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Interview 28

Age at interview: 48
Age at diagnosis: 34
Brief Outline: Testicular cancer (seminoma) diagnosed in 1987; orchidectomy. No secondary tumours, but radiotherapy 5 times a week for a month to prevent recurrence.
Background: Company Director; single, no children.

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Asserts that laughter helped him recover from his illness.

Asserts that laughter helped him recover from his illness.

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Had you talked to your other friends about it, at this stage, or people at work, what reactions have there been?

Not people at work, er at that stage it was just friends and I have a very nice group of friends, all of whom delight in taking the piss and so as a result I remember in the hospital the cards I was getting. And one stands out to this very day, and I still have it and it was (laughs) and it was just simply entitled on the front, 'Sorry for the loss of your loved one' (laughs) and so you can see what sort of friends I had.

How did you feel when you got cards like that?

Oh I laughed, but that's me you see.

Did you genuinely laugh?

Absolutely, genuinely laughed.

So it didn't upset you when you say they took the piss?

Not at all, not at all, because that's the way that I cope really. I like to think I've got a pretty good sense of humour and it has seen me through many, many different situations. And this was certainly one that helped, I mean it really did. When I think of the absolute manic cards I had and people just didn't want to take it seriously. I think they were probably trying to jolly me along a bit in case I was going to dip into some sort of depression but I didn't. And whether it was me or a combination of me and my friends being you know up beat I really don't know but it worked.

So you felt the humour was actually helpful?

Definitely, absolutely definitely, I couldn't take it seriously. I mean in later days you know when I was in a work situation perhaps able to say something to a college when it was appropriate, I mean I wouldn't go around saying "Hello, I've had testicular cancer," but when it came up I would talk about it. And you could see them formulating a question in their minds and a lot of people don't know how to take it when you say "Oh yes I've dealt with cancer." And usually the first question was "Oh where did you have it?" and my glib answer was always "Brighton," (laughs) so, and that always broke the ice. So, and that I still use that line today I know. But it's, you see that's the humour coming through again and that most definitely has helped me and still helps me.

Oh that's really good.

Yeah I think so and I think it's important and I know, I don't want to trivialise and I don't want to take it into a different sphere and I know people deal with things on a different way. Some people might be absolutely horrified that I'm sitting here telling you that I laughed about it but I truly believe that that actually helped, so I need to tell you that I laughed about it.
 
 

Describes the tattoos that were put on his body before the radiotherapy started.

Describes the tattoos that were put on his body before the radiotherapy started.

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Before you can have radiotherapy they have to clearly identify which parts of the body they're going to zap, I use the word zap because I don't know any other word to use. And in so doing they have to be so accurate because radio waves, for want of a better description, are so invasive and so harmful whilst still being able to treat things like tumours, they have to be jolly careful where else in the body they're going to put them. So it was explained to me that I would be going to a room with a replica machine of this machine that they were going to use, and that they had to measure from what the consultant had said on the x-rays, that they had to mark on my body where they were going to do the radiotherapy. So this was all very technical and they took a lot of measurements and they were forever consulting their, the x-rays of me and saying "Oh yes it's got to go here and there." And what they actually do, and they did explain it beforehand because I had to have the lymph nodes on the same side as the testicle and no other side, it was just the one side and they explained that they had to do it from below, just below groin to shoulder. But in order to do this and to make sure that they got the machine lined up correctly they had to put little marks on my body. And they're actually tattoos so I can actually say I've got like 8 tattoos and nobody would ever know it but they're tiny weenie little blue pinpricks and they follow the line of the radiotherapy on both your front and your back and they're there, to this day they will never go away. Kind of a souvenir I guess.
 
 

Describes the unexpected sickness he suffered after his radiotherapy.

Describes the unexpected sickness he suffered after his radiotherapy.

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Day one, I came out of there [radiotherapy], and I said, 'What happens now?. And they said, 'Well you go home'. And I said "Are there any side-effects?" "No, no, no, no side-effects whatsoever." I said "Nothing?" "No, no you'll be fine." So I thought okay this is kind of a good deal. I went home, I think I probably had a cup of tea and then I began to feel very, very ill, and then I began to feel even worse and then I began to throw up and I couldn't stop throwing up. And I had never in my entire life felt as ill as I did that evening. And there was nobody there in my flat and I was thinking, they told me at the hospital I would be fine.

