THANKS to early diagnosis and successful treatment, footballer Neil Harris beat testicular cancer and was back playing for Millwall FC within months. This is his story…
“It was in June 2001. I’d just completed a great season with Millwall. We’d won the old second division championship and I’d finished as top scorer with 28 goals. There was speculation that I might be moving to a Premiership club and everything was fantastic. Then one day I was watching television with my hands resting in my shorts, as blokes tend to do. And as I felt my testicles, I thought, ‘This doesn’t feel right.’ One was bigger than the other.
“The next morning I rang the club doctor and he told me to come straight in. He then sent me to hospital to have an ultrasound test. I got dressed and a doctor gave me the diagnosis. I had testicular cancer.
“A million things went through my mind in a split second. My first question was, ‘Will I live?’ and the second was, ‘Will I be able to play football again?’ At that stage, the doctor couldn’t give a definitive answer. I just kept asking myself: ‘I’m a fit and healthy person, so how could this happen to me?’ I was quickly taken for a CT scan to see if the cancer had spread further around my body, and then I had chest X-rays to check my lungs. Fortunately, the cancer hadn’t spread.
“I had an operation, which was quite straightforward, and afterwards I felt OK. Following the operation, I was lucky enough to have radiotherapy rather than chemotherapy, so I didn’t lose my hair.
“If you think anything might be wrong, just go to see your GP. That’s what they’re there for. I understand that some men don’t want to go to a doctor for any reason, let alone such a serious one that involves their private parts. But this is your life we’re talking about. It takes a bigger man to go and speak to his doctor than it does to pretend nothing is wrong. So just go.”