On the 15th March 2021, Daniel McDonald should have been celebrating his 34th  birthday.  Instead, he was given the news that he had testicular cancer. Now 36, Daniel is doing well and is keen to support the charity’s Talking Balls campaign in the hope that it will encourage more men across Northern Ireland to start checking their testicles regularly. This is Daniel’s story.

“I was diagnosed the very day of my 34th birthday.

“I’m a keen hiker and love to spend time in the Mournes with friends, family, my wife and my dog. We had been hiking Slieve Doan a few days before my initial diagnosis and on the way down the mountain, I noticed a dull but heavy sensation in my groin. I chalked it up to a pulled muscle and didn’t think much of it at the time. As the pain became more acute I could tell it was coming from my right testicle. I thought I had twisted it, or pulled something when hiking, so I had a quick check like I would normally do in the shower or bath. Instantly I could feel two, small, hard, pea sized lumps on the side of my testicle. To touch, it was quite painful and my first thought immediately went to cancer, but I knew I had to see my GP to get it checked out properly.

“I don’t remember much about the exact moment of being diagnosed. All I remember was the sonographer, who was carrying out the ultrasound of my testicle, tapping me and saying ‘Are you OK? You can sit for a few minutes, this is a lot to take in.’

“When I told my family and friends they were shocked, but also hugely supportive and inquisitive. Particularly my male friends who asked about the symptoms and how the diagnosis came about. I dare say it encouraged a few to check their own testicles that same day. I made a point of telling everyone I knew of my diagnosis that day. Cancer was not something I was going to hide from the world.

“Whilst I was very public with the news, I was worried about telling my mum. Many years previously, her own mother (my granny) was diagnosed with cancer and it was a very tough time for everyone involved. Thankfully she responded very well, but I had this weight of guilt that I would be throwing my mum back into another cancer battle.

“On 5th April 2021 I underwent surgery to remove my right testicle. Due to discovering the cancer so quickly, I was lucky enough that only one preventative course of chemotherapy would be needed over a three week period.

“Treatment was difficult, but throughout it all I was supported by Melanie McNally, Friends of the Cancer Centre’s Urology Clinical Nurse Specialist. From my first meeting with Mel I felt like I was in safe and friendly hands.  Nothing was sugar coated, but everything was explained to both myself and my fiancée in a truthful, respectful and easy to understand manner which really helped us face what was ahead. Mel became a point of contact that I could get in touch with regularly, be it for blood work, or for the odd reassuring text when I felt the odd pain here or there after surgery. Mel was there to reassure and help plan out my recovery, both physically and mentally.

“After treatment, I was really keen to show my thanks to Friends of the Cancer Centre and the people who supported me. Prior to my cancer diagnosis, my friend Karen was always highlighting the excellent work of Friends of the Cancer Centre and how people can raise money through events like a Santa Skydive. I had always jokingly threatened to sign up and I guess a few years later, getting cancer finally gave me a proper reason to do it. As well as funding Mel’s post, I was able to see first-hand the services, facilities and comfort that the charity offers to patients. I knew this was a perfect opportunity to give back to a charity that would reinvest the funds in vital staff, local research and providing comfort and facilities for patients and families.

“Lads, we spend our lives making fun of and joking about our balls. Don’t hide them away when it really matters. Spend a few seconds every time you get into a shower or bath to check them. Any lumps, bumps, pains or aches need to be checked out by a medical professional. Do not be afraid, do not be embarrassed. Being proactive might very well save your life. Chances are, if you find something, it will be nothing serious. But take it from me, I’d rather be sitting here with one testicle than not sitting here at all.”

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