Don’t Give Up on Testicular Cancer

Running, Running, Running to Raise Awareness about Testicular Cancer

April 10, 2024 The Max Mallory Foundation - Joyce Lofstrom host Season 4 Episode 3
Running, Running, Running to Raise Awareness about Testicular Cancer
Don’t Give Up on Testicular Cancer
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Don’t Give Up on Testicular Cancer
Running, Running, Running to Raise Awareness about Testicular Cancer
Apr 10, 2024 Season 4 Episode 3
The Max Mallory Foundation - Joyce Lofstrom host

Join Andy Hood, an avid runner who used his testicular cancer diagnosis as a positive, next step as a runner. While he has never competed in or run a marathon, he has been running for years at the same 26-mile distance on trails around his home in North Devon in the United Kingdom.

He is the father of three boys, and at age 48, he learned he had testicular cancer. After an orchiectomy and chemotherapy, he came back, he says, as Andy 2.0  ready to run on the beautiful trails he knows and at the same time, raise awareness about testicular cancer.

Listen to Andy, known as runningwestwardho on Instagram, and his positive approach to testicular cancer on this episode of Don't Give Up on Testicular Cancer from the Max Mallory Foundation

Send us a Text Message.

Support the Show.

Find us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook & Linkedin.

If you can please support our nonprofit through Patreon.

Show Notes Transcript

Join Andy Hood, an avid runner who used his testicular cancer diagnosis as a positive, next step as a runner. While he has never competed in or run a marathon, he has been running for years at the same 26-mile distance on trails around his home in North Devon in the United Kingdom.

He is the father of three boys, and at age 48, he learned he had testicular cancer. After an orchiectomy and chemotherapy, he came back, he says, as Andy 2.0  ready to run on the beautiful trails he knows and at the same time, raise awareness about testicular cancer.

Listen to Andy, known as runningwestwardho on Instagram, and his positive approach to testicular cancer on this episode of Don't Give Up on Testicular Cancer from the Max Mallory Foundation

Send us a Text Message.

Support the Show.

Find us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook & Linkedin.

If you can please support our nonprofit through Patreon.

Running, Running, Running to Raise Awareness about Testicular Cancer, with Andy Hood, season 4, episode 3

ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Don't Give Up on Testicular Cancer, a podcast where testicular cancer survivors, caregivers, and others who have navigated the cancer journey share their stories. The podcast comes to you from the Max Mallory Foundation. A non-profit family foundation focused on educating about testicular cancer in honor and in memory of Max Mallory, who died in 2016 at the young age of 22 from testicular cancer. Had he survived, Max wanted to help young adults with cancer. This podcast helps meet that goal. Here now is your host, Joyce Lofstrom, Max's mom, and a young adult cancer survivor.

JOYCE: So with me today is Andy Hood and Andy will share his testicular cancer journey with us. He was 48 when he was diagnosed. And from the articles I've read about Andy, he likes to take something that might have a negative impact or feeling and make something positive out of it, which is what he did with his testicular cancer diagnosis. He joins us today from North Devon and in Newton Tracy in the UK. and he's going to talk about what happened to him and how he used his expertise as a runner and a marathoner to tell us a positive story. So Andy, thanks for joining me today.


ANDY: Joyce, it's absolutely my pleasure. Thank you for reaching out.


JOYCE: So tell us a little bit about your testicular cancer story, what happened and anything you want to share.


ANDY: Yeah, absolutely. And thank you for asking. Us men are pretty rubbish, aren't we, at this kind of stuff. We're pretty rubbish at checking ourselves, that's for sure. And I've been a real advocate ever since being diagnosed with talking about it and being very open about it. I was 48. I had just finished a really beautiful summer's evening run. I was on an old rail trail. That's a favourite of mine for a summer evening. It was it was really warm [night with a] nice cooling breeze and everything was just perfect, and I took the obligatory selfie on my phone to upload to my social media channels to prove I had actually been for a run, and I got home and had a shower. And something had stuck in my mind, which was a television program I'd been watching with our three boys just a couple of weeks before. And they'd been discussing in a lighthearted way, cancer, testicular cancer, prostate cancer. And I thought, well, at age 48, it's probably about time I checked myself, not having done so once in the 48 years previously. And I found that my left testis was significantly smaller than my right. It was about the size of a marble, and it was solid. That alerted me that something wasn't quite right, and I really should seek some phone call to the doctor the following morning. And honestly, Joyce, it was an absolute whirlwind from that point onwards over the course of about the next 10 to 14 days. I'd had scans. I'd seen the sonographer. I had an ultrasound initially. And then back in, the doctor then referred me to the urologist. And all I heard at the urologist's appointment was just that word, cancer. And it just got louder and louder. And I really didn't hear anything else he said at that point.


