I’ve been working to write this post for a while now. I don’t know yet if I’ve got it quite right, but it’s a story I want to tell.
About 2 months ago, I noticed a change down there. Bit embarrassing, right?! Despite this embarrassment, I eventually did what I needed to do and booked an appointment with my doctor.
Doc wasn’t too concerned. “Small lumps are not uncommon and are just fine most of the time. Let’s be careful, though, and do a scan to be sure!”
Did the scan. A couple of days after, Doc called saying there was something a bit odd and we might need to do a biopsy to figure out what it was. Again, probably all fine.
A few days after that I got another call from the specialist clinic at the hospital asking me to come in the following day to talk about a “treatment plan”.
“That’s weird!” I thought. Treatment must just mean booking the biopsy. The next morning I headed to the clinic. Within 5 minutes, I’d received a slew of news I was not expecting:
- It’s definitely a tumour
- It’s cancerous. I.e. testicular cancer
- We can’t do a biopsy as it risks stirring up and distributing the cancer cells
- We need to do surgery to remove the cancer
- The cancer is of a type that can turn aggressive very quickly so we need to move ASAP.
- Booked surgery for the following Tuesday (2 working days)
Looking back at that moment, I can definitely see the symptoms of shock. I sat there, not feeling much, following along with the conversation, asking a bunch of pragmatic questions and taking notes. At the end, I walked out, got in my car, called my wife and … cried! Neither of us were expecting this. But no one does right? We were shook!
There was good news in the mix of it all though. Scans and the various tests showed that I’d caught it early. Moving fast with surgery meant that the general prognosis was good. Going to my GP when I did made all the difference.
As of writing this, I’m waiting on further test results to tell me if I need to undergo chemo.
Why am I telling this story? I basically never share anything personal online. My social feeds are notoriously empty of insights into my personal life. This though is a story I want to tell. Why?
Stories help people make sense of the world around them. When I got this news, I turned online to help make sense of it all. I found plenty of medical articles and forum Q&As. These were helpful, but sometimes the human in us just wants to hear what it was like for others. Perhaps my story here can be helpful for others.
I want to encourage my fellow men to be aware of their own bodies and have the “balls” to get help. Gents, physically check yourself regularly and go see your doctor if you notice a change. Doing this saved me from far more intense treatment. Possibly even saved my life.
There’s 2 more things I want to say. Driven by an accelerated period of self-reflection, I am so incredibly thankful for my family. My kids are my joy, my wife Sarah is my rock, and my parents and siblings are my community. It’s no surprise that those who achieve a long life reflect on how more time with family is what they wish for most.
Secondly, in the midst of staring at my own mortality, I found the face of God. It wasn’t that I found answers to why things were bad, for me or for the world, but I found peace and hope. I am thankful for God and His love for me.
By comparison, my cancer story has (so far) been a relatively straightforward one. Cancer can certainly be so much worse. Looking forward, I’ll find out soon if I have to have chemo. I’ll undergo surveillance for some time, possibly a lifetime of tests and scans to “keep an eye on things”. Cancer will be a chapter title in the book of my life, but its content will be about how it helped me re-orientate towards what is most important.