When and where did you first notice signs of your cancer? Was there something out of the ordinary that prompted you to check yourself/ see your GP?
I was in the shower after football training washing myself when I discovered a hard lump on my left testicle. It felt quite large (a bit bigger than a pea) and I knew that wasn’t usually there. I phoned the GP the next day to get an appointment to get it checked out.
Did you check yourself regularly or were you aware of the signs and symptoms of male cancer before you were diagnosed?
Before I found the lump I didn’t feel any signs of illness. On the contrary, I was probably the fittest I’ve ever been. I was playing football 4 times a week, swam regularly and was a member at the local boxing gym.
Apart from washing myself I never checked myself regularly and never really gave it much thought to be honest.
How did you feel when you were first diagnosed? Did your feelings change during your treatment?
Obviously being told you have cancer inside of you isn’t the best thing to hear, especially when I felt fit as a fiddle. I didn’t let it get me down though and planned my weeks/months ahead with the view of beating cancer as soon as possible. I searched the internet for information about cancer and how I can beat it. The Orchid website I found extremely useful.
My first week of chemo went by I even emailed Orchid to tell them I wanted to do a bike ride for them once I was better. So I tried not to let cancer dominate my life by trying to carry on as normal.
When I was diagnosed I didn’t want to it stop me planning things in the future. I knew I was going to beat it; I never let doubt creep into my mind. I wanted to get better as soon as I could. I know I had a good prognosis so I kept a positive look on it.
Please give us a brief explanation of your treatment, any side effects you experienced and subsequent follow up procedure?
The first operation I had was a left orchiectomy to remove my left testicle. Which went well and apart from my scar becoming infected this was ok. I now have a prosthetic testicle in its place so down there looks the ‘same’. I was then given 9 weeks of chemotherapy to get rid of the tumor markers I had in my lymph nodes and on my lungs.
After the 9 weeks chemo, the tumor lump in my lymph node in my abdomen hadn’t shrunk as much as the doctors wanted so the option was to have a large operation to remove it. I was all for that because I wanted it out of my body! I had the operation called retroperitoneal lymph node dissection in February 2009. I was warned that there was a small chance that this operation could cause infertility and prevent men from ejaculation. Despite this I wanted the cancer out of me.
I was given the all clear from cancer in March 2009 and in September 2009 three mates and I did the London to Paris bike ride for Orchid.
Was there a particularly difficult or distressing part of your treatment or your cancer journey?
Chemo was more of an annoyance than anything as it used to make me feel tired. I am an active person and sitting around doing nothing is something I hate so this part of the cancer journey was the worse. I knew I was going to lose my hair so that was no shock but if anything my confidence was knocked because I had lost weight as well so I used to refer to myself as an alien.
What is the most important thing your family and friends did to support you?
My friends and family know I don’t like a drama and that’s how I wanted to play things when I had cancer. My determination to beat it was mirrored by my family and friends and we carried on as normally as I could. My workplace was terrific and gave me off the all the time I wanted off if I was feeling tired.
Can you describe a particular Low/High point during your treatment?
Finding out that I was going to have the second operation was a kick in the teeth because I was hoping that after the 9 weeks of chemo would be the end of it. When I had the option of the operation though I did want them to cut the lump out of me.
Lying in bed having my chemo drugs pumped into me was always a low but I didn’t let my family or friends know as I didn’t want them to worry too much. I hated the sicky feeling I would get lying in that bed because I couldn’t get to sleep.
I did try to carry on as normal though to balance out the low times and even managed to get away a couple of times for a holiday which helped a lot.
Do you believe the experience has changed you as a person? If so, in what way?
The whole experience has made me appreciate my active lifestyle a lot more. I hate lying around doing nothing, so the whole 6 months of taking it easy was torture for me. I couldn’t wait to get out there and start going to the gym and getting my weight back.
What medical or emotional support would you like to be offered in the future to support you after your treatment ends?
Looking back on the whole experience the support I had from my family, friends and girlfriend was amazing. I couldn’t of asked for a better group of people in my life. They were all the support I needed.
What would be your message to other men affected by male cancer?
PMA is something I believe in. Positive Mental Attitude. I believe this can play a huge part. Keep positive, keep busy and believe that you will get through it.
What would be your message to their partners?
My girlfriend was amazing throughout the whole experience. Even though she found it hard to see me go through the chemo and the operations, she too remained positive and planned things as normal. We never shied away from doing things just because I had cancer. We went out for meals, cinema etc. and tried to do the things any normal couple would do. We are no longer together now but she was the best girlfriend I could of asked for because she never made a drama out of the situation.
Orchid, please keep up the good work in educating people in male cancers. You were a great help when I was researching about my cancer.
Rob is now running a Male Support Group at the Sharon Fox Centre in Tamworth on the first Wednesday evening of each month 7-9pm.
For further information visit http://www.sharonfoxcancercentre.org.uk/
You can download Rob’s poster here