Posted on 18 June 2015
‘Cancer’ and ‘good news’ don’t usually live together in the same sentence. But they can, says media personality and testicular cancer survivor Mark Pilgrim… if you get yourself checked in time.
First, the good news: According to the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), testicular cancer is highly treatable, with a very high cure rate of about 95%, if the disease is detected and treated early. Now, the bad news: Men are notoriously bad at going for checkups… which kind of blows the whole ‘detected and treated early’ thing out of the water.
Just ask Mark Pilgrim. When he was 18, before he’d started his career as a popular radio DJ and TV presenter, Mark was diagnosed with stage four testicular cancer. The reason it was only detected at Stage 4 was, unfortunately, pretty simple: he’d left it too long, sensing that something was wrong by choosing not to go see a doctor. It was a decision he’d soon regret.
‘I picked up something was wrong when my testicle seemed larger than normal,’ he tells us. ‘It’s a denial thing, though, as you tell yourself the “bigger” is how it always has been. I left it for a few weeks before telling anyone, not realising that every day it was spreading to other parts of my body.’ To make things worse, Mark was suffering from a particularly aggressive form of the disease – and by the time he was diagnosed, it had already spread to his lungs and kidneys.
Mark is now a patron of CANSA (he’s the bald guy who leads the annual CANSA Shavathons), and a motivational speaker who regularly shares his experience of his cancer journey. His recovery wasn’t easy: he was only declared to be in remission after nine long months of chemotherapy – a life-saving treatment that he describes as being the toughest part of the treatment process. (‘The cancer never made me sick,’ he says. ‘The chemo did.’)
His greatest regret, though, is not getting himself checked sooner. ‘I remember my mom crying when she found about about my diagnosis,’ he says. ‘That was heart wrenching. I was focused on consoling her, and in doing so that took the initial shock away from me. Not checking yourself is the most selfish thing you can do,’ he says. ‘If you die from cancer, you’re gone, but it’s your loved ones who remain behind, and who will mourn you for years to come.’
Over to you, gents. Don’t wait til Movember for your checkup. Check yourself, and if something doesn’t feel right, go see your doctor. Now.