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Testicular Cancer

Attitude to life after testicular cancer

Immediately after the diagnosis men felt shocked by the news that they had cancer (see 'How it affects you'). Some men felt very vulnerable; they worried about financial affairs, and one recalled that it prompted him to write a will. However, as time went by, and as they got better, most of the men felt that they had gained something positive from the experience of being ill.

Several men asserted that they no longer took life for granted and that cancer had made them realise that they were lucky to be alive.

 

Explains why he feels he has gained a huge amount from being ill.

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Explains why he feels he has gained a huge amount from being ill.

Age at interview: 24
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 22
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And actually I gained masses from being ill. After I went into remission, the period ' 4 months afterwards' I was just kind of like living on a cloud, like, 'Oh my God, look at this, it's amazing, I'm alive damn it!' And I would say stuff like that to people and then realise how stupid it was to say, you know, "I was glad I had cancer because it really opened my eyes," and stuff like that.' But I did gain a huge amount from being ill. And although that kind of living on a cloud feeling is not so much there now, every so often it's just kind of, 'I do yeah get a little something extra and appreciate life more'. That sounds quite cheesy and rubbish but you just are aware that it [life] is a bit fleeting really. So you make the most of it. I'm certainly less self-conscious now'. And you get that out of being ill in a kind of bizarre way. I said to someone once, "I'm quite glad I was ill," and they looked at me with disgust and surprise, like I was mocking all these other people that were ill and dying of it and I must be insane to say that, as though it's actually affected my mind that I should be saying something like that. 

They suggested that having cancer put 'trivial' things into perspective. They spent less time worrying about small things like phone bills, and spent more time appreciating the countryside or doing things they loved, like fishing.

 

Asserts that cancer puts the trivial things into perspective.

Asserts that cancer puts the trivial things into perspective.

Age at interview: 40
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 34
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So what's been the impact of all this on your and your family?

On me, I think it puts the trivial things in perspective. You know I mean before you still you know get up in a morning and I used to go to work and I used to think well I must do an X amount before I come home or I must do this, I must pay the telephone, electric or whatever. But I think at the end of the day if you haven't got your health you haven't got nothing. So worrying about phone bills is not really important, at the end of the day they can cut the phone line off, that's about it really you know. I've done, I do a lot more you know things that I used to do when I was a boy like fishing you know and things like that, activities. I can't play rugby any more. I did try but I've got no stamina.
 

Some men re-evaluated their lives, doing things they had always wanted to do, such as travelling, or following their football club to Europe, rather than saving money for the future. One man said that illness gave him the strength to end a relationship that should have ended years ago.

 

Asserts that having cancer made him appreciate life.

Asserts that having cancer made him appreciate life.

Age at interview: 34
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 34
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Did it have any other affects on your life at that time?

Actually yeah it did, it gave me a rocket up the backside basically (laughs) and actually got me out of a rut. Because I suddenly realised actually hang on a sec you know I'm just wandering, idling through life. Suddenly I had this massive kick up the backside saying get on with life and actually start doing something. As I say I've just got back from Egypt. I might not have done that if this hadn't happened, it actually opened my eyes up, said you know life is actually worth living, live it, don't just exist. You've actually got to appreciate its not, there's an old adage that you don't appreciate thing's until you risk losing it and life, as soon as you actually realise that actually you know you're not going to live forever you suddenly go, hang on a second, life is just wandering past, do something with it, get off your backside and actually enjoy it, put something into it. And yeah actually so in that respect it's actually had a positive influence.
 

Some men realised that health is more important than wealth. One said he now takes life a bit more easily, works a bit less, and takes fewer risks than he did before he was ill. Another man said that he looks after himself, and at the first sign of illness he goes to see his doctor.

Cancer had a major effect on men's lives. Illness made one man reassess his plans for a career. He worked hard, obtained better than expected grades in his exams, and is now training to be a nurse.

 

Explains that having cancer made him think about his life and reassess what he wanted to do for a...

Explains that having cancer made him think about his life and reassess what he wanted to do for a...

