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Interview 22

Age at interview: 45
Age at diagnosis: 40
Brief Outline: Testicular cancer diagnosed in 1996; orchidectomy. No evidence of secondary tumours, but three cycles of chemotherapy (each cycle 2-3 days of treatment with a week in between at home) to prevent recurrence.
Background: Computer analyst; married, 1 child.

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Says that his oncologist suspects that cancer may be caused by pesticides.

Says that his oncologist suspects that cancer may be caused by pesticides.

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I think there's always the question, well it's probably human nature is, 'Why, why did I get it?' I haven't got a clue. My oncologist has actually been doing research in trying to find causes and he has a very strong suspicion, and I won't mention his name because I know he's having severe rows about it, that he thinks it's related to pesticides.

 Oh.

A lot of people he found have had contact with country. I came from a country background, farming. And he apparently has been approached by various pharmaceutical industries to try and do research to prove that it's nothing to do with it. So it probably puts him in a very awkward position so we'll leave it there. But as far as I understand it he has a very strong feeling, and there is no scientific evidence, this is purely on conversations with his fairly extensive patient list, is he feels that pesticides or chemicals have an effect. There are vague links I believe with people who'd had, men who'd had undescended testicles when they were young, there have been discussion of vague links, also linked with vasectomies which interested me because I'd actually had a vasectomy. And I brought it up with my oncologist and urologist because it had come up in some of the research they'd done. And they were saying that currently yes they'd heard of that but there is no definitive evidence in either direction. So yes one of the big questions is why and the usual one, 'Why me?'
 
 

Explains some of the advantages and disadvantages of having a false testicle.

Explains some of the advantages and disadvantages of having a false testicle.

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I was given the option of whether I wanted a prosthetic implant, basically a plastic ball.

What did you decide about that?

I had one in the end er I wasn't sure. I think there are a number of things that went through my mind. One I suppose is pure vanity and I was lucky that I was in a long-term relationship. I'd already had a vasectomy so children weren't really an issue, so I was also very fortunate there. And I'm not quite sure why I did and I'm not quite sure that my choice would be the same again.

Were there any pros and cons given to you?

There were quite a few. Basically the con side is you're introducing a foreign body into my own body, so there was much higher chances of infection and post-operative problems, slightly more complicated. There were sort of, had been cases earlier on of problems with artificial testicles and with, sort of in the cold they shattered and this sort of thing. But I was promised that the new ones did not have that kind of problem and I was actually given one to see and feel and whatever.

What was it made of?

I'm not sure exactly, it's a fairly hard plastic. Whether it's true plastic or silicone or whatever, it feels like a fairly hard plastic, slightly harder than a normal testicle which is one of the reasons why I say I'd think about it twice because I actually had problems with almost bruising because it hung slightly differently than the natural testicle, they were actually, almost bruising effect until everything got used to the new arrangement. So there were times when I wished I hadn't had it.

Did they put it in at the same time as they removed the testicle?

It was all done exactly the same time. They said, it's actually quite a straight forward procedure to put in; you know they've already made all the incisions and so forth and he said there was really no point in having a second set of surgery to implant. So he would recommend either having it at the same time or not at all. I don't know whether that's the standard recommendation but that was definitely his quite definite recommendation. He also said that it's quite straightforward to remove them again afterwards, it can be an almost outpatient exercise to remove an artificial testicle. And I haven't had that. I kept my artificial testicle. 
 
 

Suggests that he felt a loss of masculinity for a while, and that is partly why he had the...

Suggests that he felt a loss of masculinity for a while, and that is partly why he had the...

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What about sense of masculinity, do you think it affects guys' sense of masculinity at all or temporarily?

I think it does to a degree. Initially, especially early on. As I said I had a prosthesis and I think that had, that had something to do with why I decided I would have it. Part of it I think was automatic, I'm losing a testicle, I want one back. And as I said early one with the surgery it was so rushed between diagnosis and surgery that I'm not sure I was making a 100% rational decisions all the time. So thinking back I'm really not sure why I decided to have the prosthesis. I think part of it is vanity, part of it is the self-image, part of it is sort of masculinity and sexuality. There is a severe worry you know as I said you know the idea of someone close to my genitals with a sharp knife makes me still very nervous. Probably even more nervous now I've only got one testicle than I did when I had two. But yes it is worrying.
 
 

Recalls that he found it hard telling people about his illness over and over again.

Recalls that he found it hard telling people about his illness over and over again.

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And quite a few people there knew why I hadn't been to work, and most people seemed to be on tenterhooks. They didn't know whether they should say something, they didn't know whether they should joke about it, should they, so most people said absolutely nothing. And I think I can understand it because I know people from the other side of the coin, do you actually say something, do you not say something, do you joke about it? I think one of the worst things was having to go through the story and explain over and over and over again. I didn't mind telling people and I didn't mind talking about it, I didn't feel like it was a personal failing on my behalf that I had cancer, it wasn't something I'd done or I'd been a bad boy or anything of that nature, but it was just the repetition. And I felt almost like I should have a little videotape or a cassette player and say, "Well just listen to this for 5 minutes and I'll come back when you've heard it because I'm really bored with telling this story." But I did get a lot of support from people and a few people spoke to me seriously about it and they were worried or they'd had you know it was just well, 'How did you find out', sort of thing and they were actually interested. And I think with the lack of publicity regarding testicular cancer I think it's important that people do say something. 
 
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