EIGHTEEN months ago Dean Stoneman had won the Formula 2 World Championship and was poised for the big time.
He had tested for the Williams Formula 1 team, but didn’t know health problems that had been dogging him in recent months would turn out be something life-threatening.
The 20-year-old, from Bishop’s Waltham, was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of testicular cancer that had already spread to his abdomen, lungs and liver.
Doctors only gave him a 50 per cent chance of survival and warned he could have been days from dying when his treatment began.
But now, after undergoing gruelling chemotherapy – 14 hours a day, five days a week, for 12 weeks – he is working hard to resume his racing career.
He has already taken part in some amateur car races at Silverstone and test drives, but is aiming to return to Formula 2 next year.
Dean had noticed changes in his body as far back as 2009, and had gone to his GP straight away.
He said: ‘I’m not the type to hope things go away. But the doctor told me it was probably just because of normal hormonal changes.’
Despite repeat visits to the doctors by December 2010, when he was still competing in – and winning – races, he was vomiting blood.
He said: ‘I started getting pain in my arms and began getting breathless, which made running difficult. Then, in January 2011, I started to feel a sharp pain in my right testicle, going through into my stomach. And I could feel a hard lump in my stomach the size of a golf ball, just below and to the right of my belly button.
‘I showed Steve, my manager, and my dad, and they told me to go to the doctor straight away.’
This time he was referred immediately for an ultrasound, CT and MRI scans, which confirmed it was cancer.
Dean added: ‘It has changed the way I look at life because you never know what’s going to be around the corner. You don’t realise what’s going to happen in months, years, or 20 years’ time.
‘At the age of 20 years old, you don’t expect to be diagnosed with testicular cancer.’
Dean is now an ambassador for Wessex Cancer Trust, which wants to raise awareness of the condition.
Men still wait an average of three months before going to the doctor with symptoms of testicular cancer. It is the most common type of cancer for men under-35.
But it is one of the most curable of cancers – about 2,000 new diagnoses are made a year and more than 95 per cent of those patients are cured.
For more information go to wessexcancer.org or orchid-cancer.org.uk