As part of our testicular cancer awareness month campaign, we have asked our survivors to share their stories.
This is Kris’s……
I first felt the lump in my right testicle December 2013. At this point it was very small but my wife made me go to the doctors to get it checked out. The doctors weren’t concerned and didn’t fast track me fir a scan as they thought it was a cyst.
My scan appointment came through and it was four weeks away. During this time the lump grew quite significantly and to be honest I knew what it was going into the scan.
Whilst I was getting a scan I was quizzing the doctor as to what he could see etc. He was very apprehensive to give me any information but I asked him straight up what are you going to put in the report. He was brilliant and talked me through the scan on the screen exactly what he could see. He told me there was a tumour. At this point I still wasn’t sure so I was scared but as I’m a positive person I was ready to tackle whatever it was.
When I left the scan I called the spires in little Aston. I knew it well having had a few football operations there. I told them I needed to see an oncologist ASAP and luckily they got me in the next evening. At this point I was very nervous. If it’s cancer, has it spread? Am I going to see my children grow up, I had one and my wife was pregnant.
I went to the hospital the next day and sat with the doctor and he said right let’s have a look. He took one look and about 3 seconds later he said those words. It’s cancer? Although I had that in my mind you are still shell shocked. My mind went into recovery process very quickly. When can you operate I asked the doc. Well as you arent a member you will have to go back to nhs treatment which I knew would be a few weeks. I asked him again when he could do the surgery and I would foot the bill as I just wanted it gone. He said I have space next Thursday, great let’s do it. This was the Friday evening and surprisingly my next thought was football on the Saturday, we had a big game against Altrincham so I phoned the manager and told him and said I’m playing. Having playing at a decent level football was always my release and I think this was then same. Something else to think about. I then went to my moms and we all cried that evening but I knew with the support I had I was going to get through it.
I didn’t sleep much that night worrying about the detail of what was to come. The operation wasn’t going to be an issue I had had a few but after that what happens. I was scared if it had spread or not. When I got to football all the lads knew and as they know me took the mick to some people this may seem harsh but this was what I needed. The lads were calling me the Russian , who do you nick a bollockov and saying right lads make sure you work your bollocks off today. I played the game and scored but walked off in tears. Emotionally I was drained and it just came down on me. After the game the news broke and I received so many messages from previous clubs I had played for it was great to have that support.
Now it was scan time let’s see how I was looking. I had the ct scan which is weird in its self as the warm sensation makes you think you’ve had an accident. Then another ultrasound. Again whilst having the ultrasound I was talking to the doc asking if he could tell me anything. Again he was fantastic he said give me 15 mins and I will check ct scan. This was the longest 15 minutes ever. Please let it only be in my testicle is all I was thinking. He called me in a told me it was all contained. The relief was like nothing I had ever had, I cried as I was so happy.
I then had the surgery the next day. The doc asked if I wanted a prosthetic one in which I declined. I joked that nobody sees it nowadays anyway being married not even the wife except Christmas. Again humour was how I dealt with things but in reality I was just praying they get it all out. The op went well and away I went.
I felt relieved at this point as I knew there were no more rumours in my body but now it was a waiting game to see what type it was. I was told it would be a couple of weeks so I started chasing to find out with no success.
Then I had a call from Paul Hutton at the QE who was brilliant and put my mind at rest. He said I would need to go in and meet the team. I got there hoping I wouldn’t have to have chemo but had decided if I had a choice I was gonna have it to make sure. I had read in certain situations they can offer surveillance if you didn’t want chemo. This decision was never on the table as mine was a terrotoma which is more aggressive and I also had vascular invasion which meant chemo, but still a great prognosis.
Luckily the QE were doing a trial where instead of the standard 2 course (6 week) I could have 1 course at a higher dosage so 3 weeks. We went through everything and all I was thinking was am I going to get back for the playoffs at the end of the season. We were end of feb at this point. When are we starting then I said. Erm probably be a couple of weeks we will call you when we have a bed.
Paul suggested I stored some sperm in case chemo killed it off. I did this which was the most awkward thing I’ve had to do.
The call came you’re in on Monday. I was scared with the stories you had heard about chemo. I wasn’t bothered about my hair it was the rest of the side effects but knew if there were any stray cancer cells this would do the job and get rid of them.
