The day before Maddie and Patrick Spink of Gweek, Cornwall, celebrated their wedding anniversary, Patrick had to make a quick stop off at the doctor’s.
That wasn’t a speedy plastic surgery job to look fresh for the weekend, to be clear.
Patrick had to have his right testicle removed following a cancer diagnosis. (Picture: PA Real Life)
A few weeks before, Patrick found a broad bean sized tumour in his testicle. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer, and told that had the tumour been left untreated, Patrick would have been dead within six months.
Within weeks of the diagnosis, Patrick had surgery to get his testicle removed – resulting in a five month sex ban from his doctor.
Five months without sex is pretty tough.
Thankfully, Maddie lent a helping hand, making Patrick his very own cone of shame out of cardboard that he could wear for their anniversary celebrations.
‘I got a piece of cardboard and rolled it around his neck,’ Maddie explained, ‘like a dog has to stop it from licking its wounds.
The couple were unable to have sex for five months. (Picture: PA Real Life)
‘I said to him, “this is to stop you licking your balls”, and we laughed and laughed.
‘It was giving us something to giggle about, rather than thinking about everything that was happening to us.
‘I guess it was a different way of dealing with things.’
Before his diagnosis, Patrick had felt discomfort around his testicles, but had put it down to varicose veins.
In May of last year, he found a lump on his right testicle, and went to his GP, where he was immediately sent for an ultrasound.
In June, Patrick was told he had an aggressive form of testicular cancer.
‘That’s the moment everything stopped,’ Patrick says. ‘It was like a movie when everything goes in slow motion.’
Treatment moved quickly. Patrick had surgery to remove his right testicle three days later, and was then booked in for chemotherapy.
Unfortunately, Patrick’s surgery was booked for the weekend he and Maddie had planned a romantic break to celebrate their wedding anniversary/ That had to be cancelled.
‘The day after his operation was our sixth wedding anniversary and I’d got us a room at the Fowey Hall, where we’d stayed for our honeymoon,’ said Maddie.
‘I had to cancel the booking. Instead, we were at home together, with Patrick in terrible pain after the op. It wasn’t quite the anniversary night we’d planned.’
The cone of shame helped, and throughout the chemo, Patrick and Maddie made sure to keep their sense of humour.
They’ve shared their experiences and their sexual struggles on Facebook, under Cock Off Cancer, as a way to raise awareness of testicular cancer and encourage all men to do regular self-checks.
‘I thought I was too young for cancer, but it can happen to anyone,’ Patrick said.
‘Men can be slow about going to the doctor if they’re worried about something, but I would say just do it. And check your balls, too.’
Maddie continued to chart Patrick’s experience on Facebook, and shaved her head at the end of his treatment in aid of charity Macmillan Cancer Support.
Maddie shaved her head to support her husband. (Picture: PA Real Life)
‘The cancer you can’t really see, but with the chemotherapy, it’s like watching the person you love being poisoned.
‘I knew it was for his own good, but I felt completely powerless.
‘Even if our story encourages one man to play with his balls and get any concerns checked out, we will be over the moon.’
Oh, and don’t worry – the sex ban has come to an end. After the couple were given the all clear they went away for the weekend – taking a massive box of condoms with them.
‘We felt like we were getting our marriage back after a five-month sex ban,’ says Patrick. ‘And it just shows you can still have a sex life when you have one ball – so don’t be scared about going to the doctor.’
Maddie took part in Macmillan Cancer Support’s Brave the Shave to raise money to help more people affected by cancer. Find out more by visiting www.bravetheshave.org.uk.