After a rollercoaster four months, Paul Clarke and his family are looking forward to a brilliant Christmas.
The 32-year-old service engineer was diagnosed with testicular cancer in September, but has now had his last chemotherapy session.
He and his family’s new year wish is that he has beaten the disease. They will find out next month.
In the meantime, they will make the most of the festive period with each other and count their blessings – thankful for the strong love and support of family and friends.
The rollercoaster journey began in September when Paul, of London Road, Horndean, was in the shower.
He says; ‘I felt a rather substantial lump and it didn’t seem right at all.
‘I’ll be honest, I straight away thought the worst. Although it was totally painless, my right testicle was five times the size of the left.
‘My reaction was “I’ve got to get to the doctors as soon as possible”.’
Within days Paul, a father of three, was on the operating table having a tumour removed.
Following the operation the family were hopeful that that would be the end of it.
But a scan showed a small number of cells had spread to lymph nodes in the back of Paul’s stomach.
‘I ended up having to have chemotherapy,’ says Paul.
‘After the operation I told the children a little bit more detail about what happened.
‘I felt it was important to tell the kids what was going on.
‘I spoke to the consultant and staff at the hospital and they all said don’t lie to the kids, reassure them everything is going to be okay in the end.
‘The hospital was 100 per cent confident that this is curable cancer. They never, ever thought that this wasn’t going to be curable.’
Going through gruelling chemotherapy has been tough.
Paul says: ‘I’ve had good days and bad days with the chemo.
‘My bad days completely wiped me out and I went straight to bed.
‘Sometimes the kids would peer round the bedroom door or sit on the bed to chat with me. I know it’s affected them slightly.
‘They find it difficult to talk to me about it because they don’t want to upset me.
‘But they know we’re coming to the end of it now and we’re going to have a good Christmas.
‘We’re all really looking forward to Christmas and new year.
‘There is apprehension because I have to have a scan in January, but we’re praying the chemo has worked and we’re going to get the result we want.’
Paul’s wife Carla, 34, says it was a difficult time for the family but Christmas will be a happy milestone.
She recalls the day when Paul realised something was wrong.
‘He left to go to the doctors and I thought he’d be back fairly soon with a prescription for some tablets, but he was gone for hours.
‘My heart was racing, I was beside myself.
‘At the age of 32 you don’t expect it. My step-dad died two years ago and he was only 54.
‘I thought, “Oh no, this can’t happen again”.
‘When the scan showed after the operation that there was cancer in the lymph nodes, that came as a massive shock.
‘It was probably the most stressful time of my life.
‘I tried to be there for Paul as much as I could, but I needed to go to work too and support the children.
‘I sat them down and said: “Daddy has got to have this medicine which will make his hair fall out, but it will make him better’’.
‘I said we all needed to remain upbeat.’
She adds: ‘I’m quite an emotional person anyway but I feel more positive now he’s come to the end of chemotherapy. All we need is to get the scan out of the way.
‘We’re all looking forward to a brilliant Christmas at Paul’s mum’s. A little bit of downtime.’
Paul has undergone three rounds of weekly cycles of chemotherapy, with the last one yesterday.
It means the family will have a Christmas free of hospital appointments and they can relax.
Due to the nature of Paul’s job, working with electrical equipment and gas, he has been signed off throughout his treatment but says he can’t wait to go back in January.
Paul is a keen runner and mountain biker and has had to put sport on hold while he recuperates.
He also coaches the Havant and Waterlooville U10 football team and in October they, plus a coach from a rival team, shaved their heads in support of Southampton General Hospital and Queen Alexandra Hospital’s chemotherapy wards – just as Paul’s hair was falling out.
He says: ‘The support I’ve received from everyone has been absolutely amazing.
‘My wife has been fantastic. I couldn’t wish for better support on the day-to-day side of things.
‘Best friends have become better friends. And good friends have become best friends.’
Paul’s 12-year-old Lydia, a pupil at Park Community School, says: ‘I want to make it an extra special Christmas this year.
‘I’m not worried about presents, I just want my dad.’
Testicular cancer is one of the less common cancers. It usually affects younger men between the ages of 15 and 49.
The most common symptom is a painless lump or swelling in the testicles. Other symptoms can include a dull ache in the scrotum – the sac of skin that hangs underneath the penis and contains the testicles – or a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum.
Men should check their testicles every month for any unusual lumps.
The causes of testicular cancer are unknown, but a number of factors have been identified that increase the chance of developing the condition.
These include having a family history of testicular cancer or being born with undescended testicles.
Testicular cancer is one of the most treatable types of cancer. More than 96 per cent of men with early stage testicular cancer will be completely cured.
Even cases of more advanced testicular cancer, where the cancer has spread outside the testicles to nearby tissue, have an 80 per cent chance of being cured.
Compared to other cancers, deaths from testicular cancer are rare. Cancer Research UK say that around 70 men die from testicular cancer every year in the UK.
Treatment for testicular cancer includes the surgical removal of the affected testicle – which should not affect fertility or the ability to have sex - and chemotherapy.