When Josh noticed a change in one of his testicles, his quick actions meant he received life-saving treatment for his fast-spreading cancer. Read his story here…
“One day I suddenly noticed that one of my testicles was a bit firmer and bigger than normal.”
I wouldn’t say that I’m one to check, but I was aware. I’m not a typical man and from a young age I’ve always been very open with my family. We never shy away from awkward topics and usually air them over dinner.
I was living away from home, but I called them and discussed my concerns. My family agreed that I was better just to get it checked out.
I rang the doctors a couple of days later and they saw me the same day. They booked me in for an operation and took a biopsy.
“I don’t think there is ever a good time to get cancer, but my diagnosis came at a particularly bad time.”
Everyone was wearing masks, so it was harder to relate to them and it didn’t feel real. Because of Covid-19, I had to go to all my appointments without family or friends. I’m not good at taking in a lot of information at once. I’d often leave more confused than I went in, and I’d forget to ask questions.
This is where Meg from Teenage Cancer Trust came into it. She was there when I received my diagnosis and has been with me since. When I was diagnosed, the doctor used lots of technical terms that I didn’t understand. Meg took me into a room afterwards and chatted to me. It was so helpful having her there as she immediately explained everything in a really simple way.
“I had so many questions, like what would happen next, would I get really ill, and would I lose my hair.”
Meg came to all of my appointments from then on and it was a lifesaver. There would be times when I was sat there with my mouth open not knowing what was going on. I’d sit and turn to Meg, and she’d explain what had been said.
My chemo was planned in for two weeks after my diagnosis. but blood tests showed that my cancer markers were at three, when they were meant to be between one and two. I’d had my bags packed for the hospital, but I had to wait while they monitored it. Every week it was doubling. It spread to my lymph nodes and was Stage 2.
I needed three rounds of chemo instead of one. It is super scary thinking about how quickly it was spreading and how far it could have got if I hadn’t acted straight away. I didn’t have any other symptoms and acting so quickly probably saved my life.
“I cannot stress enough how important it is to check yourself weekly and act on any worries.”
I started my chemo at Cheltenham General Hospital. Going in by myself was really strange and really hard as I had to stay in by myself for three days. For most of the time in hospital, I was the youngest by about 40 years.
The first round went really well. But over time the chemo builds up and builds up and the second round was hard and the third even harder. I went from being a super fit person, to struggling to get out of bed. It really didn’t fit well with me. I also had no hair at all, and the steroids made me put on two stone and my cheeks were swollen. Despite being shattered, I also struggled to sleep because of the steroids. I’d go to bed at 9pm and be lying there with my eyes wide open until 5am.
“It wasn’t until I finished, and I was given all clear that I started to struggle.”
I felt like I was letting my team down, so I rushed back to work too quickly, and it affected my mental health as I didn’t give myself long enough to reflect on what had happened to me.
Meg had told me during treatment that psychological support was available. I didn’t need it then as I was just so focused on getting through treatment. But having been told about it, I knew I could reach out to her afterwards. I’m not one to shy away from awkward things, so I just told her straight that I was struggling and I asked if I could get any help.
I was worried that I was the only one feeling that way and Meg reassured me that it was normal, and most people asked for help. She acted really quickly, and a clinical psychologist called Diana phoned me the following week.
Diana quickly built up a good rapport with me and she took the time to get to know me. She asked about my family and my life, and I allowed her in. She grasped exactly what I was about and what I needed.
“One of the things I was struggling with was anger. I was angry with the world.”
I thought it wasn’t fair that I had to go through that. She helped me understood that it was no-one’s fault that I got cancer and that it didn’t help to feel angry with the world. I finished my sessions with Diana when I moved back to Surrey and was transferred to my local hospital. I was also worried about losing Meg, but she found out who could support me at my local hospital and set that up for me.
Meg has been my saving grace. It would have been a completely different experience without her as she made everything ten times easier. I seriously don’t think I could have stayed so positive if she wasn’t helping me. I think everyone young person should have someone like Meg helping them through it.
Hidden Strength thanks Teenage Cancer Trust and especially Josh for sharing his inspiring story. We wish him a happy and healthy future. ❤️
If this story has affected you, or you wish to find out more about the amazing work of Teenage Cancer Trust, please click here.