The shock diagnosis that changed a young man's life
Michael Bye was just 21 and had the whole world at his feet when his doctor told him the devastating news no patient ever wants to hear – he had cancer.
The Sydney man regularly checked his body and when he noticed a small lump in his right testicle immediately knew something wasn’t right.
“I felt a lot of pain at the time and it was very difficult to sit down and do basic things,” Mr Bye told 9news.com.au.
Like his uncle before him, Mr Bye was diagnosed with testicular cancer – something he was regularly checking for signs of himself.
“It was sort of a reminder of your own mortality,” he said of the diagnosis.
“When a doctor turns to you and says you’ve got cancer, your stomach drop a bit, irrespective of whether you know people who have had cancer or you’ve been around it. It’s always a shock to the system.”
The now 29-year-old said everything happened quickly from there.
“I got diagnosed on a Sunday afternoon, saw my specialist on a Monday and had surgery on the Tuesday,” he said.
“They don’t muck around. I had an ultrasound and they saw a hard mass so they just ripped it straight out.”
Following his diagnosis, Mr Bye, who had been living in Brisbane at the time, threw himself into his university work and then his career.
“I focused on doing as much as I could with the life I had,” he said.
KNOW THY NUTS
According to the Movember foundation, testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men aged 20 to 34, with more than 15,000 Aussie men living with a diagnosis.
The foundation, which began in 2003 and encourages men to grow their “Mo” in November, focuses on raising awareness of men’s health issues, including prostate and testicular cancers, suicide prevention and mental health.
One of the foundation’s campaigns urges men to ‘Know Thy Nuts’ by regularly self-checking their testicles, something that 70 percent of men don’t do.
SECOND TIME AROUND
Unfortunately for Mr Bye his battle with cancer wasn’t over yet.
After being on remission for five years, Mr Bye had his final blood test only for doctors to discover a second cancer.
“I had started to feel another lump again in my other testicle,” he said.
“When I felt it, I knew straight up what it was and I got the blood test that confirmed it.”
Mr Bye was rushed into surgery the following week and his remaining testicle was taken out.
“The second time around it was a bit harder because I’m now on testosterone replacement therapy, I get regular injections, I get regular scans and blood tests,” he said.
“I’ve become a bit of an expert in my own health.”
Now Mr Bye wants all young men to be as attentive to their health and regularly check themselves for signs that something isn’t right.
“Anyone under the age of 25, for the most part, goes through the early parts of their life - if they haven’t had any major challenges – with rose coloured goggles on,” he said.
“They don’t think that this stuff can affect them until it does.”
BIG DREAMS AHEAD
Since his first diagnosis, Mr Bye has been passionate about making sure those around him are aware of the issues surrounding men’s health and is now a spokesman with Movember.
“I’ve sort of got a bit of a mission around promoting these sorts of things and making sure that men get to know themselves, they get to know what feels right, and we start to take away the stigma that’s associated with these sorts of things,” he said.
“Growing up as a guy, you hear a lot of different people say, “grow some balls” or “grow a pair”.
“My view is that what it is to be a man has been incredibly contrived by modern standards and most blokes don’t feel comfortable or don’t feel it’s okay to have a chat to your mates
“Trying to get guys to rethink what it is to be a man is something that I’m incredibly passionate about.”
Mr Bye said people share their own personal stories with him and talking about it encourages others to open up as well.
“There’s incredible power in knowing somebody who’s gone through this and so I’ve come out the other end and only because I talked about it, I leant on my support network - my family, my friends. I haven’t been embarrassed about it,” he said.
And despite losing both his testicles to cancer, Mr Bye hasn’t let that get in the way of his dreams of starting a family as he and his wife Jessica pursue IVF.