I turned up and the doctors came in a put my cannula in, my mom was crying at this point because she was scared I think. So it began the constant beeping of machines, the changing of chemo bags, the constant need to go for a wee, feeling sick. People say chemo is tiring I believe it’s the lack of sleep for 4 days that does it rather than the drugs.
I got to know the guys in my ward and I felt a little guilt as all I had to go through was losing a testicle and have a round of chemo. One of the guys had been told he had months to live, one had lost a leg and the other was having multiple chemo cycles. I was lucky I had caught it early. Whilst I was in hospital my pals came but a big boost came when I had heard that at the Walsall home game on 15 minutes (my number) they had a minutes applause and this continued for the rest of the season.
One thing that sticks in my mind about hospital was it was pancake day. I was in the ypu unit and next to this was the children’s ward. A lady who was next door with her daughter came and made us all pancakes. This was the most upsetting thing as I thought about being there with my own kids and probably how my mom still felt even though I was grown up.
I was sent home with a bag of drugs and a red chemo card for emergencies. I had to return the next few weeks for a booster. I went straight home and shaved my hair off as I knew what was coming. As my wife was pregnant I was told to sleep in the spare room just as I would potentially perspire chemo drugs and didn’t want to put anyone at risk.
All I wanted to do was eat and sleep for a few days my body craved pizza so it was Pizza Hut buffet then sleep. I soon released it was the anti sickness drugs that made me feel so bad and stopped taking it and dealt with the sickness. On day 7 I had to give myself a neuroblast injection and I didn’t read the side effects. The next day I decided I was getting back on it and went for a run. I was breathing heavily after about 10 yards but plodded on to do a couple of miles. My back went into spasm I was worried as signs of spreading was back pain. Where’s my red card I wanted to know what was wrong. It was the injection but it knocked me off my feet.
More and more appointments followed the same questions how do you feel. I’m good I’m back in the gym and getting stronger. Paul would say Kris relax and let your body recover but all I could think about was playing again. Eventually Paul cracked and said I would need an extra blood test to confirm my platelates were ok to start contact training. I was buzzing back with the lads.
I rocked up and surprise surprise the jokes started bloody hell gaffa how have you managed to sign Jon joe shelvey due to my bald appearance one lad shouted. I was really heavy due to the drugs and the pizza but so happy to be with the lads. I had also started back to work a few weeks before but the difference in how I was treated at work to football was so different. At work people tried to pamper me which I hated and tried to give me easier work. I remember going to see the GM at the time to say I’m at work let me do my proper job. He said that if my doctor agreed that was fine so my doctor wrote me a letter.
I needed it for my own sanity although people thought I was nuts. 4 weeks after day one of chemo I was back at work and a week later starting to train again. It was my release and gave my focus on recovery.
Once I was given my prognosis which was very good and I was lucky I treated it more like an injury and gave myself a timescale for recovery. Maybe this was the mentality you have from being so highly involved in sport for your whole life.
I believe the more I sat on the sofa the worse I felt so I had to get up and be active. Yes I would be tired and constantly fall asleep on the sofa. For months I would get splitting head aches and have to go to bed in the afternoon.
My initial treatment plan had finished and I was cancer free. I had my itinerary for the next 5 years checkups. I pinned it on the notice board ready to tick them off. The first couple I did then it became the norm. I even took my little girl a few times in school holidays as she liked to go on the train so treated it like a little trip. Even though I felt great those trips to the hospital were very nerve racking. In the back of your mind I hope they don’t find anything. This was very evident when it came to having ct scans.
As time went by I became more relaxed and felt very comfortable with what I had been through. People are surprised how open I am about it all but I feel that if it helps someone then great. I had Mark Porter and checkemlads to support me at the start which was great. I was able to ask lots of questions I was concerned about before going to meet doctors. Ironically a few years before I was pictured in the warm up at port vale wearing the checkemlads T-shirt which Mark found out.
I feel that everyone deals with these things in different ways I tried to stay positive and give myself a focus. I gave myself a goal when I had the operation of the play offs and I returned to play after 2 and a half months. Looking back now it was daft as my body hadn’t recovered properly till about 6 months after that.
Cancer is very cruel having lost someone close to it but I think the more people can talk about it and have early tests and check themselves the greater chance everyone has in fighting these terrible disease.