HuffPost UK is running a month-long focus around masculinity in the 21st Century, and the pressures men face around identity. To address some of the issues at hand, Building Modern Men presents a snapshot of life for men, from bringing up young boys to the importance of mentors, the challenges between speaking out and 'manning up' as well as a look at male violence, body image, LGBT identity, lad culture, sports, male friendship and mental illness.
I had no idea what I was meant to be feeling for and how often I needed to check my balls.
I attended a doctor's appointment for a suspected viral infection, the doctor asked if there was anything else I'd like checking before the appointment was finished, it was at that point I let the professional take over and check for me to be sure and put my mind at rest.
The doctor was concerned with what she had found and acted fast, within a matter of days, I was sent for blood tests and an ultrasound scan - it happened so fast before I knew it the oncologist said those infamous words "We're sorry but you have cancer". Alone in the room and aged 21 is tough to take in.
Being told by another human being you have a life threatening illness at such a young age is heart breaking to say the least, I only associated cancer with older people as I'd never encountered a young person with cancer.
So at 21, I was diagnosed with stage two testicular cancer that spread to nearby lymph nodes in my abdominal area. I would need an intense course of chemotherapy and removal of the testicle to cure.
The next stage was to bank some sperm for if I'd like to have children as one of the major side effects from chemotherapy is fertility issues. The result wasn't the best, I had a very low sperm count and they weren't the healthiest of swimmers, but at the time I was more focused on what was to come in the next few months and whether I'd survive or not.
I attended the post-chemotherapy appointment with my oncologist and it was successful in removing the cancer cells from my body (cancer-free) however the lymph nodes were still enlarged, a month later I was called to an appointment with one of the countries best surgeons in this area. he informed me they would like to perform a procedure called RPLND, to remove all abdominal lymph nodes.
I was asked if I'd like to have another go at banking some sperm before the operation, part of the procedure will result in me losing the ability to ejaculate otherwise known as Retrograde Ejaculation. The results came back and there was a feeling of emptiness and heart break again... I was 'firing blanks' so not only did I have the mental challenge of the operation coming up, I also had to accept that part of my masculinity has been taken away from me and I will never be able to naturally conceive a child.
A few months went by and the operation date was fast approaching, I attended the pre-op assessment, that went smoothly. I had this gut feeling and my intriguing nature prompted me to to request a final CT scan before under-going the knife to remove the 'enlarged lymph nodes' the results could only be described as a miracle and I no longer required the operation.
All of the mental and physical exhaustion I'd been through leading up to this life changing operation hasn't sat well with me for a long time, still to this day I don't think I'm fully over it.
A question that keeps running round and round in my mind is - how many other young men like myself are out there worried, not wanting to go to the doctors and unsure what they're checking for/how often do they need to check and what to do if they find something.
I found myself old enough to understand what was happening, but too young to handle the physically and mentally challenging experience, it wasn't until three months after I'd finished the chemotherapy that I realised there was more to life than working a nine to five job and expecting everything on a plate due to the ordeal I'd just experienced.
With the support from other charities I decided to set up BaggyTrousersUK with the vision and aims to increase awareness around a condition that almost took my life and reduce late diagnosis by promoting regular self checking.
"And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." - Paulo Coelho
If detected early, the chances of survival are second to none, there's also reduced side effects and less-intense treatment, this also reduces the risk of long-term side effects too.
Having the biggest balls isn't a good thing, it's more of an area for you to check, you will have bigger balls if you actually visit your GP with anything you're concerned about.
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