‘He told me it was a cyst’: Cancer almost missed
Jonathan Leeming is lucky to be alive.
The 37-year-old was in the shower one Sunday morning in 2005 when he says “something made me have a feel around”.
“Something just didn’t feel right,” he tells 9Honey.
He was still living back in the UK at the time, and earlier that morning had been watching a TV show called Holly Oaks.
On the show, had been a socially responsible storyline about a character who discovered they had testicular cancer.
Jonathan watched as the character found the cancer, underwent chemo and had an operation.
Despite the fact he didn’t find an actual lump in the shower that morning, he felt a difference.
“In hindsight it wasn’t a lump, just an irregularity in the surface consistency or texture, he says.
Jonathan called his doctor right away but, being a Sunday, was told his doctor was away and in fact wouldn’t be back until the following week.
He saw another doctor who was available.
“He said it was nothing to worry about, probably a cyst,” Jonathan says.
Still, he asked for an ultrasound, just to make sure.
“He said I didn’t need one, that it was a cyst and it would go away,” Jonathan says.
And so began a ridiculous back-and-forth between Jonathan and the doctor that ended with Jonathan insisting he order an ultrasound.
That ultrasound saved his life.
“I told the doctor, ‘Forgive me but if you won’t order an ultrasound I’ll go to reception and see a doctor who will,” he recalls.
“It made me angry, because I am more assertive than some people. Most people wouldn’t have challenged the doctor and I had to four times.
“If I hadn’t, it’s entirely possible I could be dead.”
Since becoming an ambassador for Movember and Testicular Cancer Awareness Month during the month of April, Jonathan has since learned that a testicular cancer tumour can double in size in only 10 days.
He still had to wait for his ultrasound appointment and says during that time he began to feel “uncomfortable” and experiencing some pain.
“It felt like a very real pain but I wasn’t sure if it was real,” he says.
At the ultrasound, Jonathan says the sonographer came in to perform the procedure and he says he could tell by the look on his face that it wasn’t good news.
“I could tell it was not good news,” he says. “His face showed a picture.
“I asked if I had a cyst and he said no and the doctor would have to discuss it with me.”
Jonathan looked at the screen and saw two big, black lumps.
“A couple of hours later the doctor who had initially refused the ultrasound called and told me they’d testicular cancer and that a specialist would be calling me tomorrow,” Jonathan says.
He was reeling.
At the oncologist’s office the following day, Jonathan says he simply said he’d “pop it out”.
“He was just the right degree of flippant,” he says. “The operation happened within the week.”
The operation happened in mid-April in 2015.
“They were astounded they had caught it so early,” Jonathan says. “It was actually two tumours and both of them were really small – five millimetres and three millimetres.
“They said it was odd to have caught it so early.”
Jonathan was given the option of chemotherapy or radiotherapy. He chose chemo and underwent the life-saving treatment in the middle of June.
Ahead of his chemotherapy treatment, Jonathan was given the option to store his sperm, which he did.
Chemotherapy can damage male fertility and storing sperm is a common step following a cancer dignosis.
“The chemo was just one dose intravenously in the space of an hour or two,” Jonathan says.
“The day of the chemotherapy I was feeling fine but the next day, driving down the south coast to see my mum, I began feeling horrible,” he says.
“I was tired but unable to sleep, queasy, but couldn’t be sick.”
He soon began to feel better and then he went back to work, and shortly after, left for a holiday to Ibiza.
He was determined to live life to the full.
“Then it was a case of check ups every three months for two to three years including a physical, chest x-ray and blood test,” Jonathan says, adding that he’s been fine ever since.
Jonathan has been told that while you are never ‘cured’ from cancer, he has the same chances of getting cancer now as anyone else.
He later made the move to Australia where he began working in the advertising industry before beginning a career in suicide prevention.
That’s when he came across Movember and was asked to become an ambassador for Testicular Cancer Awareness Month.
Movember Foundation Global Director of Testicular Cancer, Sam Gledhill, says that although testicular cancer was a relatively rare disease, it disproportionately affected younger men.
“While many young men assume testicular cancer is more of an old bloke’s disease, in reality it’s the most common cancer among young men aged 20-34,” he says.
“Self-checks play a key role in early detection, which in turn can have a positive impact on survival rates.”
He says men in their twenties and thirties should get to know their testicles a little better.
“It’s as simple as adding self-checks to your regular routine, and the shower is a great place to start,” he says. “Around once a month when you’re lathering up, just carefully and gently roll one nut at a time between your thumb and fingers.
“If you notice any changes, don’t panic, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer, but you should definitely get it checked out.”
April is Movember’s Testicular Cancer Awareness Month. Find out more at the Movember website.