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Remember who you are and what you're about

From Mike A

At 30 I was an ambitious recruitment manager, working silly hours whilst doing up property in the evenings and weekends. All work and no play and all that. I had been married for 2 years and my daughter was 4 months old at the point where I discovered a change in my right testicle.

Naturally, I was concerned at this unfamiliar hardening and went to see my local GP. I'd referred to a medical book, which pointed to testicular cancer and whilst he could not confirm this, his face said it all. He referred me to a specialist at my home town hospital who (prior to patient care) quite glibly told that it was cancer and they'd book me in and whip off the offending testicle. I hadn't discussed this with my wife as I didn't wish to make her worry, just in case it was something and nothing, which, while well intentioned, didn't give her time to prepare for the shock and she became angry with me as a result.

My boss at work asked me if I wanted it kept "a secret, as it's a bit embarrassing isn't it". I said no. I was fairly high profile, so, I elected to tell the office what was happening. I put on a very brave face, despite my fear and all sorts went through my mind...Am I going to die? Will I wake up with no testicles if they find something else wrong? Will I feel like less of a man? Will my wife feel I'm less of a man? Will I be embarrassed to be naked? All rubbish, but nevertheless it was all there in my head.

I stayed for one night in hospital and woke to a ward of people with severe pain, amputations of legs and arms and people who were in so much pain that they couldn't do anything but whimper. It dawned on me that I was one lucky man not to be in their shoes or indeed shoe.

The physical recovery was rapid. I was bored at home, so, despite advice to take 6 weeks off work, I went back after 3 and worked through 10 sessions of radiotherapy, leaving work each day for 2 weeks at 3pm to be at the hospital for my 4pm dose, and would get home just in time to be sick as a dog, before sleeping till it was time for work again.

I was a fool for doing this. My wife was more concerned about money than me, as the time off had set me back at work and work showed their true colours and were not very supportive at all. Thankfully I had taken out an insurance policy which paid out a lump sum, which was handy, however I felt pretty hollow. It seemed that people's attitudes were different towards me and I didn't get it. In retrospect, I was depressed. I didn't seek help and every time I started to feel "normal" again, it was off for another check up to be groped by some doctor bloke and I considered it to be a huge pain in the neck.

However, over time I realised a few things. I realised that my wife loved me for what I provided and not for who I was, and the same was true of my boss. In a sea of work, I too had forgotten not only to take care of myself, but, who I was and what I was all about. So I slowly made major changes to my life. I changed my job and worked for a company with a work / life balance. I left my wife, which was very hard as my daughter and I were and still are very close. However, sometimes you have to take a hard right over an easy wrong and I was miserable. I left with my CDs and clothes and was happier in a rented flat on my own than I ever was with a person who valued possessions over people.

I got royally screwed in the divorce and it was worth every penny to buy back myself and my self respect. I became a director of my new company, saw my daughter as often as my ex wife's control would allow and despite thinking that my lack of a testicle would hinder me in new relationships and told new girlfriends about my cancer as I wanted to give them the option to bale out if the thought was off-putting, but it didn't matter. I received a lot of female attention, generally very attractive women 8-10 years younger than me who were very happy to play mommies and daddies with me and my one handled space hopper and didn't care because "they're all bloody ugly anyway" was the normal response.

My mother and father split up many years ago and we lost contact, by his desire and were informed that he had died of prostate cancer. He didn't want us to know and didn't want us to see him in pain. He didn't give us the chance to say goodbye. And I regret not making more of an effort to find him and tell him that despite everything, he was my Dad and that I love him. Life's events mean that I now live a life without fear and without putting my own mental obstacles in the way. I believe that I can only regret the things I don't do or say.

As a result I now have a new lady, who is beautiful, inside and out and have an open, loving relationship. I successfully run my own business, have a lovely detached home of my own, have a new Merc and most importantly my relationship with my daughter who is now 9 is fantastic. I refuse to let my experiences have a negative effect on what I want to achieve, what I desire, and what I would like to happen. I am not afraid to fail.

I took up guitar in Jan 07 and by April, the second anniversary of my father's death I started writing songs. These have helped me deal with some of my issues and demons from the past and lay them to rest. Due to the encouragement of friends, family and total strangers I have recorded 5 of them. My favourite, Sunshine in Your Face, tells the story of a cancer patient who wants to be remembered for all the happy times, with the message that our loved ones are there watching over us. I believe the song was given to me to share and I hope that it will one day bring comfort to a wider audience. Sadly the audience appears to grow with each passing day....there is a part of my song which goes

Remember my smile when I'm gone

Remember my love for you still goes on

Just close your eyes

Amazing grace

I'll be the sunshine in your face

I raise a glass to all the sunshine moments that nobody can ever erase from our hearts.

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Updated: 28 September 2009