Mark New was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2012. His wife, Tavinder, was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer a month after he finished treatment.
1. When were you diagnosed and what with?
I was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2012.
2. How did you find out you had cancer?I had noticed a change in the way one testicle felt for a couple of years. I had it checked a few times but the doctors reassured me it was nothing to worry about. Then, in early 2012, a very small lump appeared which they thought may be an infection. They continued to monitor it with ultrasounds because it wasn't possible to take a safe biopsy. However, it continued to grow larger and they suspected cancer so they did an orchiectomy to remove the testicle that confirmed diagnosis.
3. What did you think and feel when you were diagnosed?
I was not very surprised really, probably because it had taken a long time to get diagnosed. I’d had many scans and checks so in a way it was a bit of a relief know that I wasn't a hypochondriac and something was now going to be done. I was reassured that it had been found at an early stage so was highly curable. Once I was finally diagnosed everything moved so quickly that there was not much time to think. They had me in for the operation the next day.
4. How did the people around you react?
My family were supportive as were people at work, although it was not always the support that I wanted! Other people whom I though were close friends made no contact with me during or after treatment. Even when Tavinder was diagnosed, they made no effort to contact us.
5. What treatment did you have?
I had the orchiectomy to remove the cancerous testicle. There was no indication the cancer had travelled anywhere else so I went on a six-weekly surveillance program of blood tests and scans.
Just over a year later, in 2013, the scan showed that some cells had been growing in the lymph nodes so I would need chemotherapy. I had three sessions of higher dose carboplatin. This was part of a trial so it was different from standard treatment but the doctors reassured me it had shown good results and had fewer long-term side effects.
6. How did you feel through treatment?
The operation was incredibly painful but I was back at work after a few weeks. The first couple of weeks after each chemotherapy session felt like I'd been in a boxing ring: battered, bruised, and in a daze. I was exhausted but didn't feel like sleeping. I lost my appetite and everything tasted horrible and metallic. I remember it being very disruptive because I was in the hospital on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. A lot of the time I felt really bored but couldn't really focus well enough to do much.
7. What happened after treatment finished?
I went back on the surveillance program, so I had more scans and blood tests. Two years down the line I now only have them every six months. I was well supported at work by my immediate managers who let me slowly get back to work and didn't push me. It took me about nine months to get back to where I was pre-chemo.
8. How did you get involved with Shine?
Tavinder, my wife, found Shine after I had finished my treatment. I have been along to several of the events, including camp, while Tavinder was having treatment.
9. What difference has Shine made to you?
Coming out of my treatment it was useful to meet and socialise with others in similar situations. I found a lot of my friends disappeared after I got diagnosed so it was nice to have a ready-made group. It has also been useful to read about others’ stories on the website and listen to the podcasts.
10. How do you feel now about your experiences? What‘s been the biggest change you’ve faced?
When I finished my treatment, my wife Tavinder started hers almost immediately. There was no time to take in what had happened or to celebrate the end of my treatment; we just went straight back to the hospital only this time the roles were reversed. All this came so shortly after we had got married, started living together and doing up our first home. Nowadays, I worry about Tavinder's cancer coming back more than my own. An added difficulty when you have both had cancer is that some of your feelings are as a patient while others are as a partner: do you belong in Shine or Shine Plus One?
11. If you could give one piece of advice to yourself before your what would it be?
To focus on the present and not waste time on superficial relationships.