Cancer isn’t a dirty word

26 to 30 January 2015 is Macmillan Cancer Talk Week, so I thought I would share my recent personal experience of having to deal with cancer.

Nothing can prepare you for the moment you are told ‘it’s probably cancer’ but hopefully by sharing my experience others may be encouraged to talk about theirs and help prevent the feelings of isolation many often have when impacted by cancer.

Cancer isn't a dirty word

Last year I was diagnosed with testicular cancer, initially I had an overwhelming feeling of numbness – I mean emotionally, not literally of course, though that may be a side effect for some! Once the numbness subsides, you go through a daunting myriad of emotions.

Looking back, here’s a brief summary of how I (think!) I got through it.

Hope

My personal faith, something I don’t tend to shout about, played a vital role. I always believed I wasn’t without hope, no matter what the ultimate outcome – this may sound trite now but it was my truth.

My church was brilliant both pastorally and practically – I have never eaten so well in the two weeks after surgery thanks to the endless deliveries of food.

I am blessed to be surrounded by lots of amazing family (particularly my wife) and friends – having a strong support network was essential, I didn’t go through it on my own that’s for sure.

I also have a young son, and you can’t help but be lifted out of any dark places when confronted by the humour and innocence of a 23 month old.

Distraction was vital, particularly during what felt like endless periods of waiting for test results.

Dylan, enjoying the outdoors and splashing in a puddle

Our son Dylan, taken around the day of my diagnosis – one of our approaches was to get out and do as many things as possible to distract ourselves.

My sister is a Doctor, so it was great to have really frank and honest discussions with her about what was happening. ‘If you’re going to get one cancer this is the one to get’ was her standout comment.

Ironically, given the name of this blog post I also found it very useful to heed my doctors’ advice and to think of the cancer simply as a growth which needed to be removed.

Humour

I have a dry sense of humour and trying to make people laugh is often my go-to coping mechanism. And boy does testicular cancer offer plenty of opportunities!

I think that if I’m willing to laugh about it others soon realise they can too. Potentially embarrassing or uncomfortable situations are relaxed and an open conversation can usually ensue.

The funniest moment throughout the whole experience however was as the result of what someone else said.

Me sporting a Movember moustache

A #Movember selfie, something I guess I’ll have to do every year now!

During a very serious chat with a brilliant fertility specialist who was explaining the intricacies of sperm production he uttered the immortal ‘You stop producing sperm after about three days, because of course if you didn’t your balls would be dragging along the floor’. At that precise moment we had locked eyes and both burst into fits of giggles, the type from which you think you’ll never recover. Luckily we did and the rest of the conversation had a much more relaxed feeling.

The Future

My prognosis is good – thanks to the amazing care of the NHS I won’t need chemo, I will instead have regular tests to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned.

I know my story isn’t over though, so if you want to talk and ask any questions about my experience (no matter how embarrassing) please do.

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