Nigel’s Story

Life lessons from football

I played all sorts of sports when I was at school, but when I left I settled on playing football. Lots of it.

I’m old now, so I can’t play any more. But I still remember one of the physios at a club I played at telling us all about “checking yourself out”. I was probably 21 or 22 when I learnt that this was a good thing to do. From then on it became something that I did every now and then, even in my 50s. Told you I was old!

Finding a lump

At age 56 I found a lump during one of my checks, and went straight to see the GP. I then got sent for ultrasound.

It’s difficult to say that I wouldn’t have found the lump if I hadn’t been checking, but I probably wouldn’t have found it so quick. And if it hadn’t been for that physio’s talk I may not have gone to my GP straight away. If I hadn’t known to deal with it, I think it would have been a bigger lump and a bigger problem by the time I got my diagnosis, and possibly much more serious.

A shock result at ultrasound

Waiting for the ultrasound appointment wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad either. I thought everything would be fine. After all, testicular cancer is a young man’s illness, isn’t it?

I had an early appointment on a Friday morning, so I took the day off work and went with my wife Laura to the hospital. Even in the room with the gel on my balls, I thought it would all be fine. But it wasn’t. One ball OK, the other not.

The radiographer asked me to wait while she spoke to her senior colleague… Well, to cut a long story short, he wanted to see me straight away. I had a bit of a panic then, and I still had to tell Laura, who was sitting in the BRI (Bristol Royal Infirmary) waiting area.

Anyway, I went to see this chap on the top floor of the BRI. He said, “it doesn’t look good”, and he’d already talked to the surgeon. A bit shocking really. It was all in a flash.

The surgeon came to see me and said it had to come out – no messing about, no sensitive discussion, just, “I’ve seen lots of these and it’s cancer, and I’ll take it out”.

The good news was that he said he could add me to his list on the Monday!

And he did, and now I’m a bit lighter on my left-hand side.

My message to you

I’m back at work now after a successful session of chemo. I’ve been very open with my employer and everyone I work with from day one and with all my family and friends too. They all know that men must check themselves often (but not on the bus or at the office!)

My message to you is this: Just take a minute to have a feel, because it could save your life – and why wouldn’t you want to save your life?



I was 56 when I was diagnosed with testicular cancer, which makes me a bit more ‘mature’ than your average patient. I’d been ‘checking myself out’ every now and then since my early twenties, and then out of the blue, three decades on, I actually found something.

Although I was fully aware that lumps down there could mean cancer, because of my age I thought I’d be out of the danger zone. On the day of my ultrasound appointment I even put my walking boots in the car, expecting to take a hike into the countryside with my wife Laura after we finished up at the hospital. (You can read more about the events leading up to my diagnosis <a href=””>here</a>.)

It wasn’t to be. Everything happened in a flash. One minute I was lying there with the gel on my balls, the next I was being told I had stage 1A seminoma cancer. Three days after that, the problem ball came out.
<h4>Tactics for tackling cancer</h4>
Having the 2012 Olympics to watch helped take my mind off the situation, as did friends’ phone calls and emails. The really good ones came to visit, and some of them don’t live anywhere near.

I did short walks, especially after chemo, to the point of being told off (kindly) by my consultant for doing too much. Well, being an old sportsman, I took that as a challenge! I would also ask Laura to pick a page in one of Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks, and then I’d walk to the shops, get the ingredients and have a rest before walking back and cooking the evening meal. Some were even edible!

I read the It’s in the Bag website and others the hospital recommended, mainly to understand that testicular cancer is highly curable. I also kept a folder of information, and a chart to stop me getting confused over all the different drugs I had to take with the chemo.

Laura came to every treatment with me, and that helped both of us.
<h4>Coping with chemo</h4>
I had just one session of chemo, and it was mainly OK, but it left me tired. It’s not really surprising, but my testosterone dropped like a stone and didn’t come back up. So I’m having jabs to sort that out. It’s fantastic! It means I can get back to hiking a few miles.
<h4>NHS Heroes</h4>
Ever since my very first visit to Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre, I’ve found the staff to be sensitive, approachable, helpful and honest. Germ Cell Clinical Nurse Sue Brand deserves a special mention for her excellent care of everyone. I got as much time as I needed to absorb everything, and Laura did too.
<h4>How It’s in the Bag makes a difference</h4>
It’s in the Bag is well worth checking out. It’s run by men who have had testicular cancer, and some fine supporting people. There are loads of activities – join in as many or as few as you like. Talk about cancer or don’t, it’s up to you. I’ve been to a few events and it’s great. A new bit of life for me and Laura.
<h4>Words of wisdom</h4>
To anyone going through treatment now, I’d say don’t try to be the tough guy. We’re all different in the way we can deal with things. I got very emotional – not really about the cancer, but about the worry to my family and friends. It’s normal. And recognising it’s normal is a good thing.

Some of your friends will need help to understand how to react. Be patient with them. Often they just don’t know what to say or do, and so they don’t do anything. And that isn’t good, as you need them. Banter is such a good friend.

You’ll know your own body, and what you could do before, and there isn’t any reason why you shouldn’t get back to that. But if your energy levels don’t return to normal weeks after treatment, tell the oncology team straight away. Don’t think it isn’t important – it is, and they will do all they can to help.
<h4>Staying upbeat</h4>
I’ve let my mates take the piss out of me for only having one ball, and I do take the piss out of myself as well. Returning my humour to (almost) normal has been a big achievement in my life since treatment. In my wife’s words, I’ve got back to be being half full, rather than half empty.

Follow Nigel’s example, and do something quick, simple but powerful for your health.

 Pledge today to check your balls monthly, and join our ever-growing community!