JOYCE: That is all you hear. I know--I've been through that too. And it really is. That's what you hear. I know. So what happened then?


ANDY: They wanted to take it out, which is naturally what they do with testicular cancer. They clearly spoke that they weren't going to muck around. I did get into some form of negotiation with the urologist because I was mid-training for a run to Land's End. which many people will know is the most westerly point of the UK mainland. I was mid-training for that. I was actually doing that for the Alzheimer's Society. My mum had lost her sister and she had dementia and I thought that this would be a nicer fitting way to do something in her memory. So I did have a slight negotiation with the urologist and told him I was mid-training and could we wait until that was over. It was a firm no.


JOYCE: Well, there you go.


ANDY: And just, it was three or four days later, I was on the operating table, I had an orchidectomy, having the left one removed. Because I had not been proved enough to check myself, it had spread a bit, thankfully not into the lymph nodes, but it had spread outside of the testes itself, and I had to have chemotherapy as a bit of a belt and braces approach. And that was tough, you know, being out of the running shoes was tough.


JOYCE: That takes quite a couple of months at least, doesn't it?


ANDY: It did, I mean that was early July and I tentatively ran, I use that word very lightly, probably late October, early November, by the time I felt ready to go back. I remember the surgeon coming to see me after the operation and he said, and he knew I was fit, he knew I run, and he said, you're going to take longer to recover, Andy, than most of my patients. And he says, it's got nothing to do with your fitness. He says, it's because you have got a lot of muscle in that area. You've had to go through a lot of dense muscle. And he says that muscle tissue is going to take a lot longer to heal than it would be if it was other type of tissue. So actually my running did me an injustice at that point.


JOYCE: Oh, wow. I didn't know that. That's interesting to hear. So talk a little bit about your running before we keep going on about cancer, because you're quite an accomplished runner. Talk about that if you would.


ANDY: I've always loved the outdoors, Joyce. I grew up in the country. I live in the country now, and I've just had a love of being outdoors. And as my mum would probably say, I had ants in my pants. I would never keep still for five minutes. If there was something to be done or somewhere to go, I'd be doing it. I used to cycle. I was an avid cyclist and I pivoted to running. I ran to support my cycling, but I actually realized that I was probably enjoying running more. And I was running up to marathon distance before I was diagnosed with cancer. I'd never done an organized event, never done an organized marathon. I much prefer to run alone most of the time and get off the beaten track. I enjoy trail running. But it was whilst I was recovering that I made the decision that I would rebuild stronger, and I would come back. I termed it at the time, I said I would come back as Andy version 2.0, and I would pivot my running from marathon running into ultra and endurance distances because I decided I really do have one shot at life and there was no time to waste.


JOYCE: Wow. That's great. You know, you talked about finding the doctor. Was that something--did you have to go outside of where you live? Did you have medical care close by? And just, I like to talk about that so other people can hear how it worked for you.


ANDY: It was remarkable. We're very fortunate in the UK to have the National Health Service. They come in for a tough time in the media sometimes, but my experience of the National Health Service is nothing but exceptional, and I still have close monitoring now, and my experience remains exceptional. I made a phone call to my family doctor. I told him what I thought I had found, and I was in his office within the space of 24 hours. I had to get used to stripping off and dropping my pants, which became just quite amusing. Everybody seemed to want me to do that. Everyone I saw. And he was he was very good guy. My GP was very good. He examined me and said, I'm going to put you on a two-week referral for a scan, which here in the UK is usually an indication that they think it could be cancer on a two-week referral. It was much quicker than that. And I was then in having an ultrasound. And I remember lying there and the sonographer who was doing the ultrasound said to me, when are you seeing your doctor next? And I said, well, a guy who's my doctor said he would give me a ring once he's obviously got your scan. How quickly, how many days does that take to get there? He said it will be on his desk before you leave my room.


JOYCE: Oh, wow.

ANDY: I remember coming back to my wife and I was in denial at that point. I was like, it could be a million other things. I'd done the one thing that we should never do. I Googled it.


