Going back to work after Testicular cancer. Men don't want sympathy, just a bit of understanding.
Updated: Mar 6
A large amount of the men who go through testicular cancer are of working age, indeed the average age is 28. So if they get through this cancer and luckily most do, it's still expected that you get told " you're in remission " and go back to work the next day.
I would not be lying to say a lot of men ask me if they can return within a few days of being told this.
Of course, it depends on the trade they do or the profession and id be truthful and say not many say they are a lawyer or a captain in the military, although I am sure there are who have had it, most men who contact me for advice on testicular cancer are in jobs such as mechanics, office workers and such.
Testicular cancer is survivable cancer as are many these days which is great but what employers might not know is that if treatment is needed in stage 2 and upward the chemotherapy ( called BEP) is pretty brutal, brutal enough to make a man lose half his muscle mass, hair, and hearing within just 6 weeks, and that's with sometimes another 6 weeks left to do. It can take another six months to feel that a 9-hour shift is something they are confident in doing. Ok, perspective a bricklayer maybe might not but an office worker would at least try.
Let's not at all forget the mental battle cancer is, " what's this you say Phil ? mental battle ? men don't have this, they should be grateful to be alive and crack on, pfft my mate's wife died of it and you never saw her complain ". Yes, this is the attitude men face and hear often, not all but you'd be surprised, men who've had testicular cancer don't complain they know very well that surviving cancer is a blessing.
So what do they mean by "why are you complaining " ill tell you,
I need to go home a bit early as I'm really starting to feel tired, chemo for Testicular cancer can reduce lung function to 40 per cent up to a year if not longer after.
I have an appointment with my GP to discuss the pins and needles in my hands and feet as I'm not sleeping due to it ( very common for years after chemo as it burns nerve endings and can be permanent ).
I could go on, there are many long term side effects from BEP chemotherapy but my point is men don't complain, they want to get on with life and feel as normal as possible as soon as they can, but from experience from talking to hundreds if not thousands over the years most men think they go back to work to early, some even weeks after finishing chemo, but most feel that there's little or no understanding for men who return to work after cancer.
There are reasons, of course, financially after months and months of chemotherapy they are facing hardship, as most find out when they are diagnosed that the government can't and won't help, 1 in 2 of us will get cancer in our lifetime so it's just too expensive to dish out money to people diagnosed, indeed most men who get testicular cancer have not got life insurance as not many young men worry about dying!. A small amount go on to get a payout from insurance attached to mortgages and critical illness insurance and even that can be a minefield ( I'm sure you know what I mean ).
Another reason is pride!, so many want to prove they are fine and it was all " fuck all" but as I say to most, off you go then, do that but you'll be on the phone to me within a few months asking is it normal to be a physical and mental mess.
Hormones!, men have hormones and we have a part of the hormone system cut out and then the other parts that are left are hammered with chemo, this can cause imbalances that are long term and if I can be honest, horrific !. I know, I was left for 4 years with very few male hormones. Unfortunately, men are not told this by the oncologists of the oncology specialist nurses without the men prompting. So they return to work and get very tired and down very quickly. This is another story and I'm working on getting this changed through the law, I will keep you posted but I will get it done.
Mental health, every pain after big or small send that mind into overdrive, every scan, check-up, a blood test can play on a man's emotions. Most of the calls and messages I get are from men who are so nervous even years after about back pain or tummy pain.
If I can quickly bring this to an end without trying to bang the world to rights!. Men could do with a bit of understanding, non complain, most have although been treated by wonderful people are being let down by the aftercare such as hormones and mental health. They want to be a proud worker again and carry on, a lot go on to do great things and be examples to others but it's not overnight, I spend all week and sometimes till the early morning making sure as many men get to where they would like to be mentally and emotionally.
Help me out please, I will do my bit and you do yours, a bit of understanding and a bit of a slap on the back to the lads coming back to you. They won't ask for it, but now and then they just might need it.
Phil Morris MBE