‘Check your Nuts Guys!’


 

This is possibly the ‘Mondayest Monday’ Luke has Mondayed in a while. After spending the night up with his two-year old daughter, he heads to our offices in San Gwann where he opens up about his battle with testicular cancer. He is now cancer free and urging all men to get tested. He is now cancer free and urging all men to get tested.

Before you were diagnosed with cancer, did you have a feeling something was wrong? What were the warning sings? 

I figured something wasn’t right when one of my testicles felt firmer than the other. There was no pain whatsoever. It’s not something easy to bring up to anyone because it’s the manhood and no guy wants anything wrong there. During a drunken night out celebrating my wife’s birthday, I asked her if ‘this’ was normal. She immediately said “No”.

Did you get it checked out by a specialist immediately? 

Yes. Straight away. I quietly visited  who suggested I get an ultrasound scan after which I was referred for an MRI scan. The doctor read the results there and then which detected the whole tumour taking up the whole testicle.

How did you react to this? 

It was at this point that I started freaking out. I went back to the office and broke down without wanting to. I tried so hard to be strong but in that moment I was like “HUG ME!”

Was there any way to save the testicle? 

In a jar in my room… No… We couldn’t do a biopsy. Since it is such a small area, it is very easy to miss the cancerous part. A biopsy may also increase the risk of cancer cells spreading. The only way to make a definite diagnosis is by removing the whole testicle and testing it afterwards. They told me it was very likely to be cancer so I would be needing an operation to remove my testicle. At this point, it was the only option so I told them “TAKE IT” without thinking twice. They could have taken it away for nothing, but luckily they didn’t, as it resulted to be cancer once they tested it after the operation.

When was the surgical procedure performed? 

The surgery was performed the day after the diagnosis. There was no time to think about it so I barely got nervous. Within 24 hours I had undergone surgery… and bam it was gone. I had no time to process it and think to myself “Ma that’s my ball!”

Did you undergo any major life changes since the surgery? Does having one testicle reduce fertilitYThe healthy testicle takes over sperm production so it is not an issue with regards to fertility. One testicle also makes enough testosterone which compensates for the loss of the other. The removal of both of them would have presented problems with fertility and development and in this case one would need to opt for hormone replacement. Having one testicle is not problematic at all! I now treat my remaining testicle with great care… I even have a special pillow especially for it! Joking aside, the chances of getting diagnosed with testicular cancer in the other testicle is the same as anyone else in the world getting diagnosed for the first time.

Can you get a prosthetic testicle? 

It was an option I didn’t consider especially since I’m married. The decision to opt for a prosthetic testicle is a very personal one to many. It is a touchy subject since we’re dealing with manhood. Many guys decide they feel better with one rather than without it, as it boosts their self-confidence. Having one testicle isn’t something that affected me at all – on the contrary, it is now positioned better.

Is chemotherapy necessary after testicular cancer? 

I opted for chemotherapy as I was told it reduces the chances of the cancer spreading from 25% to 2%. Since chemotherapy is said to decrease sperm production, the doctors encourage sperm banking which can be covered by the government before undergoing therapy. This is ideal for any cancer patient to put his mind at rest if he might want to have children in the future and the cancer treatment is preventing this. I flew to a clinic in London to bank my sperm even though my wife gave birth to my daughter through a natural pregnancy two years later. It is good for patients to know that they can and should store the sperm if they have reduced sperm quantity. Knowing we are backed up by the government helps even more!

What follow-up care is important after treatment? 

This includes a check-up twice a year for the first three years, followed by a check-up once a year for the next two years. January 2018 will mark the fifth year since my diagnosis and surgery. I will go for my final scheduled check up after which I plan on returning for regular check-ups. It is very important for men to get checked out frequently. It might be uncomfortable to take the plunge and get examined but at the end of the day, the sooner you get to know if something’s up, the better.

What is the survival rate and how common is it? 

On average, it has a 95 percent survival rate. If men carry out self-examinations regularly and treat the diagnosis at an early stage, the chances of death are tiny.

It is the most common cancer to occur in men under 40 but we don’t hear of a lot of cases like this because people keep their diagnosis, treatment and recovery private. Men in particular are reluctant to touch on such a sensitive subject related to the manifestation of their manhood. Some haven’t even heard about testicular cancer or do not know how to detect it. Awareness is lacking and people are left to fight the disease in the dark.

Luke is putting it all out there. He isn’t hiding anything. He hopes to help combat the negative stigma on testicular cancer by spreading awareness. He tells his story in his own humorous way and urges men to “check [your] nuts, [guys]”. He reassures men that even though he now has one testicle, he is still treated in the same way. He doesn’t think about it as being less of a man. In fact, he is still very much a manly man. Nothing’s changed. Well, actually it did… he is now slightly lighter. But most importantly of all, nothing bugs him about it.

 

© 2017 – VIDA Magazine – Philippa Zammit

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