Dave FarrellImage by: Movember
31 March 2022

Dave's Story: Testicular Cancer during a Pandemic

6 minutes read time

Testicular cancer is the most common type of cancer in young men aged 15-39, with more than 70,000 men diagnosed each year. We’re on a mission to change the face of men’s health and help men live full and healthy lives.

We recently spoke to Mo Bro Dave about his testicular cancer diagnosis and the impacts COVID-19 had on his journey.

Dave, you’ve been involved with Movember for years and years, can you tell us about your experience and what Movember means to you?

I started growing a Mo and raising money for Movember when I was about 20, back in the early days of the organisation. My best mate and I did it together and would attend the gala parties at the end of the month. One of the main reasons I got involved with Movember was due to losing a mate’s brother to suicide. The other main reason was, that I never really saw conversations in the media about men’s health or cancer’s that specifically effect men.

Through my participation in Movember, I started having more conversations with my mates about our health, but in hindsight I still don't think we discussed it enough. The Movember message is important as it says, ‘you are not alone’ and ‘it’s ok to talk about it’. Whilst it is getting better, there is still such a stigma amongst guys who see sickness as a weakness.

How did you discover that you had cancer?

I had been in a bit of pain on and off for about 2 weeks. At first, I thought I had pulled a muscle at work, but then I started thinking, “what if it's something more serious?” After preaching to guys to go to the doctors more, I thought it would be hypocritical if I didn't go myself. I had only been living in Brisbane for a couple of years, so I hadn’t really found a doctor I liked and felt comfortable with. I decided to look for one that specialized in men's health. I got in to see the doctor and he sent me off for some scans. I was concerned as the ‘c word’ had been mentioned as a possibility. Only a few hours after my scans, I was called back to the doctors and at that stage I knew it must be serious.

I called my girlfriend and mum to tell them what had happened. When I spoke to mum, I broke down. Despite being assured that my survival rate was extremely high I was still really scared, especially at the prospect of undergoing chemotherapy.

Can you tell us a little about your journey through surgery and treatment?

I was referred to a Urologist, who arranged my surgery. After the surgery, it took me a couple of weeks to get back to full strength.

I then started seeing my Oncologist. Although my tumour had been completely removed and I was told it was “the best type of cancer” to get, the doctors were still concerned with my high tumour markers ‘AFPs’. After a few months of tests and questions of “will I, won’t I” need chemo, my doctors made the decision to not go ahead with the single round of chemotherapy due to other concerns.

I remember being at work, telling people it looked as if I was in the clear. A few days later, I went into my meeting feeling positive but was unfortunately hit with news that the scans had discovered something in my abdomen, and I would need three rounds of chemotherapy.

Treatment was tough, I had to cut my treatment a short as one of the chemo drugs was affecting my lung function, which had dropped by 20%, but I had amazing support from my partner and the nursing staff at RBWH Hospital.

What was it like going through this during a period of lockdown in Australia?

For me, this was probably the hardest part. Not only was I immunocompromised, but my lungs were affected, and COVID-19, which attacks the respiratory system, was prevalent. By far the hardest part was not being able to see my family and closest mates throughout the whole process. They were all located in Greater Sydney and not allowed into QLD due to lockdowns. I found myself just staying at home and only really seeing my girlfriend for most of my treatment and recovery.

During your cancer journey, is there a story or a moment that really stands out to you?

The moments that stand out the most for me is the support from my family and friends. Even though they may have been interstate or overseas, I was receiving care packages, beanies, calls and messages. They were always trying to keep my spirits up and although they couldn't be with me in person, they made me feel like I wasn't forgotten. My Brisbane friends were also supportive, always offering to go get groceries or take me to appointments.

You reached out to the Movember program ‘Nuts and Bolts’ can you tell us what that program is and what it aims to do?

The program connects guys who are experiencing a similar journey with testicular cancer, giving you the chance to discuss things and get advice from someone who knows exactly what you are going through.

Why did you reach out to Nuts and Bolts? Did you find it useful?

I initially wasn't aware of the program; I was just looking on the Movember website to see if there was any information about testicular cancer. When I saw ‘Nuts and Bolts’, I thought it was a brilliant idea and decided to reach out. After talking with Ben from the program, I felt more at ease about my upcoming chemo treatment as I now knew what to expect. He told me straight up what I could expect and never sugar coated anything, which I appreciated. It was also good to have the thoughts I had been having throughout my journey validated.

Would you encourage more men to reach out to Nuts and Bolts?

Yes definitely, especially in these times when we are separated from the people we would normally confide in. Having a person to talk to who knows what you are going through is a great thing.

You got some good news recently from your doctor, can you tell us about that and how it feels to know everything is heading in the right direction?

After originally thinking I was in the clear, I have gone into most of my meetings assuming it could be back. I was over the moon when they said it all looked clear. They still want to keep an eye on me due to my high “AFPs” but believe that could just be my normal level now. I do feel like I now need to take better care of my health and fitness, but also need to remember to give myself time to get back to full strength.

What is your message when it comes to men’s health?

If you're feeling unwell, see a doctor. If you’re feeling down, talk to a mate or reach out for professional help. The main thing is not to suffer in silence. Men’s health problems are not a burden and should not be swept aside.

Fortunately, the testicular cancer survival rate is high (95%) when diagnosed and treated early. However, for many men, a stigma still exists around having conversations about their health. Nuts and Bolts gives young men, like Dave, the tools they might need to help them navigate their testicular cancer journey through education connection and guidance, encouraging them to know the signs and Know Thy Nuts.