Getting diagnosed with cancer at 34 | Phillip Marriott’s Story

“I never expected to have cancer at 34 years of age, and even with the positive outcome I can’t hide the fact that it has changed my life forever.”

One of our fantastic runners – Phillip Marriott – has shared with us his positive and inspiring story with us about why he has previously run the Cancer Research UK London Winter Run to raise money for Cancer Research UK after his own battle with testicular cancer.

Read on to discover his story…

A doctor told me that ‘’if you are going to have cancer, then this is the one you want’’. Testicular Cancer is the most common type of cancer in men of my age group. It also happens to be one of the most treatable cancers, with a very good survival rate.  So, the doctor did have a point, but I still couldn’t help thinking that I’d rather have had no cancer at all!

In April 2020, during the first COVID-19 lockdown, I discovered that one of my testicles was slightly harder than the other.  It wasn’t by much; just one end of my left testicle was firmer than the rest, whereas my right testicle was smooth and soft all over.  There was no lump or bump, simply a different ‘density’.  After speaking with my wife, we decided the best course of action was to see the GP, to rule out anything sinister.  At first the doctor wanted a phone consultation, to which I politely explained that a physical examination was probably going to be best.  The GP duly referred me to a Urologist, who after various blood tests, x-ray and an ultrasound gave me the sombre news that it was almost certainly cancer. So, 18 days after my initial discovery, I was lying on the operating table, being put to sleep, having one of my testicles removed. It was a complete whirlwind, and one that felt detached from reality.  Due to the lockdown, every appointment, including the surgery, I had to go alone.

The 1.6cm tumour was later confirmed to be Stage 1 Pure Seminoma Testicular Cancer.  The good news was that I had caught it early and there were no signs of it spreading outside of the testicle, so I avoided having to have any chemotherapy.  I’m now two and a half years into a surveillance plan of blood tests and CT scans, and am cancer free.

I never expected to have cancer at 34 years of age, and even with the positive outcome I can’t hide the fact that it has changed my life forever.  Losing a testicle hasn’t upset me too much, I was already happily married with two children, but the emotional toll has weighed heavy at times, and brought into question my own mortality.  I’ve also had a crazy time since my diagnosis.  My wife and I decided to have a third baby, and when she went into labour, things happened very quickly.  To the point where I ended up delivering the baby in our living room before medical assistance could arrive!  Then at 10 weeks old our baby boy was diagnosed with a congenital heart disease and had to have immediate heart surgery.  He has thankfully made a full recovery.

I’ve always flirted with running (picking it up and dropping it) so when my friend Jon suggested I enter the Cancer Research UK London Winter Run with him I jumped at the opportunity. He had run in the Cancer Research UK London Summer Run, and spoke about how much fun it was and a great encouragement to keep fit during the darker days. He wasn’t wrong, I now regularly run two or three times a week, and I might not have been so dedicated without the Winter 10k to look forward to. I have so much more energy and feel fitter than before.  I’m also aware that exercise is a great way to boost testosterone levels, which after my type of surgery is something some men struggle with.  But by far the greatest thing about running is the mental health side – before having cancer I never had to worry about my mental health.  Since my diagnoses and treatment, I have found the solace and peace of running a great help.

The work and research done by Cancer Research UK is extremely important.  Not just for the research into treatments and the medical science of cancer, but also for its efforts to raise awareness.  I count myself as very fortunate to have found my own cancer early, at stage 1.  Through awareness of how to recognise the symptoms of all types of cancer, more people can get diagnosed early, and hopefully cured of it too.  In my experience, one of the best weapons against cancer is having a head start.  Cancer Research UK is vital in helping raise that awareness, and so by fundraising for them in the Cancer Research UK London Winter Run I can play a small but significant part in raising money to support their goal.

Life is very unpredictable, since having my cancer I’ve had some brilliant highs, and some dramatic lows.  I have quickly come the conclusion that it is important to live a positive lifestyle.  Running in this 10k, for instance, and raising funds to fight cancer feels like you are doing something to make it better for the next person, or indeed for myself should my cancer return. Plus it’s a good test of my new aerodynamic running style!