. Perfectly clear. Okay you are going to have a operation to remove the affected testicle, it’s done in a day, so no need to stay overnight. You will have a general anaesthetic and the surgeon will make a 4 inch cut in your lower abdomen on the right side. You can opt to have a prosthesis put back in (same material as false boobs) – silicon and they do come in different sizes. The survival rate is over 95% and you will be fine.
I left and drove back home – still in a state of shock. ’Cancer....me....I’m 34 years old, have the body of a 20 year old athlete – maybe not 20, but I’m the fittest guy I know (almost). No drink, cigarettes, good diet – why me?
I got home and broke the news, firstly to the mother in law, who was babysitting. She was more emotional than me, but being an ex-nurse herself she understood. Moments later the wife came home and asked, “How did it go?” – for the 30 minute return car journey I was trying to figure out a way to break the news. I told her – “Err is testicular cancer”. She gave me ‘the look’ and then realised I wasn’t joking.
I found telling people the hardest part and frankly got fed up with repeating the story so many times. One thing that did hit me was how many friends I really do have. I gather whenever you hear that a friend has ‘CANCER’ then you yourself become concerned. After all – it happened to him......
Over the days I called and briefed my boss and squared away work. I called Mark Williams and the first thing he said was, “F*ck me mate – What can the PFOA do for you?!” I said that I was fine and Mark stated that he would check up on me once a week. He did. I met Mark about 2 years ago when I was the Fed rep for some lads involved in a fatal shooting. He told me then he was setting up this association called the PFOA. I thought it was a great idea and we stayed in contact ever since. I became a member and now have benefited from this fantastic association.
I had the operation and it went as well as can be expected. They had also given me a local anaesthetic in my right thigh, which was totally dead for 4 days afterwards! The surgeon came in after a few hours of rest and explained the situation. He had looked at the CT scan taken the day before and was uncertain of my Lymph nodes in my abdomen. To the uninitiated, testicular cancer has a very predictable spread pattern – testis, up to the stomach, major organs then brain. Think Lance Armstrong (x-times Tour de France champion and veteran racer). So he was not sure if the cancer had spread (metastasis) to my abdominal lymph nodes or glands? In any case I would see the Urology consultants team in about 4 weeks. Four weeks seems a long time, but amazingly this is quick! He stated that they would do a biopsy on the testicle to establish what type of cancer it is as this dictates the future treatment. Future treatment? Yes, up to 10 years of regular checkups. Scans and blood tests and maybe more.
Four weeks later and we are now in mid August 2010 and I’ve been waiting for this date for what seems like forever. Unfortunately it’s rather an anti climax. I’d been racking my brain for 4 weeks and searching the internet for every possible outcome. I thought I was going to get the final answer about my treatment and I could go back to living my life without having to think about ‘cancer cancer cancer’ every night when I ‘try’ to go to sleep. But those Abdominal lymph nodes are the problem. They are enlarged but not big enough to say for certain that they are cancerous. The clinical term for my cancer is ‘a mixed cell germ cell tumour’ – meaning the tumour is made up of several types of cancer not merely one. Quite common apparently.
The Doctor stated that he was going to refer me to a specialist in Oncology (Doctors who specialise in tumours) and he should dictate my treatment. Ultimately it might be chemotherapy – but given the choice I would rather have it and have peace of mind than be given the option of surveillance (where you are monitored only).
Six weeks on, I am still off work. Tender but healing nicely and still waiting to see the specialist.
I tell the guys my story, I get the impression that they are all ‘checking themselves’ and not being shy about seeing their GP’s – I urge you to do the same, after all, ‘ Womble’ isn’t a particularly ‘Wary’ nickname!
Work, my friends and even people I don’t know have sent their regards – I’m truly humbled by you all – Thankyou. And special thanks to Mark and the PFOA for their support.