Ben Bowers knows a lot about testicular cancer from his experiences over the past nine years and now he devotes his life to raising awareness of male cancers. As an ‘ambassador’ for the charity Movember, he also helps patients and their families to cope with the illness.
Ben was just 26, fit and very active when he discovered he had a lump on one of his testicles. He went to his family doctor and tests quickly showed that it was indeed cancer.
It was caught early because Ben took action immediately. He went through surgery to remove his testicle but did not require any further treatment at that state. Everyone thought he was out of danger.
Unfortunately, within just three years of being given the all-clear, he discovered he had another cancer on his remaining testicle and that too had to be removed. This time however he did require further treatment and underwent an intensive regime of chemotherapy over four months.
Ben describes how he first felt when his cancer was diagnosed.
Coming to terms with cancer
‘Cancer ‒ it’s a hell-of- a-word! When they break it to you, it feels like your world is falling apart. To be told you have this life-threatening illness was a big shock.’
‘So you have to come to terms with what that means and what you are going to do about it and put your trust in the medical experts who tell you that you are going to be OK.’
‘It’s surgery; it’s chemotherapy, it could be radiotherapy. They are not a walk in the park. They are mentally and physically challenging. They are not fun but they are there to save your life. And they do.’
After Ben had endured the treatment for testicular cancer for a second time, he met someone connected with the Movember Foundation, a charity best known for persuading men to grow a moustache during the month of November to raise money and raise awareness of men’s health issues, notably testicular and prostate cancer, and mental health.
Ben met the charity’s representatives as a testicular cancer survivor and he describes Movember as an ‘amazing group of hugely passionate people’.
He was instantly welcomed into what he calls the ‘Movember family’ and joined their campaign to help save lives and to ensure men live happier, healthier and longer lives.
One of Movember’s key messages is that men have to be more open and discuss their fears, their feelings and concerns and to take positive action when they find a problem; to get advice, especially medical advice, without delay.
As Ben puts it, it is ‘about changing the culture in men to redefine masculinity. It’s not about bottling things up’.
‘Being a man is talking, sharing and being open and taking positive action and taking responsibility for your own health.’
How can women support men?
But what about the role of women in helping men to overcome illness and lead a healthier lifestyle?
‘Behind every great moustache there is a great ‘Mo Sista’ and they are absolutely critical for Movember and our community. Men don’t do things on their own. Normally there’s a woman behind them, pushing them to do something.’
‘This year we have a special challenge for women. It’s a 30-day ‘MOVEmber’ (with the focus on Move) challenge for women to get physically active to support men. It could be walking instead of taking the bus, or it could be running a marathon, anything. 30 moves over 30 days!’
Since Ben has beaten the disease twice, what advice does he have for someone who has just been told he has cancer?
‘The advice I would give to someone who has just been diagnosed with a serious illness is that you should know you are not alone. You are not the only person with cancer to have gone through this. There are other people who have survived this.’
‘Others have had the same experiences and the same concerns. Find them, talk to them; understand, share your concerns and it will help and it will make you realise that if others can get through this, then you too can get through this.’
‘Take positives out of this experience. So just communicate; find the people, learn, absorb and don’t be afraid to talk.’
If you’d like to know more about the Movember Foundation, visit their website for campaign updates.
Just diagnosed with cancer or caring for a loved one? See our tips for coping with cancer.