And I had to ring the GP and I had to get somebody out to me because I was by now on the floor, because I was, number one I was emotionally drained, and number two I was physically drained because I was just throwing up so much. And I explained to the guy who came, and it wasn't my regular GP, but I explained to him what the, what had happened to me today and he said, "Well didn't they give you any tablets or didn't they explain?" And I said, "No, no they told me it would be fine." And he said "Well, you know that really wasn't on and they should've explained that because the radiotherapy cuts through some good tissue as well as bad if there is any bad there, and that predominantly it cuts across your stomach." And you know that can have a devastating effect, which nobody had told me about. So of course the next day I was like "Why didn't you tell me?" "Well the attitude that we have is that some people don't get affected so we don't want to scare people and so we just don't say anything the first day and then if somebody comes in the next day sick we can give them some tablets for it." Which I didn't think was really a particularly good way to handle it. So that was the first big trauma really.
 
 

Explains how his false testicle was implanted and says that he is very pleased with it.

Explains how his false testicle was implanted and says that he is very pleased with it.

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But then we got to this stage where I wasn't [happy without a testicle], and to this day I couldn't tell you what triggered that, it just was, yeah I think I'd like to have one [a false testicle]. You know so I called him up. It was very simple he said, "Yeah fine no problem we'll arrange it," and he arranged for me to go in. 

I think I waited may be 3 months and I very soon had a bed and he came by and he explained what the procedure was. I asked could I choose the size, he said "No," I had great visions (laughs). He said, "No, no, no we have small, medium and large and we just match you," so that's what it was. And it was a silicone implant that they were going to put in and I asked him how they were going to achieve this. He said "Exactly in the same way that we took the other one out." So I thought okay fine and that's exactly what they did. And I was in hospital for no more than 2 days and came out happy again.

How sore was it and how quickly could you walk around and feel alright?

I was walking around the ward the same day that I had the testicle put back in er which was hugely gratifying because you think you know okay you've got a wound which is in your abdomen and that is slightly restrictive but really it didn't hurt an awful lot other than that healing wound there which let's face I'd been through once before they took it out so I knew what to expect. Er but no it didn't affect anything otherwise, I just took off and went.

And are you pleased that you had one replaced now?

Absolutely yes because I can flick it and it doesn't hurt (laughs) which to a man is very important. You've probably lost that completely but such is the pain on flicking a real one it's a great delight to sit in the bath and flick a silicone one and not flinch.

And do you think it matches the other one pretty well?

Absolutely yeah you can barely tell the difference either in size or density. It feels almost exactly the same.

Good.

The only thing that you can tell is different is that it's, at the base of it there's kind of a, not a clamp but it's where it's held in place because if it weren't tethered by some sort of lead I suppose it would float around and possibly find its way back up into the abdomen. So what they explained was this holds it in place. So that's the only thing that you can really tell is different but other than that it's perfectly fine.

Oh good.

Yeah very happy with it.


 
 

Urges men to seek help and to have the courage of their convictions if they suspect that...

Urges men to seek help and to have the courage of their convictions if they suspect that...

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Yeah if there's a lump there it doesn't really matter what is causing that lump, it shouldn't be there and you need to get it sorted it out. Don't take no for an answer and have the courage of your convictions because you are more in tune with your body than you realise and you will instinctively know if you need to get something done about it. I would say that everything I've gone through subsequently, yes they found that it was testicular cancer, and they found that it was a seminoma which required radiotherapy and not a teratoma which required chemotherapy. Treatments have changed and the way that people are being treated these days is sometimes a lot more, a lot less intrusive than other treatments have been in the past so I would not be afraid of that at all. And I would say please, just go, check it out, and then have it seen to if it needs to be seen to because you do need to have it seen to because if you let it go the that's when it starts to get more dangerous.
 
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