Lisa Coote, a clinical support nurse from Bolton, Greater Manchester, was working a night shift on Boxing Day in 2021 when she received a text message that would change her family’s life forever. Her son Ben, then 17, had made a discovery and wanted to discuss it with his mother. She said: “He messaged me to say he’d been in the shower and found a lump on his testicle. I tried to play it down, replying, ‘Try not to worry.’”
Back at home, Ben felt reassured. He said: “When I found the lump I just thought, ‘What’s that?!’ Then I got a bit scared being the only one who knew and wanted my mum to be in on the situation.”
Although Lisa knew the lump could have various causes, she couldn’t shake off her concern. The following morning, she suggested Ben have it checked by a medical professional.
She said: “I’ve always told Ben, I don’t care what it is, no matter how embarrassing, lumps, bumps, anything to do with your sex life, I’ll always help you. We’re very close. We could only have one child, he’s our miracle baby.
“I said, ‘I know it’s embarrassing, I promise not to look’ and instantly just felt sick because as soon as I felt the lump, I knew it shouldn’t be there. I didn’t want to freak him out, I just knew we needed to get it sorted as soon as possible.”
Ben’s father, firefighter Steve, 52, drove him to an out-of-hours appointment. But Lisa said: “They returned home laughing and joking. The doctor had said they couldn’t feel anything.”
Unsatisfied with the doctor’s assessment, Lisa insisted Ben see their GP, who then referred him for a scan. However, due to the time between Christmas and New Year, they were uncertain about how long the wait would be.
Recognising the urgency of the situation, Lisa reached out to ScanAssure, a local scanning clinic. CEO Roy Craven offered to open the clinic on New Year’s Day specifically for Ben.
She said: “Roy said he’d be able to tell us on the spot, so when he referred us back to our doctor, I knew it was cancer. Straight away, I just knew. Everything kicked off from there.”
Ben underwent further scans, consultations with urologists and consultants, and received confirmation of his cancer diagnosis.
Lisa said: “My husband said if it’d been down to him, he’d have taken the first doctor’s word for it. By the time Ben had been looked at again, it could have spread. I’m a Marie Curie nurse and work at a hospice, I’ve been in healthcare for years, so any kind of lump frightens me.”
Less than a month after discovering the lump and following the preservation of his sperm in case of chemotherapy, Ben underwent surgery to have his testicle removed.
He said: “I wasn’t too worried about the cancer, but that day was really daunting. I’d never been through surgery. That was the scariest thing of all.”
There was another shock for the family as during surgery, the medical team discovered that one of Ben’s kidneys had reduced function due to blockage. Lisa said: “It was basically dead. My first thought was kidney cancer but the doctor said it was unrelated.”
Examination of the tumour removed from Ben’s testicle revealed that it was a fast-growing cancer. However, due to his kidney issues, doctors were hesitant to pursue chemotherapy. To the family’s immense relief, a follow-up CT scan came back clear, indicating the cancer had been eradicated. While regular check-ups and scans are now a part of Ben’s life, the family is looking forward to the future.
At the end of July, Ben underwent surgery to remove his non-functioning kidney. His recovery was made more enjoyable with the help of Make-A-Wish UK’s Wish 200 Week, which involved gamers doing sponsored live streams, challenges, and special events. Thanks to this initiative, Ben received a brand new PlayStation5, a gaming chair, a headset, and gaming vouchers.
For Ben, who has always been active in sports and recently completed A-levels in PE, biology, and computer science, playing FIFA online with friends has become a lifeline since doctors advised him against participating in contact sports that could potentially harm his remaining kidney.
Lisa said Ben has been brilliant throughout his journey. She said: “As soon as we heard the word cancer his dad and I went to pieces. But Ben said, ‘No mum, it’ll be fine. We’ll get it sorted’. I’m so proud of how he’s coped.”
Ben now aspires to study diagnostic radiography and currently works part-time at ScanAssure—the same company that opened its doors on that nerve-racking bank holiday.
Ben said: “Good has come from the diagnosis as well as the scare – if it wasn’t for me having cancer, I wouldn’t know what job I wanted to do. I focus on the positives and life experience rather than sitting around thinking about the fact I had cancer.”
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