21 November 2019

An army of support

Hugo’s story: “I am generally a young, fit and healthy person. So the thought of getting cancer would have never crossed my mind
Real Stories | Testicular Cancer


I find it fascinating that one word is almost universally recognised as being emotional and distressing. A word no one wants to hear from their loved ones or a doctor.

The unfortunate truth is that the majority of people will be affected (either personally or through a loved one) by cancer throughout their lives.

I am generally a young, fit and healthy person, so the thought of getting cancer would have never crossed my mind.

It was in June 2013 when I noticed a small, pea-sized lump on my right testicle. After putting it off long enough, I decided to go and see my doctor.

After some routine tests and an ultrasound, I found myself back in my doctor’s rooms when I heard the words “you have cancer” roll off his tongue.

“I am generally a young, fit and healthy person.

So the thought of getting cancer would have never crossed my mind.”


After initial discussions on what needed to happen next, I left the doctors’ rooms with the mandatory cancer pamphlets. I gave a rather dim smile to the receptionist, walked to my car, and burst into tears. I felt alone. I felt lost. I felt vulnerable. I knew I had a long journey ahead… and I was frightened.

Within the space of 48 hours I was booked in to have my testicle removed.

I wasn't exactly sure how to react to the fact that not only did I have cancer, but I was going to lose one of my testicles. I decided to opt for a prosthetic, as I felt as though having a bit of symmetry down below would make me feel a bit more normal.

The surgery itself went quite well, and I went on surveillance – which consisted of blood tests and CT scans every 3–6 months for the first few years.

Life generally went back to normal, and I continued with my Army training… that was until my second scan – which unfortunately showed the cancer had spread to my abdominal lymph nodes. My only option was to have chemotherapy… for now, my Army career was on hold.

Aside from my exceedingly good looking bald head (accompanying my rather off-colour physical appearance and the constant feeling of being fatigued) I handled the side effects quite well. The support from the Army, my friends, and my family, motivated me to stay positive.

In early February 2014, the day had come for the follow up scan – to see if the chemo had done its job. Well, unfortunately I still required post-chemo RPLND (retroperitoneal lymph node dissection) – which is surgery to remove all the lymph nodes.

After an 8 hour operation, pain killers were always going to be my best friend. Initially the epidural was great. But there had to be a 12 hour ‘transition’ period before moving to another source of pain relief. Finally, I was put onto the more conventional morphine controlled pump... I certainly used up my quota.

Soon enough, the pathology from the surgery confirmed that I was in remission with no active cancer – finally some good news!

There is no better feeling than hearing the words ‘you are cancer-free’. I would still have an extended period of rehabilitation, but I didn’t care… I was cancer-free.

The past few years sure have been a rather emotional and physical journey. That being said, I like to think that I am one of the lucky ones, as it can always be worse.

It is fair to say that my perception on life has changed a bit. I look back over the past few years, and as cliché as it sounds, I feel I am a better person for going through what I have.

I am fortunate enough to have very supporting and loving family and friends, and it is to those who I am truly thankful. It may have taken some significant life events to truly realise this… But life is special…don’t take it for granted.