Life Health Features

Sunday 21 September 2014

Irish rugby player appeals to men to be more aware of testicular cancer

After the tragic loss of a friend to the disease, rugby star Jordi Murphy tells why it is vital to ignore the macho culture and seek help early

Published 21/07/2014 | 00:00

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Irish rugby international and Leinster flanker Jordi Murphy.
The 23-year-old playing for Ireland against Argentina in June this year.

Irish rugby international and Leinster flanker Jordi Murphy (23) is the perfect case in point of an old head on young, albeit quite considerable, shoulders. He became this way in April after he found himself faced with death for the first time, following the loss of a close friend to testicular cancer.

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The event has been both a shock and an eye-opener for the young rugby star.

"I lost my very close friend to testicular cancer," Jordi says. "It has not just affected me, but his whole family and circle of friends. It was the last thing that we were expecting was going to happen. You relate death with old age really, don't you? Not with someone your own age, but what's happened, has happened."

"I don't think we'll ever be used to it," Jordi adds softly. "Although it is such a sad thing, it has brought people together too, so it's all about looking after each other now that little bit more."

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According to Jordi, many men - and he includes himself in this category - are loath to tell others about their health issues or ask for help and support.

"Men are very proud and often wouldn't like to admit that there is anything wrong and if there is, they like to try and sort it out themselves. But a cancer scare is not something that the average person can look after by themselves," he says. "You need help and realising that early and getting an early diagnosis can save your life."

"I have to become better myself too I suppose, I can't just preach," Jordi smiles. "Before this happened, if I had a lump somewhere, I probably wouldn't have thought to do anything about it. But now if I had any problem whatsoever I would have no shame in going to a doctor and having it checked out. It's so important and men aren't as open as women would be about it."

The macho tradition of men bottling their worries and not seeking medical intervention early enough is a huge issue in terms of male cancers, particularly when one considers the fact that men are 28pc more likely than women to be affected by cancer in their life time, and 38pc more likely to die from the disease.

"It's vitally important that men start changing their mindset and become more proactive. It's something that we all need to become more aware of," Jordi says.

"The front of rugby is not as tough as it used to be even; we all look after each other a bit better these days and I think we can talk about these kinds of things now, whereas maybe back in the day you might have been ashamed to, or put down for it - now there is none of that. It's only right too, because talking about it really is the difference between life and death," Jordi adds.

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Losing his friend has inspired Jordi to become an ambassador for the newly formed Men's Cancer Alliance (MCA) which will see him joining in the group's fight to raise awareness of the illness amongst men of all ages.

The MCA is a new umbrella alliance formed by The Mater Hospital Foundation, The Mercy Hospital Foundation and Cancer Care West organisations.

The group aims to create awareness about men's cancers, the treatments and supports available and to also raise funds for the creation of a number of men's cancer support initiatives.

In the next two decades, the World Health Organisation predicts that cancer cases will rise by up to 70pc and that in Ireland alone, there will be over 30,000 new cases of cancer diagnosed each year.

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