Dave's story
In The Barber ChairImage by: Robin Boot Photography
Dave's story
1 November 2020

Dave's Story: Cancer is a pain, it’s a killer, but this time I won.

6 minutes read time

"This is the only second time I’ve written about my battle with cancer in 12 years. As someone that has a large portion of my life on social media you may think it’s something that I would be comfortable talking about. The rest of my life is very public so why not this? It’s not because I am ashamed or embarrassed, it’s just something that quite honestly scared the shit out of me. It was a very bad experience that I would rather forget and have as a distant memory.

It’s hard to open up about things that have such an impact on your life. So hard for me I am currently rewriting the original piece I wrote. Even after all these years I still find it a difficult and upsetting to convert my feeling to words. It is something that I’ve needed and been meaning to do for a while, to help me process and work through the emotions that manifested during that time and thereafter.

It all began twelve years ago when I discovered a small lump on one of my testicles. It is was one of those nightmare scenarios that you hear about, something you think will only happen to someone else. When I first discovered a lump I was living in London and working as a bicycle messenger; you immediately think the worst, for a brief moment I was terrified. But I have a positive outlook on life so convinced myself it was probably due the amount of cycling I was doing.

So even though I was terrified of possibility of it being more I knew that I had to get it checked out. I went to the doctors and was told it was probably just a cyst. After a short discussion and inspection from the GP we agreed that I should get a scan from a specialist, just to be sure. It seems cheesy and cliche but at this very moment I had a bad feeling, so I asked for a second opinion. The doctor was great; he booked my appointment for the very next day. So I headed to work and tried to keep my mind from thinking the worst.

The following day I visited to the hospital, I was really hoping that the doctor was right. He was the professional verses my gut feeling so I had my fingers firmly crossed. Honestly I was terrified, I was pretty convinced that it was more that a cyst. The scan was quick and the results were instant. To my despair I was informed by the specialist that I did in fact have a cancerous growth on my testicle and they would operate the next day.

This was one of the few times in my life I have been lost for words, I couldn’t speak, I was confused, scared and angry; I was in shock. After a couple of hours of feeling a plethora of emotions, I woke momentarily from the nightmare long enough to inform my family and friends. As the day progressed my brain was working overtime, more and more thoughts and worries popped into my head, from ‘I can’t ride my bike anymore’ to ‘I could actually die from this!’ It was surreal; every time I informed someone of my diagnosis it was like I was reliving the experience for the very first time. It sucked!

My surgery had been scheduled for the following day, which to be honest was a bonus for a few reasons; the sooner it was out the better my chances were and it meant less time to think and panic about it. I still to this day get chills and a lump in my throat when I write or think about it. So after a sleepless night I headed to the hospital to have one of my testicles removed. The operation was quick, I was out under general anaesthetic, so all I remember is waking up high as a kite. I discharged myself within a couple of hours as I need to be home, I wanted out of the nightmare.

I needed to wait until the surgery had healed before undergoing a course of chemotherapy. At this point I fucked up a bit; I decided to go and ride my bike the day after my operation; stupid I know but I like bikes and they help me process emotions. I’m sure it’s no surprise that I popped the wound open and increased the healing process by an additional week. I ended up not being able to ride for six weeks due to my early misadventure.

A few days after my operation the specialist informed me that there was a high chance that they’d removed all of the cancerous cells and that the prognosis was good. I was recommended one round of chemotherapy, which would basically put me 99% in the clear. This came at a cost; there was a chance that I would struggle to conceive children as a result of the chemotherapy. It was quite the decision to be faced with and after everything I had just been though, it seemed like a bad joke. In the end I decide to proceed with the chemotherapy.

The chemotherapy wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, you sit in a room with a bunch of other cancer patients hooked up to a drip pumping you full of this radioactive liquid. Similar to how superheroes get their powers in comic books, though in the real world it was the people around me that were the heroes - they were all involved in their own fight with this disease. It was at this point I began to feel lucky, being surrounded by those in a worse condition than myself made me appreciate my situation. To my friends and family this seemed insane. It was hard to explain but I was one of the lucky ones, I was going to be ok.

I think it was two weeks after having chemotherapy that I was back on the road as a messenger, despite the fact I was advised to leave it at least six weeks as I had no immune system due to the drugs. I was bored, stubborn, wanted to ride my bike and make some money, so off to work I went. I was only working a few hours a day at this point, my body was just so weak from the past few months, everyday was extremely hard both physically and mentally. Every morning I felt like crying because I was so tired and angry that I wasn’t feeling any better. I burnt out quickly and felt frustrated that my recovery was taking so long.

As I write this, I still feel that I was lucky to have had such a quick and full recovery. Whilst I did ignore the doctors recommendations I simply did what my body allowed me to. As a cyclist I often push myself hard and I know my boundaries. I also know that I can push far beyond those and I I think that this is testament to just that. But although I may have recovered from the physical aspects of cancer, the mental impact will stay with me for life.

" But although I may have recovered from the physical aspects of cancer, the mental impact will stay with me for life. "

When it comes up in conversation people are often surprised that I refer to having cancer like I had flu, this is partially because on paper I beat cancer but the reality is, it’s my way of making light of an upsetting and worrying time. We all process trauma in a different way. I am trying to think of some profound statement to end on, but to be completely honest I can’t. I wasn’t alone in my battle so I want to thank my friends and family for the support and the wonderful doctors and specialists that helped me. Cancer is a pain, it’s a killer but this time I won so; fuck you cancer!"