Johannesburg - This month, 1Life have launched a campaign encouraging male cancer survivors to share their journey through either testicular, or prostate cancer – the ups, the downs, the ins and outs, the good and the ugly.
The aim? To get South African men to speak about, and share their experiences with male-related cancers.
Here is Timothy Hart's story:
Timothy Hart, a 32-year-old firefighter, is an avid cyclist. He took a fall on a tour, and a few weeks later his testicle was still sore. He also started to have sensitive nipples. He googled his symptoms, which indicated testicular cancer.
It took him another couple of weeks to work up the courage to go to the doctor about it. “I felt embarrassed and ashamed. It’s not like a cut finger or a broken arm. It’s a very private, sensitive issue,” he says.
The urologist removed the testicle, and referred Timothy to an oncologist. Together, they decided to delay chemotherapy and watch Timothy’s markers carefully. Unfortunately, four weeks later, they came back positive, and an emergency scan revealed a tumour in his abdomen.
Because of its position close to his spine, the doctors couldn’t operate on it, but with three courses of chemo, the tumour shrank down to the size of a pea and calcified. There’s only a 1% chance that it will come back.
“I don’t like the term cancer survivor. My motto is that I am dealing with my cancer. I’m having my checks done. I am eating healthily. It’s always going to be a part of my life, no matter what. But at the end of the day, no matter what cancer you’ve had, you have to look after yourself and enjoy life.”
Timothy is married to Ondria, and they have a young son, and their daughter was born just after Timothy had his surgery. He says it was very tough to miss out on all the joys of a new baby because he was so ill.
He says that his employer, the City of Cape Town, were very supportive and gave him all the sick leave he needed to complete his treatment. The firefighters he works with also stood by him.
“When I lost my hair, quite a few of my mates shaved their heads in support of me. In the fire service, we’re like a little family. When one guy is having a bad day, we’re all there for him.”
He says that there is not a lot of support in South Africa, because guys don’t like to talk about testicular cancer. “If you feel any lumps or pain or tenderness in your testicles, get yourself checked by a doctor. Women do it all the time for breast cancer. Men need to do it too for testicular cancer.”