"Do you know the number of the GP?" This is how it all started ! Well to me anyway. For James it probably started a bit before when he felt that lump. One that was not there before and suddenly became the one subject always on the back of our minds no matter how hard we tried not to over-think it.
It was followed by a very long 3 weeks wait to be able to get a doctor appointment. As you do you (even if you know you shouldn't) you start to search the internet for every possible reason why there could be a lump and you try to reassure yourself with the fact that there is only 4% of chances it could be cancer. The GP agrees, it is probably nothing, just a cyst, but just in case she prefers to send James for an ultrasound.
And this is when it happened, the moment we will always remember, when the "C word" entered our lives without warning. I never thought we would have to hear it for another good 20-30 years at least. Not when we are 3 months away from having a new baby boy and we have a 3 year old at home. I never thought a 35 year old man who has never drunk or smoked, eats a healthy diet and exercises every day could be affected by cancer but it does happen. Testicular cancer actually mostly affects men between 15 and 49 and there is nothing in your lifestyle that makes you more prone to getting it.
The next day, James had surgery to remove the tumor, the operation went well and the recovery as well . The next weeks were rythmed by doctor appointments, scans, blood tests... Everything was going so fast we were basically following the instructions we were given and didn't have or didn't take the time to think. We did have to start thinking about what was happening when they announced he would have to get chemotherapy for 9 weeks in a hospital 45 minutes away from home as an in-patient for half of the time. To make it easier my due date was right in the middle of it. I think this is when we realised that for the next months at least, cancer would be ruling our lives whether we liked it or not. We luckily have received invaluable help from friends and family who became, cleaners, cooks, baby sitters, chauffeurs, counselors... for us.
Then came chemotherapy. As thankful I am for the existence of such a treatment watching one of the people I love the most on this planet go through this was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life. As well as killing the cancer cells it literally poisons your body and causes an endless list of side effects I will not go into too much details about.
At the time I am writing this post, James has just finished chemotherapy, and as the side effects start to wear off slowly, our lives are becoming more normal again. The hospital visits and tests will obviously not stop there but at least the worst is behind us.
The reason why I decided to write this blog post is not to get compassion, pity or praise. It is to raise awareness about a cancer which affects mostly younger men. It is a cancer I did not know anything about before it happened to James. Testicular cancer is one of the most treatable types of cancer. More than 96% of men with early stage testicular cancer will be completely cured. So here is what I need you to tell your husbands, friends, or any man you want. check yourself ! and if you do feel anything suspect, go straight to your GP ! it will more than likely not be cancer but if it is, delaying it will only make it harder to treat, if treatable. I understand it is not easy to have to pull your trousers down in front of a stranger but think of the alternative ...
In order to help me get this message to reach as many people as possible, please share this blog post and feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments.
If you want to find out more about testicular cancer or know someone who is affected, here is a link to a website that answered so many of our questions before the doctors could : http://www.yourprivates.org.uk/