Andrew Whitehead was diagnosed with stage four testicular cancer in 2012, when he was only 19 years old.
The cancer had spread from my right testicle to my lungs and lymph nodes. The treatment plan was to have my right testicle removed and undergo four months of chemotherapy, so I was in and out of hospital for a couple of months. Then I had one last operation to remove the lymph nodes just as a precaution.
Initially, it was a shock if I’m honest with you. You do panic because cancer has a lot of stigma attached to it. I remember being told by the doctor that 97% was the cure rate. I held on to that. It’s not a given, but you have a good chance.
I had a great support network of friends and family, which was what I needed. My mum, dad and brother were quite shocked and worried. That was natural, but they could see that I was positive, so they always had a positive outlook.
Trying to keep some normality going helped. For example, on a Saturday in the hospital, my chemo was finished by the middle of the afternoon. I’m a big football fan, so my normality was to go get a takeaway and watch Match of the Day. That’s what I normally do. It’s something small but it actually really helped me.
It’s In The Bag were also a great support and I met other men in the hospital that were diagnosed with testicular cancer too. Being in that place, I could share. You’ve got common ground. We’re going to stick by each other and help each other.
For me, honestly, the most important thing is to share what you’re going through. When I was having chemo, I became so open to talking about it with people. That helped mentally. I think it would have gotten the better of me if I didn’t have that support. I saw people that didn’t have much contact with friends, family, charities, or other patients, and that would have been tough.
As blokes, we find it hard to be open. Recently, I split up with my partner and I found it difficult to talk about that. And it was the same when I was first diagnosed.
We need to break down the stigma for men to chat about what we’re going through. I always say to people that my phone is always on. I don’t want anyone else to struggle.
I’m 30 years old now. I just bought my own place, which is good. I work in the education sector in a sales role, and I’m enjoying that. I’m a keen runner, and I just completed the Cheltenham half marathon – my fifth one. I love football too.
My hobbies are volunteering and spreading the word about testicular cancer. What I really love is exactly what I’m doing now – sharing my story to get the word out about testicular cancer, and I want to take that further.
In the future, I want to be sat on a breakfast show talking about testicular cancer and then I’ll know that I’ve achieved what I want – getting men to chat about it. Look at these great campaigns for breast cancer. They’re fantastic. Let’s do that for testicular cancer. We’re all in the same boat. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. It’s not talked about enough, and it’s so common.
I think cancer has given me this opportunity to give something back by turning it into something positive. If I can stop one person from going through chemotherapy, then I’ve done my job. If it’s caught, and it’s not spread, that for me is amazing.