Young man sits in barber chair with Movember sign on background behind him. He smiles looking at the camera wearing a light purple t-shirt.
Tom Haddon talks testicles, cancer, surgery, and fake nuts.Image by: Movember
Young man sits in barber chair with Movember sign on background behind him. He smiles looking at the camera wearing a light purple t-shirt.
2 April 2024

Tom’s story: A testicle-shaped curve ball

Tom Haddon
5 minutes read time

It was always a goal of mine to move to Australia. I was 24 years old and ready to embody that Aussie dream you see plastered across social media. I was going to learn to surf, watch footy at the MCG, and work on my tan that the English summer never quite provided. What I didn’t expect was to spend the first months of my Aussie adventure in doctors waiting rooms and hospitals, going under the knife to remove my left testicle and the tumours growing inside.

I always knew to check my nuts regularly and to see a doctor if something wasn't quite right. And something didn’t quite feel right. So, a few weeks before my flight, December 2022, I went to my local GP in the UK for a check-up. They said it didn’t seem like anything too serious but referred me for an ultrasound for some further investigation. The next thing you know, I am flying to Australia and settling into a new life. In typical male fashion, the ultrasound got filed away in the back of my mind.

It wasn’t until June 2023, that I visited a doctor in Australia and went for an ultrasound. The scans revealed I had 3 tumours growing in my left testicle. When the doctor told me the news, my natural reaction was to make light of the situation and say, “Well that’s a real curve ball isn’t it, excuse the pun…” Unfortunately, the doctor didn’t see the funny side and continued his diagnosis, which forever cemented this as my worst joke ever told.

Being away from my family, on the other side of the world, is not how I imagined a huge moment in my life like this would go. The first person I called, when the doctor told me I had testicular cancer, was my dad, Bob. When I told him, he was speechless, for possibly the first time in his life (he likes to talk). But I knew he was going to take the news the hardest. Dad was already going through his own cancer treatment. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2022 and subsequently with bowel cancer after further medical inspection. Me leaving my hometown while he was getting treatment was not an easy decision. But he has always been that positive voice in my life and encouraged me to go.

After telling my family, I began the process of telling the rest of my circle the news back home. After battling time zones and telling a dozen or so friends, I was desensitised to the whole process. I found myself telling more poorly tasting jokes and making sure they were doing alright. They would reply with something like, “What do you mean? I’m fine, I’m not the one with cancer!” I ended up writing a regular newsletter to share with everyone close to me. This meant less repetitive, and often exhausting conversations, and allowed them to stay updated with my treatment and recovery.

It was only two weeks after my diagnosis that I was booked in for surgery to have one of my testicles removed. I had only just moved into a new place, started my new job, and set up a bank account.

" Now, I was talking to doctors about sperm banks, the possibility of chemotherapy, and if I wanted a fake testicle, and if so, what size. "

On to the topic of fake testicles, yes, I have one, and yes it was as weird of an experience as it sounds. I was sat down, given a briefcase filled with different shapes and sizes of silicon nuts, and asked which one. This was the only decision I was able to make in the whole process. My surgery was set, as was my treatment plan. So, I felt unnecessary pressure to make the right choice. Even after the surgery, the doctor had given me the all clear and told me the cancer had not spread so chemo wasn’t necessary, this was obviously great news, but I was still upset because I thought I had made the wrong choice, it felt unnatural. It wasn’t until weeks after the surgery, and for the swelling to go down, that I began to grow more comfortable with my right testicle’s new friend.

It was about five weeks post-surgery that I attempted my first run, albeit short. I have always been a runner, and this was a big step in my recovery. I wanted to get back to my friends at the Lil Big Run Club. They have been an unbelievable support throughout my journey. This past Movember, I spoke in front of the club to share my story and promote the work Movember are doing around testicular cancer. This was another huge step in my growth. I still have guys come up to me to ask questions about their own testicles. I have even been asked to take a look for myself. I never expected this is where my life was going to take me, checking my friends' nuts, and telling them to go see a doctor just in case.

The journey I have gone through has taught me a lot. It has made me more open with my family and friends, I have become a person people come to for support, and it has given me a new perspective on life's worries. Looking back, this is what I would have told a pre-cancer me. Well firstly, to get checked sooner. But to also talk about what's going on in your life, not just your physical health, but how you are feeling, and where your mind is at. You never know what someone is going through unless you open-up that dialogue.

You might be wondering how my dad is going. Well, last month we both received positive news from the doctor on the same day, that I still have no sign of cancer after my surgery, and my dad’s test showed the same result that his bowel cancer treatment had been successful. He still has a few rounds of treatment for his prostate cancer. But it was a good phone call to have with him after many tough ones. We are already planning our Movember fundraising this year. All things going well, he will be healthy enough to visit me in Australia soon and we can share our cancer stories, and terrible jokes, over a beer.