David , 47 and from East Sussex, is a Logistics Manager for a toy importer. He lives with his wife and two grown-up children. Diagnosed with penile cancer in 2014, he underwent some radical , life-changing surgery to assist in his fight with cancer.
It was a Thursday morning in July. We set off from home at 4:30am, but we weren t going to an airport this time (that s the only reason we would normally both be up at this time). We were heading into the capital to check into the admissions suite at St. George s Hospital.
So, David, we have good news and not-so-good news. The good news is your main organs appear to be unaffected by cancer, but the bad news is that we are going to have to amputate your penis. Although we knew it was cancer we were not really prepared for that, but my initial response was quite simply Do what you need to do to save my life…but, please, no bag . Four hours later I was in surgery. To be honest, I never really gave it another thought I was more worried about the anaesthetic and pain than anything else. Fortunately, I had some special juice in theatre and I went to sleep very happy. That was eighteen months ago now and the journey has taken me to places I really did not expect to be, especially as I was a fairly fit and healthy forty-something. What followed the initial surgery was a merry-go-round of more surgery, chemotherapy, scans, radiotherapy, more scans, PICC lines, infections, trips to A&E, Groshong lines, sickness…Looking back, it was a whirlwind of appointments; I calculated that in the six months following surgery, I was either in hospital or attending an appointment for over 100 different days. I have always tried to block out the bad and remember the more light-hearted moments it s funny how you can extract humour even in such dark times. I remember the day we rocked up at clinic during my radiotherapy and the waiting room was full of ladies. I thought it was odd, until the consultant rather sheepishly admitted I had been booked into the gynaecological clinic! Another moment that will stay with me was my time in hospital and the days after the operation. I asked the nurse to kindly help me to the toilet as I needed a wee. She thought she was being so helpful by producing a bottle and saying, You stay in bed . I smiled and said, That s lovely of you, but I really have nothing to fit it!
It took me nearly a year before I could fathom the mental strength to reach out to Macmillan and Cancer Research and look at the forums. Up until then these were places I did not need or want to be involved in I told myself they aren t for me, they are for sick people. I continued to believe that the cancer wasn t real. However, it did not take me long to realise that I am one of the lucky ones. I read other stories in disbelief and sadness. Slowly, I am drawing strength from discussions with others and hoping that by joining in I may help another sufferer on his own journey. Finally, I am finding I am not alone we may not be many but we are here and together we can be stronger. My journey continues both physically and mentally, with most days a challenge. My own body is a constant reminder of just how close I came. At least now, when the alarm goes off at 4am, we can be excited and grateful!
None of this would have been possible to get through if it had not been for the support and expertise of a small group of friends, family, health professionals, and my wife Michelle. Thanks to all.