JOYCE: Oh, yes, I know. Dr. Google, right? So, yeah.


ANDY: So I was telling myself it could be one of many things, not necessarily cancer. And my wife said to me, she just looked to me and said, you're kidding yourself. There is no way that sonographer would have said that that will be on his desk. And when are you going to next talk to your doctor? If what he had seen, he wasn't pretty confident about. And she was right. So my primary care is exceptional. Our doctor's is just 10 miles from where I live.


JOYCE: Oh, that's a great thing, yeah. You're lucky you got that out of the sonographer, because a lot of times it's like, well, no, I'll just send it to the doctor. But you got a hint, I guess, of what was in the opting, I suppose, so.


ANDY: Yeah, he was actually when I when I think back to it, he was he was so relaxed. I remember his name. His name was Nigel. We had a really lovely conversation. He made me feel very relaxed about everything. And actually he said, oh, I want to I want to just scan your liver. I just want to scan your kidneys while I'm here as well. You know, he didn't make anything feel untoward. He said, oh, sometimes what you're experiencing can originate from there. I clearly found out that actually it's not, it's the reverse of that. But his manner was just so calming and made me feel so relaxed, and I was very grateful for that.


JOYCE: Yeah, that makes a big difference. So yeah, you were older. I mean, you're not old, but for testicular cancer, you're kind of at the end of the age range, at least what they say the age range is. Did anyone talk with you about that?


ANDY: Not at the time, no. I mean everything was just very fast and I had, I call it a care package, I just felt like I had this care package suddenly moving around me, all these people suddenly moving around me and as much as they have got so many other patients to look after, I felt like I was, or they made me feel like I was the most important person in their life at that point. So everything was very fast, very clearly explained, but not the age range. It was only exploring that myself online that I really understood that this is very much a young person's cancer. Typically, we're talking, you know, the 15- to 35-year-old age group. It's very prevalent within my age at 48. It's very much in the upper end, although I will say, having been very open about it and I've got the website, which I know you've read my Cancer and Me article about, I actually had someone who is an acquaintance of ours reach out to me and say that he has just been diagnosed with testicular cancer. He had not called it early enough. It has spread in his body, and he is 69.


JOYCE: Oh my, 69, really? Wow. That's the oldest I've heard of all the people I've talked with, so wow. What do you think was your biggest challenge throughout all of this?


ANDY: I think it was mental more than physical. Physically, I think we know that things will heal, the scar will heal, the tiredness and all the other side effects from the chemotherapy will subside. We were mid-COVID when I had this. This was mid-2021. We were going in bouncing in and out of lockdowns here in the UK and that did concern me around how that would impact my treatment and it didn't at all. But it was mentally, it was laying there in my bed when I was back at home. And there were two things that struck me. First of all, being out of the running shoes, being away from what I really loved, and I take a lot from running, really, really affected me. And I got a bit down about that. But I think the other thing that really got me mentally was I didn't ask for this. I never invited cancer to come and visit me or into my body. And as much as we know about it, we also don't. And I still go through, I'm a much calmer, much more peace about it now, but I still go through the, well, what happens if, and the when will conversations are never far away, I think, from my mind. I never invited it into my life in the first instance, so what stops it from coming back again? Again, I think us men are particularly bad at being open mentally. And when I managed to do my Land's End run, which was a year after when I planned to do it, I raised for a couple of charities, including the cancer charity. And it was really the first time I spoke about it very, very openly to everybody I saw. I wore a top which made, you know, very clear what I was doing and why I was doing it and I had so many conversations with people of all different ages, and I found that very cathartic.


JOYCE: Yeah, that would be, that's great too. I've always been the type of person that--and I've had cancer several times--but it always helps me to talk about it. If you want me to tell you about it, sure, I'll sit here and talk about it as long as you want. And it's very personal, but I think that's great that you did that, that you could talk about it. So it sounds like you had a lot of support too, right?


ANDY: I've got a great family around me. My wife was amazing around that time and always has been. We've got three boys. They are now 21, 19 and 17. So they are absolutely in that age group. I think it was very important for me that they understood exactly what I was going through. And they understood the importance of checking themselves. We have a little WhatsApp type group in the family and because one of our eldest sons is working away, no longer lives with us. And we have Testers Tuesday on the first Tuesday of every month. That's great! We get it done. So having the support around me I think was the immediate support was really good but the running community, what a community. When I announced that this is what I had, this is what I was going through, the positivity that came out of the running community, people that I have met and people I know, and many across the world that I don't, was just exceptional. And it's the messages that drop into your inbox or into your Instagram DMs, that just being in the world that you realize that somebody is thinking about you today.


