Peter in a barber chair in a barbers in oxford
Peter from Oxford shares his battle with testicular cancerImage by: Robin Boot
Peter in a barber chair in a barbers in oxford
7 April 2023

Peter’s story: The physical and mental battle of testicular cancer

4 minutes read time

Oxfordshire-based, Commercial Strategy Manager, Peter Neville, speaks to Movember about his physical and mental battle with testicular cancer.

I’m 42 years’ young and have always been fit and healthy; running ultra-marathons, rowing, cycling, skiing and playing football competitively. So, when I was diagnosed in April 2020 with testicular cancer, as you can imagine, it was quite a shock.

After a couple of weeks of what felt like a urinary infection, I got an ache in my left testicle, but no lump. I had been to see my GP a few times, but it was only when a larger swelling appeared close to my collarbone that I really started to worry.

My GP checked me over, found a ‘slight ridge’ on my left testicle and urgently sent me for an ultrasound scan the following day. Saturday morning, I was in bed and the phone rang. It was a private number. My GP called me and informed me that I had suspected testicular cancer, which was predicted to have significantly spread through my lymphatic system.

" I want to use my tough experience to help others, by sharing my story "

Due to COVID-19, the normal routes for referral were not open and my GP had already started looking at alternative referral options. I cannot explain how I felt... I went into complete and utter panic-mode, calling up the clinics in Oxford and trying to speak to any medical friends that we had.

I was referred and the following week was a total blur of scans, tests and phone calls with cancer specialists. I was diagnosed with stage 3 testicular cancer (suspected seminoma) with ‘a huge mass’ in my abdomen. I needed to undergo three rounds of BEP chemotherapy followed by surgery. I was still confused and frightened but relieved that there was a plan for treatment. Especially as only a year or so before my father had received a terminal cancer diagnosis and passed away just a few weeks later.

The medical support I received was amazing. My consultant and the chemotherapy nurses were unbelievable and I am so grateful to them, they are incredible people. The chemotherapy routine was physically gruelling with powerful chemicals indiscriminately attacking every cell in my body. The good cells get damaged as well as the cancer cells and it wasn’t long before I was starting to experience the classic side effects of fatigue, hair loss (all of it, even my eye lashes), nausea and worst of all hiccups and reflux which sometimes lasted for days.

It was the toughest six months of my life, especially going for treatment alone, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I spiralled to some very dark places, and there were times when I did not think there was a way forward. Everybody is different but I found the emotional challenge even harder than the physical, despite the great support that I had from family and friends.

At the time, I didn’t feel like talking about my journey with testicular cancer. Something that also impacted my relationship with my family as I wasn’t always able to empathise with the pain and difficulty they were also facing. The whole process was extremely hard for them too.

I eventually started talking to a councillor after my wife persuaded me. I had reached ‘rock bottom’ and was struggling to think in a balanced way. But since opening up, I acknowledged the fact that I needed support and soon realised this was not just about me but also the impact on my wife, my daughter and my wider family. The councillors were brilliant. They were able to help me overcome my darker days and change my mind set to a more balanced one. I was also put in touch with a friend of a friend who had been through this twice! He was amazing and will never quite know how much he helped me and how grateful I am for his support.

I am now progressing positively and can honestly say that my attitude towards life has changed completely. I strive to ‘live in the moment’. It’s not always easy as I still struggle with the cyclical concern of test results and consultations, these are feelings I can control more so than before.

I responded well to the treatment and within weeks of the all clear, I started the process of getting back to full speed. Since then, I have run several marathons and ultra-marathons (including a sponsored ultramarathon raising over £1,500 for Movember), played competitive football, got an exciting new job and returned to full-time work. Now, two years on, life has slowly started to feel ‘back to normal’ and I’m currently living and loving life to the max with my fantastic family.

I want to use my tough experience to help others, by sharing my story and supporting the incredible work that Movember do - including their excellent programs on support and education. I really am proud to be a Movember Ambassador.

Everybody’s journey and reactions can be different, but remember that the support is there. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. It really helped me, so I hope it would help you too.

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If you, or someone you know is facing a testicular cancer diagnosis, check out Nuts and Bolts, which has the tools you need to confidently handle the testicular cancer journey; from diagnosis, to treatment, to life afterwards — we’ve got your back