Trust instinct and get checked, says cancer survivor

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When it comes to your body, ‘‘back your gut feel’’, says James Brewer, of Wanaka. ‘‘Doctors and specialists are amazing, but they are human, and they can get it wrong.’’ When Mr Brewer began feeling pain and an ache in his testes, he visited his doctor, who initially thought it was fine, but booked him for a scan. ‘‘There were abnormalities found, so I went to see the specialist.’’ The specialist, however, said it was not cancer. But ‘‘a month or two passed and the pain was still there’’. Mr Brewer sought a second opinion, which was also inconclusive. ‘‘That person said 50/50 for cancer or something that is not going to harm you.’’ Faced with these odds, Mr Brewer decided to have surgery to have one of his testicles removed. ‘‘That was the right decision, because it came back as testicular cancer.’’ When he was first diagnosed with testicular cancer he was ‘‘taken aback, a bit stunned’’. But an emotional reaction didn’t occur until a day or two later when his mother visited. ‘‘I just remember opening the door, and I burst into tears.’’ Having a newborn daughter, one of the thoughts he had was ‘‘maybe not seeing her grow up’’. ‘‘You want to be positive and stay positive, but your own mortality comes into play.’’ Mr Brewer encouraged other men to not shy away from visiting their doctor, because testicular cancer had a ‘‘high cure rate’’. Everyone diagnosed with cancer had a different situation, he said. All cancers had ‘‘different stages, different levels of aggressiveness’’. But having ‘‘regular checkups’’ was key to catching it at an early stage, Mr Brewer said. ‘‘Blokes in particular can be a little bit ‘she’ll be right’.’’ But it was important to ‘‘trust your instinct’’. ‘‘If there is something not right, go and get checked.’’ Mr Brewer is now in remission, and as an ambassador for Wanaka’s first Relay for Life he is encouraging locals to get involved in the 24-hour festival-style event. ‘‘It’s a really fun event. Family and friends are there, there is going to be music, lots of stuff happening.’’ Relay for Life was a great event, and the fact that it raised funds for the work of the Cancer Society Otago Southland ‘‘makes it so cool’’. Relay for Life will be held in Wanaka on the weekend of March 23 and 24 at Pembroke Park. To register visit wanaka.relayforlife.org.nz