JOYCE: That's a good segue, I think, into what you've done yourself in terms of giving back and making an outcome that's positive with your running and donations to the different groups. I found you on Instagram when you were doing the treadmill 24-hour run, which is about 99 miles. I think it was 160 kilometers. Is that right?


ANDY: Yeah.


JOYCE: So, and then you also had something where you ran around London, I think I read. See, to me that would be very fun because I'm a big Beatles fan, so I'd have to go by Abbey Road, but I don't know where that was. But just talk about all that and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. I mean, you had a lot going.


ANDY: I have. The London run actually is this Saturday.


JOYCE: Oh, you haven't done it yet. Okay.


ANDY: Yeah, it's this Saturday. I'm really very much looking forward to that. I'll tell you about that in a moment, absolutely. The Land's End run was really the start of it, and I had already planned that in the diary, and I'd planned to fundraise for the Alzheimer's Society in memory of Auntie Claire's sister. But I changed that around, and in the end, when I did the Land's End run, I fundraised for the Alzheimer's Society, Macmillan Cancer Support, and the Young Persons Mental Health Charity, Young Minds, who do great outreach programs in schools and colleges. And that really ignited a fire that the conversations I had all the way down to Land's End got me thinking that this is something, this is a real purpose, this is an opportunity that I think has been brought to my door that would not have been there unless I had gone through cancer. And as much as we fundraise, perhaps in our lives, or we sponsor people doing events, it became more than that for me. It became a platform to talk about it, to be open about it, to encourage people to be supportive of one another.


And so I now design my own events and I choose the charities I'm going to support. After the Lands End run, I did a 50 kilometre, 31-ish mile ultramarathon on a treadmill in the middle of a busy shopping centre one Saturday. And I had the Oddballs Foundation there who do their cancer outreach programs here in the UK. And I had a local cancer centre called the Fern Centre based at our hospital. They were there as well. I fundraised specifically for them. I then have just completed, you mentioned, a 24-hour run on a treadmill, which is one of the hardest things I've ever done.


Treadmill running is very hard on the body, and I was in quite a bit of discomfort in the days following, but that discomfort was worth it. It raised a terrific amount of money for a local charity here in North Devon, located just 10 miles away from where I live. called Chemo Hero. That was started by a young lady by the name of Lisa Wallace. She was, just a few days before her 30th birthday, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She lived with breast cancer for around nine years, sadly passed away in 2021, which was when I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. and her lasting legacy are these boxes of kindness which are gifted to chemotherapy patients at the Fern Centre up here in North Devon and worldwide they've sent boxes as far as Australia and out through Europe to cancer patients receiving chemotherapy at their first treatment and they include really thoughtful items in those boxes which are not just useful but are thoughtful. So there's a digital thermometer in there, they're expensive to buy and of course you know keeping an eye on your temperature is important There are beanies in there or headscarves in there for the inevitable hair loss, which is very common. And there are also really lovely thoughtful things because Lisa always used to say that, you know, everything was better over a cup of tea with a friend. So they put two tea bags in there.


JOYCE: Oh, nice.


ANDY: Which is just a wonderful touch. So I did the 24-hour treadmill run for them. And then on the Saturday coming, I'm in London. I'm doing a 50K ultramarathon, which is my own self-designed route, starting at Stratford, which is very close to the London Stadium, which is where the 2012 Olympic Games was held, and finishing at a place called Canary Wharf. It's 50 kilometers, 31 miles, and I will visit 21 Krispy Kreme donut stores on the way.


JOYCE: And so what will you do there? Are you going to eat a donut at every stop?


ANDY: Do you know Joyce, that is a question which has been asked many times. No, I'm not sure I'd be able to stomach a donut at every store, but I reached out to Krispy Kreme. They've been really good in their support. They're providing me with some donuts at the beginning, they're providing some at the end, and probably the odd one in between as well. But it was, I love running, I love Krispy Kreme, and I just wanted to see whether I could combine those two together. So I mapped out all their store locations in London, took out the real outlying stores, and that left me with 21 stores that took me through some of the best parts of London. I'm going to be going past Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, St Paul's Cathedral, Big Ben, Tower Bridge. I'll have a little look and see where Abbey Road is for you. Just see how close I am. If I'm close enough, I'll get you a picture.


