At 27 years of age I am proud to say I am a Cancer Survivor, and with the Movember (Men’s Health Awareness Month) around the corner, I want to take this opportunity to share an experience I’ve had this year. I hope that by doing this, I will encourage more Aussie males to take control of our health.
Back in March 2011 I visited my GP with some irregularities with one of my testicles. At this consult, I was told I’d need an ultrasound as soon as possible. The following day, after having this ultrasound, I was ordered to have a CT scan. By this stage my head was spinning. Knowing very little information, I contacted family who were in shock and immediately came to comfort. That evening I visited the GP for my results which had confirmed my worst fears; I had a Seminoma cancer tumour growing in my testicle and the cancer cells had spread to an abdominal lymph node. From that moment my life was placed on hold.
Within a few days, I was booked in to have surgery and the testicle removed. It was about 4 days before the pain subsided and I was able to move about. My next stop was a meeting with an oncologist who explained my 9 weeks of intensive chemotherapy treatment. Chemotherapy is something I would never wish upon anyone; it is so hard to describe how it makes you feel, let alone explain the side effects. During my treatment I was able to work sporadically, but fatigue, nausea and lack of concentration all being side effects made this impossible some days. About a month after my chemotherapy treatment finished, I was sent for a blood test and CT scan to ensure the lymph node was clear and all blood indicators where back to normal. Thankfully, the chemo had worked and I was given the all clear.
Having overcome this experience, there are so many things I have learned and will take with me for life. I encourage everyone to seek professional advice and opinions if abnormalities are found, rather than disregard the problem or try to self-diagnose. Too often us males become complacent and believe that things just go away or disappear, or we procrastinate getting check ups and before too long weeks or even months have past. If I had left my check up and not sought advice, who knows where the cancer could have spread to. It could have meant more surgery, longer chemo treatment, or worse case; lower my chance of survival.
It’s amazing the support you receive and similar experiences that you hear about when you go through this type of experience. One thing I have learnt is that cancer does not discriminate; it can affect anyone. However, our general health status can determine where cancer develops, whether it spreads, how we respond to treatment and how severely we feel the side effects. I believe being fit and healthy leading up to my surgery and chemo minimised the side effects I had experienced, enabled my blood counts to return to normal faster, and meant that I had no damage to any major internal organ, allowing the treatment to continue as planned without complications.
Cancer stops everything in your life at an instant. I hope after reading my story you are encouraged to speak up and seek professional advice when you suspect something is not right.
For more info on Men’s health, check out http://au.movember.com/