It is a rite of passage for thousands of students every summer; a chance to experience life outside of Ireland, make lifelong friends, and unforgettable memories.
However, for Danny O’Shea, 21, the J1 experience was cut short, when he found a cancerous lump six weeks into his working holiday.
Now, to raise awareness of testicular cancer in young men, he is documenting his journey in a blog titled Me, My Lump and I.
“I had no idea it affected so many young men but it’s the most common type of cancer that affects men between the ages of 18 and 35,” he said.
In a report by the Men’s Cancer Alliance to mark Blue September, almost half of the 900 men surveyed said they would not be confident in recognising the common symptoms associated with testicular cancer.
“I think there’s a serious lack of information out there,” said Danny. “Personally, I’d never been shown how to check for a lump and if it’s something that affects people like this then there needs to be more done.”
While in Ocean City, Danny discovered a lump while he was in the shower and decided to get it looked. Thousands of miles from home, Danny was given devastating news.
“They told me then and there that they had found a tumour and they wanted me to go home to Ireland to get it treated. I was shocked,” he said. “It went from me having a good time on a J1 like thousands of others to being in a foreign country talking about survival rates and types of tumours.”
Within a week, the UCC graduate had flown home and had undergone an orchiectomy to remove one of his testicles. Initially given the all-clear following his surgery, Danny was told last week that he will now have to undergo two cycles of preventative chemotherapy.
“It was a bit of a disappointment considering I thought it was all over but the chemo is to reduce the risk of developing another cancer from 50% down to 2%,” said Danny. “I accept it’s what has to be done and I’m OK with it.”
With his positive outlook, Danny has begun to document his cancer journey.
“I decided that I would start writing a blog because I felt it would be therapeutic to track my progress as well as give people information on my current situation,” he said.
Danny’s blog reflects his interest in music and is written like an album with a track listing.
“I’ve never been an overly serious person and I think this is reflected in the blog,” he said. “I am in good spirits because I have realised that this is what I have to do and it’s not going to be fun, but I won’t improve by being annoyed or upset.”
Danny is also hopeful of reducing the stereotype associated with cancer.
“People hear chemo and think the worst and I don’t want a Chinese whispers situation in which people think I am sick or dying,” he said. “I’m not sick, I have no cancer at the moment, and I am battling to keep it that way.”
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