Blaxland teenager shares testicular cancer journey for Movember

Blaxland teenager William Zagarella thought testicular cancer was an "old man's disease", until he got his diagnosis at age 16.

He's chosen to speak about his journey for Movember, to raise awareness about the disease.

William discovered a lump - barely the size of a pea - on his testicle last year, and got it checked out by the GP, who referred him to a specialist for an ultrasound.

The scan revealed a stage two tumour, and William underwent surgery a fortnight later, in June.

Initially, it appeared the tumour had been successfully removed and the cancer hadn't spread.

Seven months later, William discovered the cancer had spread to a lymph node in his abdomen.

"It was extremely scary, I had to put everything on hold," William said.

Nine weeks of chemotherapy followed at the Nepean Cancer Care Centre, and William's hair fell out.

"It really set me back. My hair was really thick, dark hair and I got compliments on it from everyone. Going to school and hanging out with my mates really took a toll on me," William said.

But his friends rallied around him and shaved their heads for their school swimming carnival in support.

"They were doing everything they could. Every day they would check in on me and make sure I was OK," William said.

With a weakened immune system during the coronavirus pandemic, there were few opportunities for William to see his friends in person, but when this could happen it was a huge boost.

William is now in remission and has been given the all clear. He thanked the staff at the cancer care centre for their ongoing care and support. His hair is growing back - lighter and curlier - and he says "it's growing on me."

Despite all the time off school, the year 12 St Columba's Catholic College student is sitting his final HSC exams, and hopes to be accepted into the airforce.

He wants to educate others, adding that regular testicle checks are crucial.

"I always check myself monthly and feel any abnormalities down there. No matter how small or how scary it is, get it checked out," William said.

"If I wasn't very accurate with checking myself I wouldn't have seen it".

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men. It is one of the primary focuses of the annual Movember campaign, encouraging men to grow a moustache and fundraise for men's mental health, suicide prevention, prostate cancer and testicular cancer in November.

Movember's country director Rachel Carr said: "If there's ever been a time to embrace Movember and shed those lockdown beards, it's now, in 2020. It's been an incredibly difficult year for men, which makes this year's campaign our most important, yet.

"Research conducted by Movember shows us the effects of the pandemic on men's mental health in particular, is concerning, and is still far from over. Job losses, relationship stresses and social isolation are taking a toll. We've been working hard to fast-track digital mental health resources, to address the need," she said.

Ms Carr said every donation, no matter how small adds up. "Signing up for Mo-season is also a great way to stay connected within your own social circles, it's been shown that supporting others can improve your own wellbeing," she said.

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