A Journey Through Testicular Cancer

"My advice to all young men is to regularly check themselves, don’t feel embarrassed in anyway if something doesn’t feel right go and get it seen to straight way. Talk more and be open to each other always."

My name is Conor McHugh and I am a Key Worker on the Futures Project.

When I think of Men’s Health it takes me back to last December. I had started to feel unwell, with fatigue and lower back pain going into my groin area. I went to my GP surgery and they said I had an infection - I questioned it saying I think it could be something else. After a while I put it to the back of my mind and got on with things. As Christmas grew closer I was buzzing and the festive spirit was alive within Start360. However, I felt drained and the pain in my groin area was getting worse. I remember leaving the office and my gut feeling was I would end up in hospital over Christmas. That evening I had no energy and the pain was nothing like I had experienced before.

I woke up at 5:30am, usually I am not a morning person (just ask Mel), but my wife was getting ready to go out to work and I said something was not right and showed her where I was sore. I told her I was going to go to the hospital, and I would keep her updated. I was called quickly and got my bloods taken. I phoned my mummy and told her I was in the hospital, like every mother she was there in a heartbeat.

I remember asking the Doctor, "Was testicular cancer a possibility?" He thought for a second after my mummy had told him I was due to get married. He asked me, "If I admit you would you stay?". My reply was "Definitely".

I was taken up to Three South in Craigavon Hospital. There were 3 other men on the ward and within minutes we had started talking - it was nice to openly chat about various things. I was taken for an Ultrasound and had a gut feeling something was wrong, I could feel it within myself and over the course of the day I was proved right. The Ultrasound discovered a tumor on my right side. I was taken back up to the ward and two nurses and two consultants quickly arrived at my bed. They asked had I any family coming down and was my wife and mummy coming? My reply to that was at 2:00pm.

Then I asked, "Do I have cancer?"

I remember my family arriving and having to tell them that a consultant was coming up soon to take us in for a talk about test and scan results. My mummy, being the strongest most positive woman I have ever met, kept assuring me everything would be okay.

I was informed and diagnosed with testicular cancer at 2:15pm on the 23rd December 2019.

Like anyone else when they hear that word everything flashes in front of them, I was no different and to say I was shocked was an understatement. The hardest part at that time was seeing my wife and mummy's reaction. It still haunts me. I was then taken down for X–rays and more blood tests and let home for Christmas. On the way out of the hospital I asked my mummy to call Stephen (Barso). I could not speak, and she informed him about everything.

Stephen, being a father figure to me from the days of GRIT, came to see me along with Tony and Clare and he assured me everything would be alright. The support myself and my wife received from Start360, work colleagues and other staff members was completely out of this world and something we’ll never forget.

I had my operation on January 7th 2019 (one day after Ronan’s birthday), and CT scan on the 16th January 2019. I was relieved to find out that it was in one area. I was referred to the Cancer Centre in Belfast and told that I had Stage 1 Non – Seminomas, and going forward I would need BEP chemotherapy. I can recall trying to fit chemotherapy dates around my stag party but was told in no uncertain terms was I going nowhere!

I started chemotherapy in February 2020 as an inpatient, that was difficult and I found my moods being up and down at times. There were times when I was happy to see people and other times I was just going through the motions. Again, the support I received from family and staff within Start360 was extremely heart-warming, my line manager at the time Melissa was like a guardian angel to me.

I can recall being in the Cancer Centre and still doing University assignments - that, along with work colleagues checking in kept me sane and focused on what was ahead. Our mission statement in Start360 is Change Starts Here and Every Person Stronger. I certainly became stronger going through that experience.

I finished my treatment on the 10th March 2020 and made it to the alter on the 14th March 2020. We were blessed that day to have so many people, who supported us through the most difficult time in our lives, be there to celebrate our wedding and start a new life.

My advice to all young men is to regularly check themselves, don’t feel embarrassed in anyway if something doesn’t feel right go and get it seen to straight way. Talk more and be open to each other always.

A Start360 Blog by Conor McHugh, Key Worker, Futures Project.

For more information on our Futures Project please click: #ChangeStartsHere

Stats for Testicular Cancer

  • 2,300 Men are diagnosed with testicular cancer each year in the UK.
  • Testicular cancer is the most common cancer for men aged 15 – 49 years old.
  • Seminomas which has become more common over the last 20 years and now accounts for 40 – 45% of testicular cancers.
  • Non – Seminomas – which accounts for most of the rest and include teratomas, embryonal, carcinomas, choriocarcinomas and yolk sac tumours.
  • The number of cases of testicular cancer has roughly doubled since the 1970’s, reasons for this has been unclear to date.