The Malta Independent 10 December 2019, Tuesday

‘It wasn’t just a lump anymore, the whole thing was a solid mass’ - Life after testicular cancer

Dayna Clarke Monday, 11 November 2019, 09:59 Last update: about 29 days ago

Welcome to November, the month where growing out one’s facial hair for 30 days is called “Movember” or “No-Shave November,” and it’s all in aid of raising awareness for testicular cancer and men’s health. While the movement is gradually picking up momentum with each passing year, it’s a living reality Luke Lyttleton knows all too well. At the age of 30, shortly after getting married, Luke discovered the unthinkable, the presence of testicular cancer. Dayna Clarke met with Luke to discuss his experience.

“I knew for a while something wasn’t right ‘down there’ Luke starts. After bottling up the niggling doubt, he finally opened up to his wife after a night out celebrating her birthday. “After a few drinks, I finally plucked up the courage to ask her if things seemed okay down there, she immediately said no. The next day few days were a complete blur.”

The following morning Luke went to the GP. This was to become the first of a series of tests and examinations in rapid succession. “By the time I had gone to get it checked out, it wasn’t just a lump anymore; the whole thing was a solid mass. I never felt any pain”.

After a series of ultrasounds and MRI’s, no official diagnosis was confirmed though the best plan of action was to remove the large tumour and test it. “It wasn’t possible to do a biopsy. The whole thing had to go. People often ask me whether I felt like I was losing my manhood. The answer is no, not at all; I just wanted that tumour gone.”

Following the operation, Luke’s worst fears were confirmed. It was testicular cancer. “I just went into shock, survival mode I guess you could say, these days I have pushed most of that time out of my mind. I was so worried about the future; I knew we wanted kids. I didn’t know if that was a possibility anymore. I didn’t know if the cancer was completely gone.”

Tests concluded a 75% chance the cancer had been removed entirely; however, the 25% remaining meant Luke had to undergo a round of chemotherapy. “They told me it was better to remove any chance, and infertility wouldn’t be caused by losing one testicle, but as a side-effect of chemo. It was a devastating blow.”

Luke spoke to his medical team, and it was decided that before starting chemotherapy in Malta, he should go to London and freeze his sperm. A step which Luke willingly took in the hope of one day having a family. Upon his return, he started therapy immediately.

“It knocked me for six, as I had already some pre-existing gastric health issues. I tried to get on with it the best I could. I was back to work within two weeks”.  Follow up appointments concluded the surgery and therapy had been successful; however, he was not to try and have children for one year due to the side effects of the chemotherapy.

“I was terrified things wouldn’t work as usual after the op- but I can assure you they did! It is a real myth surrounding this cancer that things change- for me physically, nothing changed. They offered me a prosthesis however I decided it wasn’t for me”. 

Positively, subsequent tests gave Luke the all clear, and no more interventions were required. The following year in December, Luke’s wife became pregnant- without having to resort to the sperm bank. Luke and his wife now have two young daughters, his second just three months old.

“I do feel I am incredibly lucky; I have a wonderful family around me, and I survived to tell the tale, the tale to all men reading this - go get checked out!”

Luke is incredibly open about his journey. He isn’t holding back, and he doesn’t think he should. Luke hopes to help combat the negative stigma on testicular cancer by spreading awareness to go and get any concerns checked out. He tells his harrowing story in his own humorous way. “I guess making light of it was my coping mechanism, and I am still all 100% man, just a bit lighter on one side” he quips.

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