My journey began in August 2018, a couple of months after turning 40, when I noticed that one of my testicles seemed a bit larger than it was supposed to be. Quite a bit larger. There were no discernible lumps, just more overall mass. I didn’t pay too much attention to it to begin with and waited to see if it might go back to normal after a week or two. However, it didn’t go back to normal but rather continued to increase in size.
I visited my GP who was concerned that the growth had been completely painless and that there were no obvious signs of infection. In case it was in any way related, I mentioned to him that I’d also had a couple of episodes during the previous few weeks in which I had become slightly faint and disoriented when standing, for several hours on each occasion. For this I had my blood pressure checked and an ECG to monitor my heart activity, both of which reported no issue. The doctor referred me for an ultrasound of my testicle at the Royal United Hospitals (RUH) in Bath, which I attended the following week.
During the ultrasound, the sonographer noticed a number of dark patches within the testicle in question. There was also evidence of angiogenesis – a profusion of new blood vessels that were entering the testicle. It looked to be a fairly textbook case of testicular cancer, with no real evidence for any alternative condition, such as an infection. The good news was that the other testicle, my bladder and kidneys all looked in perfectly good health.
Following the ultrasound I was referred to a urologist, who I saw a week or two afterwards. I was made to do a “flow test”, which involves peeing into a glorified bucket with a sensor attached to measure the rate of flow. This is a standard test for any patient passing through the department of urology, regardless of the purpose for visiting. My flow was very good, unsurprisingly.
The urologist was a fairly serious chap who didn’t smile much. He gave me an inspection, having already reviewed my ultrasound results. He suggested that I get booked in immediately for an orchidectomy operation, i.e. the complete removal of the testicle. I didn’t commit to the surgery straight away, but said that I would give them a call after I’d had the opportunity to talk it over at home.
I had bloods taken to check for tumour markers: AFP, HCG and LDH (of which HCG was significantly elevated). I also got to sit down in a brightly coloured room with a comfortable sofa and chairs for a while to speak to a specialist nurse. This was clearly the room they use to try to make people more at ease when giving them bad news. At this point, perhaps unusually, I wasn’t feeling the slightest bit fazed. In fact, I’ve not really been worried or fearful at all during the entire episode. I’ve just taken everything in my stride knowing that it will all turn out for the best, whatever happens.
A few days later, I was booked in for surgery in early October.