I started writing for the Adver in May; three days later, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
I had known that something was wrong – I had a badly and uncomfortably swollen testicle, not the kind of thing you easily gloss over – but the first trip to a doctor, a week earlier, suggested it was unlikely to be more than an infection. When antibiotics had no impact, things moved quickly: the doctor sent me to Great Western Hospital on the Thursday evening, an ultrasound scan was booked for the next day, and an operation was scheduled for the Monday.
At that point, it never really felt like I had cancer: things moved so quickly, and while the operation was uncomfortable and caused the loss of an intimate part of me to which I held some attachment, it just seemed like any operation.
The initial prognosis was good, and staff at GWH believed the cancer had been successfully removed.
As is standard for cancer treatment in Swindon, my case was next referred to the specialist oncology unit at the Churchill Hospital, Oxford. Their reading of the situation was less clear-cut – while the tumour had been removed successfully, scans led to some concerns that lymph nodes in my back had grown slightly, which would indicate that the cancer had spread there. The only way to test this was to wait three months, repeat the scans, and see if anything had changed.
Six weeks ago, a tumour was found in my lower back, measuring around 4cm by 2.5cm. The only way to treat this was chemotherapy, something which honestly scared much more than surgery did.
However, testicular cancer is very curable, with ten-year survival rates of 98 percent. Mine was caught early, despite having spread. Left untreated, it wasn’t going to sort itself out, so I required little time to make a decision.
Although the wait to measure the growth was long, once the decision to begin treatment was made, it all moved rapidly again. Within a week and a half, I had blood tests, my lung function measured (the drugs used in my chemotherapy can cause damage to the lungs), and my sperm banked (it can also affect fertility).
There are many different types of chemotherapy, each employing different drug combinations, and everyone reacts differently to each. I have found it hard, losing some whole days, and a large part of most, to feeling nauseous, fatigued and simply being unable to think straight.
But it is all in a good cause, and the care the NHS provides is remarkable: I already have a date, January 15, 2018, on which I hope to pick up my final scans and find that my cancer has given up the fight.