Clonmel couple Anthony Hewitt and Eimear Howley are planning on getting married in 2020
A young Tipperary man is planning on walking down the aisle after beating cancer.
Clonmel’s Anthony Hewitt overcame testicular cancer this year, and is now using the experience to raise awareness and break the stigma that surrounds men’s health.
Clonmel Park Hotel Leisure Centre manager Anthony was “just having a scratch” when he discovered a pea sized lump on his right testicle last April. After checking in with his doctor, he was referred to South Tipperary General Hospital for an ultrasound and was inevitably diagnosed with testicular cancer.
Recalling the “frightening” diagnosis, Anthony tells Tipperary Live: “I would be quite strong-minded, but it was tough when I heard those words. The doctor said my life was going to change and I didn’t know how to react. My girlfriend, Eimear Howley, as sitting in the waiting room. I had to go for a chest x-ray in another room, just to see if it had spread, and had to pass by her on the way. I thought I felt perfectly fine, but she said I looked like a ghost and that was when it hit me.
“The emotions really started once I was told that surgery was needed. I was very upset for the rest of that day, so we went for a walk out by Bulmers to try and relax. I had planned on proposing to Eimear before I found the lump. At such a young age, I didn't know what to expect from the cancer.”
Within two weeks, Anthony went for an operation to remove his right testicle. He feels “lucky” to have caught the cancer early, sparing him from gruelling treatment. “I had blood tests and a pre-op done on a Tuesday and the testicle was removed the next day down in the Mercy University Hospital in Cork. I was so early finding it that I didn't have to do any treatment, but I didn't find that out for about three months because I was waiting to do a CAT scan at the end of summer. All I have to do now is have a CAT scan and blood tests every three months for the next five years,” 29-year-old Anthony continues.
Not knowing what was facing him, Anthony returned to Plan Proposal and got down on one knee over the summer. He says Eimear was a “rock of support” throughout his fight with cancer, and they are now planning on walking down the aisle in 2020.
“Eimear was unbelievable. I would have cracked up without her. I had these moments where I thought I was going to die and she would come along and make things better. I was bed-bound after the operation and without her I wouldn't have got through it,” he smiles.
Anthony also praises family and friends for supporting him along the way. “I was very open about it from the start with my friends and started the slagging myself. I got through it by being very blunt with them and making puns like 'check your balls lads'. But I still don't think any of them would have checked them when they went home. There's a stigma around men's health!
“When I posted on Facebook that I had cancer, the amount of friends that contacted me and said they had it before was crazy. They had been through it, but never had gone public with it, and wanted to help me.”
Anthony feels speaking out about his journey with cancer could save someone’s life. Testicular cancer is quite rare, but it is the most common cancer found in young men aged between 15 and 34. 176 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer in Ireland every year, with the number growing in recent years.
Anthony encourages men to get familiar with what their testicles feel like and to get any abnormalities checked out. “I remember reading about another man who had testicular cancer, but I never thought for a minute it would happen to me because I'm Irish and nothing happens to us. We are no longer afraid to use the word cancer in my house.
“I'm one of the lucky ones that caught it early, but others aren't as lucky. By openly talking about it, you could save someone's life. It is the most curable cancer, but it can travel up the body and you might have to do treatment for two or three years.
“If you put your health first, you will be fine. It's nothing to be afraid of! I was back playing soccer eight weeks after the operation and was back to work within two weeks. Don't be afraid to check your balls in the shower or in bed. Spending 10 seconds a month checking yourself can stop this disease from spreading,” he adds.