Work and testicular cancer
Just over three quarters of the men interviewed here were non-manual workers. Some were only off work for a short while. For example, one was only away from his office for eight days after his orchidectomy. He had a two-week course of radiotherapy, but kept working, leaving the office about 3pm for treatment.
Many other men, however, particularly those who had radiotherapy or chemotherapy, were off work for much longer, even up to a year. One man remembered being cheered when he returned to work after six months. Three men had to retire from work early due to ill health.
Says that it was great to return to work after being ill for six months.
In the past, men rarely talked about testicular cancer in the work place. They were reluctant to discuss their illness with colleagues or prospective employers, and some of those who were unemployed after they had been diagnosed with cancer, felt that their illness had hampered their job possibilities.
One of the men interviewed here was diagnosed in 1967. He was sacked from his job as a teacher when the head mistress discovered he had colluded with a sympathetic doctor and hidden the fact that he had had cancer, to pass the medical examination to start his training.
One man had to wait six months for the right to normal company pension benefits. The company withheld this benefit until the doctor wrote a letter to confirm that he was cured. Another man, a university professor, resented the low academic assessment he was given the year of his illness. A manual worker felt that his manager had 'messed him around with his wages' while he was having chemotherapy, and another didn't get paid while he was off work for radiotherapy.
Some men feared discrimination. A manager, diagnosed in 1984, had a fear based on experience that if his colleagues knew that he had had cancer he might be treated differently or that he might lose out on promotion. A managing director, diagnosed in 1991, said nothing to his colleagues about his illness because he was frightened of their reaction, and a manual worker only discussed his illness with close friends.
Recalls his fear of jokes in the office.
Thinking back to when you first discovered you had testicular cancer, did you feel you could talk to other people and tell work about it?
No, not at all. I was frightened of the jokes; I really was frightened of the jokes. I was in an environment where it was very high-powered environment and I was, I was concerned and frightened about what was going to be said to me about me, behind my back and all these things. So I kept it to myself, I shared it with the people around me, I shared it with my best friend who is still my best friend and him and his wife and his kids are what I would say is my new family, they are remarkable people. And there is nothing that I can't tell my friend.
Explains why he has not told colleagues at work about his illness.
None of the other men, however, hid the nature of their illness from their colleagues or employers. It was suggested that this openness was because testicular cancer is talked about nowadays. Some pointed out that their company would get a bad press if it were not supportive of a man with cancer.
Says that he doesn't mind people knowing about his cancer and that testicular cancer is...
So you didn't worry about having to tell people at work?
No, no that didn't bother me in the slightest and even after I was well on the way to getting better, but my hair hadn't come back and I was putting weight on again, I did I called in to work to see my colleagues and a couple of them didn't recognise me to start off with.
Some men found it quite hard explaining what had happened, because colleagues felt embarrassed, but many found that colleagues were keen to know more about the disease. A few men were worried that they might lose their jobs, but when they told their colleagues about their illness they were soon reassured by the support they received.
Recalls that he found it hard telling people about his illness over and over again.
Recalls that his colleagues and his boss were very supportive.
I did, I told everybody at work. My boss was very supportive, gave me as much time off as I wanted. He came round to visit me. I had cards from people at work. Initially I was a bit embarrassed by it being testicular cancer you know and having to have one of my testicles removed. Once I told everybody at work I think there was a big sense of 'thank God it wasn't me' actually. I think everybody was very supportive.
My boss came round. I had get-well cards, once I told my boss that one of the things I could taste was ginger and everything else tasted metallic, he brought round two crates of ginger beer for me. So. Yeah everybody was helpful and supported and they involved me in a couple of team building days and social events, I went to which was quite'
Were you ever worried that you might lose your job or anything like that?
It did cross my mind, but because my boss was so supportive, and I think he was quite well informed as well, I think he realised it was all very short term and once I was back I would be able to continue working as per normal. Once I did go back to work I did have to fill out a form saying that I could carry out my duties as per normal, but that was just a formality, that was just to cover themselves I understand.
Except for those mentioned above, all the other men felt their employers treated them well; men were given support, sympathy, time off work to recover, full pay, and promotion as expected. Some men were allowed to work from home, which made life easier for them (see also 'Financial concerns').
Recalls that his boss was very supportive even though he had only just started a new job.
Were you worried about work?
Yeah I was worried that I was going to lose my job. I know it's silly. I look back now and the people I work with, my boss was superb; my boss above him was superb. They were fantastic; I'd keep in touch just to let them know what was happening. Each step you know I've been through with you today I would let them know what was happening so they were up to date.
Last reviewed December 2017.