Meet Stigma-Breaking Testicular Cancer Survivor Tom Haddon

Meet Tom Haddon, a testicular cancer survivor raising awareness and breaking down stigma

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer among young men, but few of them know that, and even less know how to check for warning signs. For Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, we spoke with Tom Haddon, a testicular cancer survivor who is now working to raise awareness on the condition and break down the stigma surrounding men’s health issues

WHEN TOM HADDON was diagnosed with cancer, he was struck by a profound numbness. “It didn’t really sink in straight away,” he tells Men’s Health. “It was just such a shock.” Haddon was just 24 when he received his diagnosis, having only recently moved to Australia from the UK. Despite being well aware of the risks, cancer was not something Haddon was overly concerned with beforehand. “You don’t really ever expect to get cancer when you’re young,” he says. But therein lies an ugly truth. Testicular cancer is the most common cancer among men aged 15-34.

Haddon was one of the lucky ones. He spotted the signs of testicular cancer early, when it’s highly curable. “There was a lump that I’d felt, so I went to the doctor, got an ultrasound done, was diagnosed, and only about a week after that I had my operation.” By removing the testicular tumour growth early, Haddon was able to prevent the cancer from spreading and resulting in more serious – potentially deadly – consequences.

The problem is, not everyone is like Haddon. Coinciding with Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, Movember have released new research revealing how dire the situation is. The new data shows that 71 per cent of men don’t know that testicular cancer is a young man’s disease and the most common type of cancer in men aged 15-34. The data also shows that 18 per cent of men don’t know how to check their testicles for signs of cancer.

Luckily for Haddon, he not only knew how to check for signs of cancer, but to seek doctor’s advice, despite his initial apprehension. “Your mind always jumps to the worst-case scenario in those situations, but then you think it’s probably not that. Like it could be a broken leg, but you’ll tell yourself it’s just a bruise, and with this cancer, I was telling myself it was probably just a cyst, or anything but cancer really.”

Guiding Haddon’s decision to be proactive about his health was his father’s experiences. At the same time that Haddon was diagnosed, his father was battling bowel and prostate cancer in the UK. “It was one of the factors that made me go get checked earlier,” Haddon says. During Haddon’s recovery process, support from his father was invaluable. “Having someone to talk to who understood what I was going through was a great help.”

Haddon was floored by his diagnosis, but with an operation scheduled just a week later, he didn’t have much time to process his thoughts before a lengthy treatment and recovery journey began. “After my operation I was on painkillers, there was a lot of swelling, and I was pretty fragile,” he says. “It took it out of me for a while.”

 

Testicular Cancer Tom Haddon

 

Not one to adopt a defeatist attitude under any circumstances, it didn’t take Haddon long to get back on his feet. “I started feeling more resilient. I was given a treatment and recovery plan and started to think that all I had to do was get through these steps and I’d be okay,” he says. “I told myself to be stoic about it. It might feel scary and daunting at the moment, but I’ll get through it.”

Haddon has always been a runner. His diagnosis and treatment briefly took that title away from him, but getting back on track became a metric on which he could track his recovery progress. “When I was recovering, running was a good marker of my recovery and was great for my mental health. Getting back into running was like acknowledging that I hadn’t been beaten,” Haddon says.

“There was a month where I was walking around and still feeling sore. Then I started to jog, but I was still feeling some pain when doing that,” Haddon says. “It was about six weeks until I was back and feeling comfortable enough to run without being too stressed about my stitches popping out.” Running is hard enough without having to worry about testicle stitching coming undone. Needless to say, it’s difficult to fault Haddon for taking his time in that regard.

Since recovering from cancer, Haddon has completed multiple half-marathons and regularly takes part in triathlons. Again, he sees the physical achievement as a statement, one that proves he hasn’t been beaten. “It feels good every time I cross the finishing line now. It’s like look, that’s something that happened to me in the past, but it’s not stopping me from doing anything now.”

 

Testicular Cancer Tom Haddon

 

What Movember’s research also revealed is that 48 per cent of men wouldn’t go to a doctor to consult on a health issue due to embarrassment. Such is the strength of the stigma surrounding men’s health issues (particularly those below the belt), that 23 per cent of men only seek professional help if their problems become serious. Haddon has recognised this stigma and is actively working to break down barriers in the area and raise awareness as a community ambassador for Movember.

“Guys are traditionally not the best at having conversations about their health and seeking advice from doctors, so that’s something I’m trying to push to make it more of a priority for people,” Haddon says. “I was lucky to be able to get checked, diagnosed and treated early on, but not everyone will have the same experience. If everyone assumes that they’ll be fine and that it won’t be cancer, that’s scary because that won’t always be the case.”

Haddon was left shocked by his cancer diagnosis, but he didn’t let it define him. He overcame what his life threw at him and continues to reach his goals while doing his bit to raise awareness about cancer, but he’s not done yet. Now, Haddon is planning on running a marathon – and beating his father’s long standing family record while he’s at it. Given the conviction he’s approached his previous challenges with, he has a good chance of doing it.

If you want more information on testicular cancer and how to self-check for early signs, head to Movember’s Nuts & Bolts website.

Related:

Shannon Sharpe Opens Up About Prostate Cancer Recovery and the Importance of Early Detection

7 Ways To Detect Colon Cancer And Which One’s Best For You

 

By Cayle Reid

Cayle Reid is a fan of everything sports and fitness. He spends his free time at the gym, on his surfboard or staying up late watching sports in incompatible time zones.

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