A young father who is recovering from testicular cancer is urging men to seek medical advice if they detect anything unusual.
Richard Williams, from Llanfair PG, was only 33-years-old when he was diagnosed is with the disease, only six months after him and his wife, Sara, discovered they were expecting their first child.
Richard first noticed that something was not right when he began experiencing a dull ache in his right testicle. He said: “It was in October last year when I started experiencing symptoms, which included a dull ache in the testicle.
“The ache was there for around three to four days and I started to experience lower back pain. At first my GP thought it might have been an infection but when I started experiencing severe swelling I was referred for an ultra sound scan at Ysbyty Gwynedd.”
It was six days after his scan he first visited the Urology Department at Ysbyty Gwynedd where he met his consultant urological surgeon, Mr Thangavelu, who examined him and performed a number of tests.
The scan and tests confirmed the worst of his fears – that Richard had testicular cancer and the affected testicle would need to be removed.
Richard was immediately listed for surgery. At this point he met Uro-Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist Linda Williams.
“Linda was brilliant, she was very reassuring. She provided me with leaflets on testicular cancer when I was diagnosed which was really helpful as I didn’t really know much about the disease.
“She took the time to explain the whole process and answer all the questions I had.”
The next day Richard had successfully had his operation and was able to go home on the same day.
Following surgery, Richard had his care transferred to Consultant Medical Oncologist Dr Anna Mullard, based at the Alaw Unit, for further follow up and treatment.
He underwent a course of chemotherapy for three weeks on the Alaw Unit, which is the hub for patients across North Wales who are receiving treatment for testicular cancer.
“The chemotherapy was gruelling, I lost my hair, and I had tinnitus, nausea and suffered from extreme fatigue.
“I received the first part of the treatment for three days on the Alaw Unit and the rest of the treatment on the Day Unit.
“It was tough, it felt like the worst hangover ever! But I had great support from my oncologist, Dr Anna Mullard, who is incredibly caring and very supportive.”
Dr Mullard has praised Richard for speaking publicly about his experience to raise awareness. She said: “Testicular cancer is not common, with an annual UK incidence of 2,400 men, we can expect to see between 40 and 50 new cases per year in North Wales.
“This is a cancer of young men, it occurs anywhere between 15 and 45 years of age but nearly half of men are under the age of 35.
“In most cases (90%) a lump will be the first clue that there is a problem, but not always, sometimes it can be a pain, ache or dragging sensation.
“It is very easy to check for changes like these and I would urge all men of any age to make checking their testicles a regular habit.
“The great news is that treatments for testicular cancer are very effective, even when the disease has spread it may be possible to cure it, although of course it is better if we catch it early!
“Richard is a very brave young man, having to cope with surgery, chemotherapy and the birth of his first child all at the same time.
“I am honored and humbled to have met him.”
Fortunately Richard’s treatment finished just weeks before his daughter, Anni, was born and he was able to be by Sara’s side during the birth.
Richard said: “Looking back now I am glad that I went to the GP when I did, even though at the time I was embarrassed – but that few seconds of embarrassment saved my life. My cancer was caught early and luckily it hadn’t spread to any other part of my body.
“Since my diagnosis I have spoken a lot more openly about testicular cancer with friends and encouraged them to check themselves more often. Dr Mullard recommended a friendship and support group, ‘Checkemlads’ which is online. I found them extremely helpful to get me through it all.
“It was a shock when I was told I had cancer as you never think this will happen to you, but it can.
“I hope by sharing my story it will encourage other men to be more aware of any changes in their body and to seek medical help straight away as it could save their lives.”
Photos: Main Photo (Top) Sara and Richard Williams with their baby girl Anni.
Richard receiving his chemotherapy treatment at the Alaw Unit in Ysbyty Gwynedd., with baby Anni and with his oncologist Dr Anna Mullard.