Interview 131

Testicular cancer (teratoma) diagnosed in 1995; orchidectomy. Secondary tumours in liver, lungs and abdomen; 10 weeks chemotherapy; then a higher dose of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant; in 1997 recurrence of a secondary tumour in the neck, which was surgically removed.

He was receiving steroid injections and painkillers to treat calcifying tendonitis of the right foot. Whilst on holiday he started to vomit blood (haematemesis) and couldn’t eat, so his wife made him visit the local village surgery where they were at the time. The GP thought that his appendix had burst but was unsure so referred him to a larger hospital. There he was given an endoscopy – a process in which an instrument is inserted down the oesophagus to examine the internal organs – which revealed that the haematemesis was caused by a bleeding stomach ulcer triggered by the pain killers. The doctor told him that this was easily treatable but unfortunately ultrasound and x-rays indicated that he had tumours in his liver, lungs, chest, stomach and right testicle. The doctor proposed removing the right testicle which was the primary source. They performed the operation in the same hospital local to where he and his family were on holiday.

To get rid of the secondary tumours around his body he had to do a course of chemotherapy. For this he was moved to another hospital where there was a specialist. He had a confident attitude towards the treatment and had faith that the doctors knew what they were doing. The chemotherapy caused him to lose his hair and after the first cycle of treatment he became neutropenic (deficient of neutrophils, the most common white blood cell). He was too ill to travel back to the hospital where he was being treated so had to go to the local hospital and from then on that is where he received his chemotherapy.

At the end of his chemotherapy the doctor told him that the treatment had significantly reduced the secondary cancers but the cancer was now not responding so well to the treatment so he needed an autologous stem cell transplant. His stem cells were harvested and frozen and then he received very high doses of chemotherapy which completely depleted his immune system. Due to lack of immune system he had to be kept in isolation in a sterile environment whilst the stem cells were reintroduced into his body. During this time he suffered from mouth ulcers making it very difficult to eat and despite the sterile environment he caught an infection. To combat the illness he was given multiple drugs and was fitted with a Hickman line (a tube inserted into a major vein in the chest – the superior vena cava – allowing drugs to be administered directly into the blood stream).

Once the treatment was finished he was required to go for check-ups every two weeks. Two years into remission the cancer recurred in his neck. This was removed surgically and no chemotherapy was necessary. Four years after chemotherapy he had a minute tumour in his stomach but it is not so significant as to require treatment. Since the cancer, his stamina has diminished to such an extent that he can no longer work or play rugby. Aside from lack of stamina he has also suffered from peripheral neuropathy – tingling in hands and feet due to damage to nerve endings – as well as cramp for which he is taking quinine tablets. He is very positive about the support he received from the hospital staff and felt that he received adequate information.

Six years after chemotherapy for testicular cancer he still has tingly toes after being on his…

Age at interview 40

Gender Male

Age at diagnosis 34