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I Thought Cancer In My 20s Had Left Me Infertile - Now I Can't Wait to Become a Dad

03/05/2016 08:02

My wife's expecting our first daughter in August this year, and I can't wait. I'm so excited about being a dad. But rewind just a few short years, and I could never have imagined this would be happening to me. Because my cancer surgeon had just uttered the words "the treatment will almost certainly leave you infertile".

I had been diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of bowel cancer in 2007 when I was only 24. I just couldn't take it in. I was young and fit, why me?

I was told I'd have to have a temporary colostomy bag, radiation and then six months of chemotherapy. Plus I'd need an operation to physically remove as much of the tumour from my body as possible.

And on top of that I had to confront the fact that I might never be a dad. I was crushed. I came out of the hospital appointment feeling so, so low, and I went back home and locked myself in my room and cried. I didn't want to cry in front of my mum and dad because I felt I needed to be strong for them.

Before my treatment started I gave a sperm sample. The idea was that at some point in the future if I met someone, at least then I could have a chance, however slim, of having a family. In all honesty I nearly didn't go as I was feeling so ill, and this was the one thing that I felt most embarrassed about. Needless to say, I look back on that day now and I'm so glad I went through with it.

When I think back to that time and having to deal with such a life changing situation whilst trying as hard as possible to carry on living the normal life of a 24-year-old bloke, I know it's because of how supportive my family and my employer Travis Perkins were, that I got through.

But it comes as no surprise to me that Macmillan Cancer Support's new research reveals that over a third of men have been kept awake at night because of health worries, but that so many are scared of talking about these because they are embarrassed. Men like me, who work in the building and construction sector, are even less likely to talk about it.

I'm one of the lucky ones - I was confident enough to tell my best friend who told the rest of my mates, and after that I found it easy to talk about. My boss made it clear that the company would do everything they could to support me. The hardest thing was telling my mum and in the end I couldn't, I would have just broken down - my dad broke the news instead. But getting it out there in the open helped us all to come to terms with it, it made a difference.

2016-04-29-1461939362-5510781-PaulSimmsweddingday1.jpg

Paul and his wife Kayleigh on their wedding day

My treatment came to an end, and I've been cancer free for seven years now. I married my amazing wife Kayleigh in August 2015 and after two rounds of IVF we hit the jackpot and we're now waiting for our little girl to arrive - she's due a year after our wedding. When I was 24, I honestly thought that would never happen. But talking, opening up to those that I trusted, about being diagnosed with bowel cancer helped me to get through it. Anyone reading this should think seriously about doing the same.

Paul is supporting Macmillan Cancer Support's men's health awareness campaign Don't Let Cancer Ruin Your Foundations, in association with partners across the building and construction sector including Paul's employer Travis Perkins. For more information visit www.macmillan.org.uk/checkup

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