Age is no guarantee for good health. Zuhairi was only 16 years old when he started experiencing frequent fevers. With the high temperature came an abnormal swelling of his right testis, alerting the young man that something was wrong.
“I immediately sought medical help and was scheduled for an ultrasound,” says the now 28-year-old. “The scan indicated the presence of an unusual growth. I was diagnosed with a malignant mixed germ cell tumour.”
This is a rare cancer comprising at least two types of germ cell tumours, which begin in the cells that form the sperm or eggs. They usually occur in the testicle or ovary, but occasionally also affect the chest, abdomen or brain.
Zuhairi was naturally terrified by the diagnosis.
“After the second cycle, I told my late mother I didn’t want to continue chemo: my hair was falling, I couldn’t sleep and my body was so weak. She was ever compassionate and comforting, and promised that if I went through with the third cycle, it would be my last.”
It was, as the treatment proved successful. The road to recovery was rough but Zuhairi had a strong support system in the form of his family, who rallied around him at his lowest. “I’m very grateful for each and every one of them,” he shares. “They were always there beside me and gave me the strength to carry on.”
Life a decade later looks rather different than it did pre-diagnosis. While cancer can be caused by myriad factors, Zuhairi is careful to pay attention to elements within his control.
“Before all this happened, I didn’t really watch my eating habits or diet, for instance,” he says. “But now I am much more particular about the food I consume. As much as I used to dislike vegetables, I now include them more and more often in my meals. Ultimately, I ensure I look after my health.”
That includes taking charge of self-examinations and paying close attention to his body. Men tend to be more hesitant than women are in seeking medical help, but Zuhairi strongly advocates prioritising medical aid over embarrassment or denial.
Testicular cancer is relatively uncommon, affecting one in 250 males at some point in their lifetime. The average age of patients upon diagnosis is the mid-30s, but children, teens and older males are also susceptible. However, survival rates are very high, so men are encouraged to seek treatment as early as possible for a smoother recovery.
*Photo shown is not the interview subject.