JOYCE: Yes, please do. And I love Krispy Kreme too. Yeah, you have it figured out. So that's good.


ANDY: Do you have a favorite flavor?


JOYCE: Oh, I'm pretty much just plain doughnuts. I don't eat a lot of them; I like with the cream in the middle. I think those are good. But I don't like frosted doughnuts. I like just plain, you know, the basic. So how about you? What's your favorite?


ANDY: You know, I think it would be tough to choose. Biscoff, I think, is really lovely. I like the chocolate nutty Nutella one. That's very nice. I think I could probably eat any one of their doughnuts.


JOYCE: It's good. I like coconut, so that would be very good. Well, I'll have to watch for that update then on Instagram.


ANDY: I've got a live tracker. I've got a company that built the map on a live GPS track. I've got a GPS tracker with me on the day, so I'll publish that to that link and people will follow me around. So I'll send that to you.


JOYCE: Yeah, you've got to send out some notices to the TV outlets there. BBC, I guess, right?


ANDY: Yes, I'm actually running very, very close to BBC. I'm within probably 150 yards. 


JOYCE: Oh, really? Yeah, very cool. So what's next? You've got all this running going and sounds like great plans, but what's next in life, career, anything you want to share?


ANDY: For me, I want to keep using my experience of testicular cancer as a positive influence on my life. As I mentioned before, I talk about it a lot and I've got ideas to keep talking about it. We've got a growing mental health challenge with our young people. So I'd like to look at combining my experience of what I've been through both physically and mentally to benefit our young people. So I've got some ideas around that. As a career, I am very used to being on Zoom, which you and I are on recording this on right now. I'm actually a trainer. I train salespeople, I train managers to develop them. So I'm very comfortable in front of large audiences. So if we can blend in perhaps some audience work as well and get that message out there. But I just want to advocate, particularly for us men, we are typically closed shops. We need to break down those barriers. We need to be more self-aware and self-confident. And we need to be okay to turn around to someone and say, do you know what?, I'm not okay today.


JOYCE: You're right. You're absolutely right. I think when people do say that, others usually step up and try to find out why and try to help.


ANDY: I think it's amazing the support networks that we have around us that we don't appreciate.


JOYCE: Yeah. I think that's true. You just have to ask for help. And that's sometimes really hard to do, but I'm glad you said that. I think that's really, really important. So my last question is, what song, when you hear it, you have to sing along to?


ANDY: I loved reading that on the sheet you sent me, because it was a very easy choice. I have one song. It is my ringtone on my phone. Okay. And my family knows that it is the one I would definitely put into the car. And I have the most awful singing voice, but it's the best singing voice when it's on. And it is Don Henley and The Boys of Summer.


JOYCE: Okay. All right.


ANDY: And for me, that is really just a very motivational, upbeat song. And the summer is my season. I love being out there in the summer, particularly those long summer nights that he sings about.


JOYCE: Very good. So it sounds like you have a lot of places around your home that you can run, like trails and woods and pretty places, it sounds like. Yeah, yeah.


ANDY: Yeah, very lucky. Where I live is very rural so I can. Tonight, I'll be out running straight out the front door and I'm on just single-track rural lanes. I can run for an hour or two and not see a soul. We've got two big moors very close to us, Exmoor and Dartmoor, which are very rugged and wild. They're both very different in their nature, but they both offer beautiful trails to run. And then we've got the South West Coast Path which is right on my doorstep really and that runs 130 mile national trail that runs from the North Somerset coastline really, Minehead, all the way round to Dorset, Christchurch and Poole and that swings round the Devon Cornwall, back round the bottom end of Cornwall and then into Dorset. So you'll find me there quite there, it's a beautiful place to be.


JOYCE: Sounds great. So hopefully you'll come back in maybe a year or tell us a little more about what's going on. It would be great.


ANDY: I'd be absolutely delighted to. And I've already written down Abbey Road on my piece of paper.


JOYCE: There you go. OK. Thank you.


ANDY: All right. The first thing I'm going to do when we finish is I'm going to look exactly where it is based on my route. If I'm close by, I promise I'll visit.


JOYCE: Oh, that'd be great. All right. Very fun. So thanks, Andy.


ANDY: You're very welcome. Thank you.

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