Take life by the short and curlies

• Voice journalist Lachie Allen had a close brush with testicular cancer. Photo by Steve Grant

WITH Movember recently putting the spotlight on men’s health, particularly cancer, it felt the right time to chronicle my own recent experience with testicular cancer.

A word of advice for all men, but especially young men, is to be vigilant of any strange lumps on your nuts; push past the awkward embarrassment and have it checked by your GP, and to be unwaveringly insistent on an ultrasound. It may save your life. 

As a young man of 22 years, I felt the invincibility common amongst those my age. So the threat of cancer was never really on my mind. 

For now, I could enjoy my youth more or less free of concern. Well, I’ve learnt that life can be unpredictable. 

Awkward

Sometimes it grips you by the balls and next thing you know you’ve lost one to cancer. 

Three years ago I went to a doctor because of a lump I’d found on a testicle. 

I walked into the consultation room to speak with my GP and with an awkward sigh explained what I had found, to which I was promptly told to drop my dacks and lay on a bed. 

After a quick fondle and a urine sample, he told me it was nothing to worry about – just an infection.

I was prescribed antibiotics and sent on my way. 

As most of us do, I trusted my GP’s diagnosis, took my antibiotics and left it at that.

I saw two more GPs, but neither picked up on it being cancerous. They all dismissed it as cyst or infection and investigated no further. 

It wasn’t until this year, when in a passing conversation with a good friend’s dad, a doctor himself, that it was mentioned. 

He told me to come to his practice for a check-up. 

When I went to see him, he had a squeeze and said it was likely fine, but we ought to make sure.

He sent me off for a load of blood tests and importantly referred me for an ultrasound. 

I did the bloods, but before I could go for the ultrasound, he called me back.

He sat me down and with a heavy heart told me I had testicular cancer. 

The blood tests had shown that I had an incredibly high rate of Alpha-feta Protein which, in men, is a common marker for a testicular tumour. 

The next few weeks went by in a bit of a dream haze. It didn’t quite feel real. 

I had an ultrasound and MRI to confirm it was cancer. 

They found the original tumour had metastasised and spread to my lymph nodes, basically meaning I now had multiple tumours. 

I was sent to a urologist, who explained to my folks and I what type of testicular cancer it was, and what to expect going forward. 

After hearing my story, he said the original lump I had found three years prior was likely to have been cancerous yet still contained. 

This meant if any of the other GPs had referred me for an ultrasound I wouldn’t have had to go through chemo.

In the space of a couple of days I went from a doctor’s room to surgery to remove the malignant testicle and then nine weeks of chemotherapy. 

I felt continuously nauseous and exhausted. 

I lost my hair in patches, as my body bloated and swelled from the fluid and steroids they pump into you.

It’s been over a month now since I finished my treatment, my hair is growing back, I’m slowly recovering my energy and trying to get life on track, but the lingering physical effects, the fact I’ll have to spend the next five years if not the rest of my life constantly aware I’m more vulnerable to cancer, and the knowledge that I’m not in the clear just yet have admittedly left their toll on my physical and mental health. 

I share my story for awareness. 

Awareness

Testicular cancer is not a common cancer, and luckily has a high survival rate, being around 95 per cent. 

However, it is the most common cancer in men of my age group, that being from 18 to 25. 

Since my diagnosis, one thing I’ve noticed in young men was a lack of understanding and awareness of what to look for. 

Even I knew very little about until recently. 

Had I known more three years ago and been more proactive in getting it treated, my cancer wouldn’t have spread. 

Luckily it seems to have been caught in time, but there are other men who haven’t been so lucky. 

I implore young men to not only get themselves checked if they find a lump, but to ensure they aren’t just brushed away by their GP, to ensure that they get the necessary blood tests and the ultrasound. 

Cast aside your embarrassment and insist for the ultrasound that may end up saving your life.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s