Age at interview: 22
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 15
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I took the rest of my GCSEs the next year and got good results in all of them which was amazing considering I'd been predicted reasonably bad results before my GCSEs. Before I was ill I was predicted quite bad results and they didn't think I was intelligent enough to go on to do A levels and that sort of thing. And then what with the treatment and what I'd actually had it was, it made me think that may be I should be trying to make a bit more of my life really. So I worked hard for my GCSEs after that and got good grades. Went on to do A levels, did my A levels, worked for a couple of years and am now a student nurse. So I thought for a while what I wanted to do with my life and then thought about all the treatment and good work and support that I got from my nurses and so here I am, I'm training to be a nurse. So I've been invited by my consultant to may be go and work with him for a while in the wards down there, so yeah.

Some men wanted to 'give something back,' and were glad to take part in this web site for others diagnosed with cancer. Another man now spends a great deal of time working for cancer charities and hospitals, and runs a support group.

 

Asserts that cancer changed his outlook on life, gave him confidence, and led to his work with...

Asserts that cancer changed his outlook on life, gave him confidence, and led to his work with...

Age at interview: 33
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 26
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The long term effect now is that life is for living and stuff the rest, just bills and mortgages and everything else like that can, they can whistle Dixie for it because you're out to live now. It changes your perspective that way. If I get the sack tomorrow I get the sack tomorrow, I'm not bothered. I don't care any more as long as I'm alive. I mean it might be raining today but at least I'm alive and seeing the rain, I could've been dead. So that's one major effect that it's had on me I think. 

I think the major impact is just the work that I get involved with now with the education side and the communication side of it and I work with the hospitals and I work with Cancer Link and Cancerbackup in London, I do a lot of work now. Six years ago I would never have been able to stand up in front of 300 people and do a speech but now I can and I don't get concerned or worried about it or panic about it. So it's changed, it's changed my outlook on life and it just means I work, I do a hell of a lot of work with cancer now. And I do, I do sort of half marathons and things I'm always collecting for cancer, I'm always talking to people about cancer, cancer is probably one of the second biggest subjects in my life I suppose. It's taken over in a way if you like.
 

Having faced death, one man said that he had confronted his demons about dying, he now felt at peace, and no longer feared death. Another man was glad that he didn't feel a need to impress other people. As the result of his illness he felt that he could be himself, and say what he liked.

 

Asserts that he is now at peace and doesn't fear death, and appreciates life much more than he did.

Asserts that he is now at peace and doesn't fear death, and appreciates life much more than he did.

Age at interview: 37
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 37
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Yeah, as I say I've confronted my demons about dying and I've definitely, I can say I, I don't feel the fear like I, whenever you hear about someone dying, a family member or a friend or someone important, like when you heard Princess Diana died everyone suddenly thinks oh you know we're all gonna die and that. And you start thinking and what happens when my turn comes. That doesn't concern me anymore. I'm more, as I say I'm more at peace after all of this episode than I have been in my entire life. Basically because I've never confronted that issue. I've, its funny I always felt, “I'm never gonna die”, you know, you feel too young and enjoying it too much. But I still, there's still the young adult in me, still laughing and joking around, I haven't lost that bit but I'm now, I feel a bit older. I feel a bit more like a, I suppose more manly in a mental sort of a way. I'm like a more, more at peace I think more than anything. It is a weird thing and this might just be me I don't know but I am less concerned now about trivial things as well. There's so much more, more good things in the world to appreciate. I know its silly they say when you have something really bad you, you smell the flowers more, you see the greener, the more green in the grass and everything just seems a little bit better that you didn't take, you may have taken for granted, you see it in a different light.

A few men, however, felt less positive about life, fearing that the cancer would reoccur (see also 'Follow-up'). One man, for example, diagnosed in 1996, knows that it is most unlikely that his cancer will come back, but he can't get it out of his mind.

 

Describes his fear that the cancer may return.

Describes his fear that the cancer may return.

Age at interview: 50
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 44
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Well I think a lot, you hear a lot of stories and how it affects you and it changes your life but I think in my case (laughs) I don't think it has. I think you know, I don't think it's actually, I think until I actually finish and get discharged I still think, I'm still, I still think that there's a tendency that it might come back and I think until I actually discharge myself I'm still going to think along those lines, I don't think I can, I can't get it out of my mind that it might come back.

Does that prey on your mind a lot?

It does yeah. And I know from all the reading and research that I've done that it shouldn't. I know that I'm sort of cured basically and I know that the chances of it coming back are minuscule. But I suppose I'm just, I've just always got that nagging feeling that it might.

Last reviewed December 2017.

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