Teenager thought ‘lethargy’ was from losing grandad but it was testicular cancer

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A teenager who had initially thought he was tired due to grieving his granddad’s death was told he actually had cancer.

University of Chester student Ben Thornton was diagnosed with testicular cancer aged just 19.

Doctors told him it had spread to his liver, lungs and brain in just 48 hours.

He received the devastating diagnosis just days after attending his grandfather’s funeral.

Ben has recalled the day two years ago he saw his GP about feeling lethargic.

The doctor immediately recognised something was seriously wrong and sent him to A&E.

After running some tests, doctors told Ben that they suspected he had cancer in his lungs.

He was then taken to intensive care, where it was discovered that the cancer had started in his testicles and had spread.

Ben said: “I’d just started my second year of university and went back home to Bristol for my granddad’s funeral. I was feeling lethargic, but I just put it down to the fact that I was going through an emotional time.

“As the week went on I started feeling a bit fluey and sick, I remember sitting in the church during the funeral and feeling queasy.

“When I got back home to Chester I saw a GP, who told me I looked really dehydrated and should go to A&E.

“I could barely walk at this point so got a mate to drive me there – but even walking from the car to the hospital entrance was a struggle and I had to lean on the wall to recover.”

He started emergency chemotherapy right away and had to stay in the ICU for about three weeks.

Once he was well enough, he was transferred to Clatterbridge Hospital, where he was supported by Teenage Cancer Trust’s specialist nurses.

Ben was in treatment over Christmas 2018, and worried that he would not make it home for Christmas Day.

He explains: “It was touch and go as to whether I’d be allowed home for Christmas – but on Christmas Eve I managed to convince them to let me go.

“I managed to have a big Christmas dinner and fitted in a snooze afterwards to wake myself back up. We still had fun as a family, and I played new Xbox games with my siblings like we usually would.”

Shortly after Christmas, Ben was transferred to a Teenage Cancer Trust unit in Bristol to be closer to his family.

He finished chemotherapy in April 2019, and then went through two surgeries: one to remove two lymph nodes on his liver, and one to remove his right testicle.

Ben is now in remission, but the coronavirus crisis has made 2020 another challenging year.

He explains: “There are some benign tumours left in my lungs and I’m asthmatic, so I could be more at risk.

We’d planned to go to Australia this year but that’s now had to be cancelled – I was seeing it as a big trip to celebrate getting back to normal.

This year’s really been put on hold.”

Now aged 21, Ben is backing a new campaign from charity Teenage Cancer Trust – and has a message of hope and sound advice for people young and old this Christmas who are facing cancer treatment during the coronavirus pandemic.

He adds: “My advice to people going through treatment at this time of year is to really throw yourself into Christmas!

Christmas is a great opportunity to forget about treatment, so try not to spend it worrying about what’s ahead. And most importantly, eat as much as you can!”

Coronavirus has had a severe impact on Teenage Cancer Trust’s income, slashing it by a third – a shortfall of around £6million a year.

Yet due to the pandemic, support from its specialist nurses and youth workers is needed more than ever, which is why Ben is sharing his story in support of the charity’s Christmas fundraising appeal.

Kate Collins, Chief Executive at Teenage Cancer Trust, said: “Sadly, young people with cancer have been hit harder than most by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Many have gone months without seeing their friends and have worries that their treatment could be disrupted.

“Others fear catching coronavirus while their immune system is lowered and have had to face hospital visits and stays without loved ones due to infection control measures.

“Donations to Teenage Cancer Trust mean that we can provide young people with specialist units, expert nurses to support them through treatment, dedicated youth workers to help them cope with anxiety and isolation, and a virtual network of other young people to chat to.

“All of this makes their difficult journey that little bit easier, and that’s why we’re appealing for people to donate a few pounds this Christmas to help out young people like Ben.”

Visit the Teenage Cancer Trust here to donate to its Christmas appeal.