By supporting Q Radiothon you will be making a real difference to the lives of people affected by cancer and terminal illness across Northern Ireland. People like Aaron Watson from Bangor. Aaron has a voice that many of you will recognise. As a voice over artist, he is a familiar sound on your radio, but he is also using his voice for a very different reason. Aaron is encouraging men across Northern Ireland to check their testicles, and there is a good reason why. When he was just 22 years old, Aaron was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Today, Aaron is cancer free and enjoying life with his family. He has made it his mission to raise awareness of testicular cancer and he is now a proud ambassador for Friends of the Cancer Centre’s Talking Balls campaign, which is encouraging men across Northern Ireland to check themselves regularly. This is his story:
“Before my cancer diagnosis, I had been travelling in Australia and I was loving life. A short while after I came back to Northern Ireland, I started having pain in my lower stomach and groin. I went to the GP that week and they found a lump in my testicle, which they thought was a cyst. They referred me for a scan to make sure, and I went to Belfast City Hospital about six weeks later. It turned out that particular lump was due to varicose veins, but the person doing the scan also checked the other testicle and that decision saved my life. When they checked the other testicle, they found a small tumour.
“I found out that same day, that I had cancer. After the scan, they asked me to go up to the third floor and when the lift opened, I saw the sign for the cancer ward. I was only 22 years old at the time and it was a lot to take in. I remember being taken into a side room and the doctor and nurse coming to talk to me. Although my partner was there with me, I felt at that moment like I was on my own. I felt like I was in a daze.
“In terms of my treatment, I feel very lucky. My tumour was really small and it had been caught early. I had to have an operation to remove my testicle, as it was explained to me that this would be my best chance of the cancer not returning. Because the tumour was completely removed and there were no other signs of tumours around the stomach or groin area, I didn’t need radiotherapy or chemotherapy. I recovered quickly from the operation and I haven’t looked back since.
“The team in the Cancer Centre, and doctors like Dr. McAleer and the team that looked after me, are absolutely awesome. They fully looked after me, comforted me and most importantly, cured me. I have been completely cancer free for over 18 years. I have had follow up scans and they have all been clear. Cancer can be curable and that is the positive message I would like to share.
“I am now a Talking Balls ambassador for Friends of the Cancer Centre and it is my mission to get men talking and checking their testicles regularly. I was young at the time of my diagnosis, but something I have started to say in recent years is, ‘don’t be scared to death’, because if you don’t get it checked and there is something there and you ignore it, it could be fatal. I would encourage all men to check their testicles and if you find anything that is not normal for you, go to your GP and get it checked out.
“It is scary and I know men, especially young men like I was in my twenties, can be quite macho. Please don’t let COVID-19 put you off from going to hospital as if there is something wrong, you need to get it checked. I also want to let people know that you can survive cancer. I’ve since learned that testicular cancer, when caught early, has really high survival rates. I’m walking proof that you can beat cancer and have a great, fulfilling life after it.
“The Talking Balls campaign for Friends of the Cancer Centre has reached thousands of people, but we still want to keep sharing the important message to check yourself. Originally I just wanted to raise awareness and then my family and I got involved in some fundraising last summer and my grandson and I shaved our heads to raise money for the charity. Just £25 can fund one hour of nursing care from one of the charity’s specialist nurses, so a little really does go a long way. Every little helps.”
You can find out more about the Talking Balls campaign at www.friendsofthecancercentre.com