Testicles, Orchids and Bikes

This summer I will be taking part in the Pridential RideLondon, LondonSurrey100. This is a 100 mile bike ride starting at the Olympic park before heading out into the hills of Surrey and finishing up on The Mall. It’s a great event that’s part of the 3 day cycling festival RideLondon with 25,000 amateur riders heading out early before the professionals follow and compete in the LondonSurrey Classic along a similar route.

This is going to be a big personal challenge for me, it’s further than I’ve ever cycled before and there’s some quite big hills along the way. For me though it’s not really about the cycling, to steal the title of Lance Armstong’s auto biography, “it’s not about the bike”. For me this event holds a special significance and it’s all about the fund raising, I’m doing this for me, but mostly I’m doing it for the male specific cancer charity Orchid. 

When I was 22 I found a lump in my left testicle, being a typical man I ignored it, I googled it and found the information that only one in every hundred testicle lumps are serious so I just carried on as normal. 

After several weeks of nagging from my then girlfriend (and now wife) and spurred on by the fact that the lump had roughly doubled in size in just a few weeks, I went to see my GP. 

Within 30 seconds of him starting to examine my gentlemans parts I only had to look at his face to know something was up, that I was the 1 in 100. A very frank discussion was had and I was made an appointment to go for a scan, the scan confirmed what the doctor had thought; this was a lump to worry about. 

2 weeks later I was in hospital having an Orchidectomy, that’s what they call it when they cut one of your balls off (the left in my case), maybe they want to make it sound a bit nicer! The offending testicle was sent off for anylisis and a couple of days later I got the news I’d been dreading but by now expecting. I had cancer. 

Further scans showed that not only did I have cancer but it had spread into my lymph nodes and one of my lungs. Luckily I was told that testicular cancer is very responsive to treatment and even though I had stage 3 disease (it only goes up to 4!) I had a good prognosis and had an 80% chance of going into full remission. 

80%, that sounds good doesn’t it? That’s 8 out of 10, that’s good odds. 

Let me tell you now that at the time it didn’t feel like good odds, 8 out of 10, that means for every 10 people with the disease I had 2 will die. I was already the 1 in 100, who was to say that I wouldn’t be one of the 2 out of 10?! 
The next 10 weeks were the longest of my life, chemotherapy is NOT fun. I spent 10 weeks feeling exhausted, feeling sick, my whole body aching from the poison that was being pumped into my body to try and kill the cancer. All my hair fell out, I was assured it would grow back, but it hasn’t, I had veins like a heroin addict where I was being stabbed with new IV cannulas every couple of days and I felt truly awful. 

After 3 weeks I got my first bit of good news, my blood tests looked good, my tumor markers were down, it seemed the treatment was working. After 6 weeks I had even more good news, my bloods were normal, though I still had 4 more weeks of chemo to go. 

Thankfully I was lucky, I did go into full remission and albeit minus one testicle I was back to full health. I was told the chemotherapy would make me infertile (clearly they got that one wrong), but I was alive. 

That’s why completing the ride is so important to me. People often say to me “wow, you beat cancer! Well done!” 

Bollocks.

Some very clever doctors, nurses, reasearchers and pathologists beat cancer, I just lay in a bed feeling dreadful. 

The reason these doctors were able to beat cancer was due in part to research funded by charities such as Orchid. So this ride is my chance to give something back, to raise some money for the people that helped saved my life, that allowed me to marry my wife, that allowed my children to be born. I can never thank them enough, but this is me doing my bit. Hopefully in time we can make those 2 in 10 none in 10.

I’m going to include the link to my fundraising page here, I don’t imagine anyone reading this blog will donate. But if anyone does then brilliant, you’ve done a good thing and made a bald, unibollocked, apparently infertile, father of two very grateful. 

www.justgiving.com/matt-smith83

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