Robert Preston’s cancer diagnosis in Coronation Street recently has been a stark reminder that men often have a hard time admitting they need help.
Even after finding a lump in his testicle, the Bistro owner insisted it was nothing but a groin strain, and was in denial about the seriousness of his condition.
Partner Michelle Connor eventually insisted he get it checked out and the urologist said the testicle urgently needed to be removed, but Robert was very reluctant to have the operation after opening up about the fact his father died of cancer.
The stress of his diagnosis is clearly getting to Robert and after gambling all of his money away, he’s ended up collapsing due to how overwhelming the situation is for him.
In Robert’s case, it seems the cancer has been caught early and, sometimes, that makes it more likely that the outcome will be a positive one.
But in other cases, by the time you’ve realised something is wrong, it’s already far too late.
Sarah Cain-Leeks, 34, spoke to ED! about her late husband David’s battle with testicular cancer, and how it affected her and their teenage son Morgan.
Sarah said: “In February 2014, David had just left a public sector job in West Mercier, where he’d been since early 2009.
“But over Christmas 2013, he noticed something in his abdomen didn’t feel right. We went to the doctors, but it moved quite quickly. I was under the assumption it was nothing to worry about.”
“Dave always took pride in his fitness, and he’d been in the gym the day before he went to the doctor.
“It was around Christmas time when Dave said: ‘That’s not a six pack, there’s something there that’s quite hard.’
Unlike Corrie’s Robert, as soon as David and Sarah realised something was wrong, they sought medical attention.
Sarah recalled: “Once he’d been to see the doctor in the February, they sent him straight for a scan, and saw a nodule on his neck and it had already spread.
“In the space of two weeks David was having chemotherapy in Cheltenham, and the cancer was at stage four by then.
“It had spread from his left testicle to his abdomen, also he had some marking on his lungs, a tumour around his spine we found later, and it got up into his lymph nodes in his neck.”
With a barrage of medical specialists taking them from their Herefordshire home to Bristol and back multiple times a week, the strain also began taking its toll on Sarah.
After Christmas of 2015, and multiple different courses of chemotherapy including TIP, BEP and High-Dose, the risky decision was taken to remove the large tumour in David’s stomach.
Of the brutal treatment regime, Sarah said: “Chemo meant that he was hooked up for at least eight hours per day over five days. It’s not nice.”
Unfortunately, removing the tumour didn’t get rid of the cancer, and a few weeks later David and Sarah got the devastating news that from there on out, any care he received would be palliative only – he was definitely going to die.
They quickly began ticking off items on David’s bucket list, including trips to Iceland and Barcelona.
Sarah said: “Dave had always said that he wanted to see Morgan turn 13, which happened in February, and he wanted to see our friends Matt and Katie get married as that was a big thing for him. The Monday after that wedding, things started to deteriorate quite rapidly.
“After that, my niece turned one, and the weekend after was another wedding, of a schoolfriend. I knew that if we didn’t attend that as a couple, it would have been the first time I would have been out publicly on my own and I didn’t want that.
“We made it to the wedding, we got to about half past six then made our excuses and left. It was quite a testing day because a lot of people didn’t realise how quickly Dave had turned.”
“The Tuesday after that weekend, Dave passed away.”
“We didn’t really talk about the afterlife because Dave didn’t want to. But there were two things he had always said. The first question was: was I going to change my name? I think he was alluding to if I ever got re-married.
“And secondly, did I want him to set up a dating profile for me! That’s just the sense of humour Dave had. Obviously I said no to both!
Since David died, Sarah has returned to the hospice that took care of them for further counselling, and has begun working with cancer charity It’s In the Bag to raise awareness of testicular cancer.
She’s helped the charity raise money and awareness with her work, and hopes giving back to the charity will at as a way of keeping David’s legacy alive.
She said: “Dave was very well loved by an awful lot of people, and he’s very missed. I had 16 fantastic years with somebody that… we were inseparable. I think a lot of people admired us for how our relationship was. I’ve had something that not everybody gets in their lifetime, so I feel very fortunate.”
“TV shows like Coronation Street raising awareness of testicular cancer is so important, provided the storyline is well researched and isn’t misleading.
“New research has also shown that a fifth of patients are currently skipping GP appointments, with no-shows often between 16-30 years old, so it’s vital that men check themselves regularly.”