Dr Richard Adams, 46, is an oncologist and cancer researcher based at Cardiff University and Velindre Cancer Centre in Wales.
Three years ago, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, and was treated with surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Thankfully Richard is now doing well and is making the most of time spent with his wife Ness and their three children.
Richard’s is one of the stories that feature in our Annual Review, which highlights the progress we’ve made this year.
‘Until you’re given a cancer diagnosis, you have absolutely no idea how you are going to respond to it’
I first noticed a swelling in my right testicle in March 2013. I’ve treated men with testicular cancer before and it was one of a list of possibilities that went through my head. I went to see a radiology colleague in the cancer centre where I work to request an ultrasound to see if my suspicions were correct.
They were – the ultrasound showed a tumour.
Until you’re given a cancer diagnosis, you have absolutely no idea how you are going to respond to it. It’s interesting how your mind focuses on other people, something I’ve seen a lot with patients under my care.
I went first to tell my wife Ness who works with me at the cancer centre. I wondered about the impact my treatment would have on her and our three boys, who were 5, 7 and 10 at the time. I also felt a sense of duty to keep seeing my patients in the clinic.
Life was very busy at the time – at work and at home with the kids. And because I like keeping active I was running, snowboarding and helping at my children’s football club.
But being diagnosed with cancer is one of those things that has the ability to suddenly take over everything else – and to some degree that’s what it did.
I’m incredibly grateful for my family and colleagues who were so supportive and helped me deal with it.
‘I did well for cuddles’
Ness and I had a discussion with our children, saying “Dad’s got an illness called ‘cancer’ and he has to have some treatment.” They took it very well and I did well for cuddles.
I had an operation in March to remove the tumour, one round of chemotherapy and three weeks of radiotherapy. The treatment made me feel nauseous and absolutely exhausted. I was off work for 12 weeks in total and the children helped their mum look after me.
Without research, I know that my cancer wouldn’t have been cured.
-Dr Richard Adams
After I finished the chemotherapy Ness and I went out for lunch in town. It felt so nice to be able to do that.
I’m now doing well – there are possible future side effects from the treatment that I had, but they’re reasonably minor. Thankfully my follow-up scans and assessments have been fine and there is a very low risk of the cancer coming back.
Since my diagnosis I’m more conscious of my own mortality – I make sure to spend more time with my family. When we go skiing, I’m not doing the runs on my own; I go down the slopes with my children. And at the weekends I don’t just watch their games of football, I coach them and their teams instead.
‘I’m more aware of the anxieties patients are feeling’
When I see patients in my clinic now, I’m more aware of the anxieties they’re feeling. After they have a scan, I try to make sure they get their results as early as possible so they don’t have to wait for them. I know that waiting to hear results can be a scary experience.
I also try and ensure that as soon as possible after their diagnosis, each patient has a very clear plan of how best to proceed. And where relevant, I involve them in the decision-making process. Whenever I give a patient treatment, I will talk to them about the medical procedure, the potential future outcome and how they’re coping.
‘I constantly see research improving outcomes for patients’
Through the hard work of fundraisers and researchers and, with input from patients and families, I constantly see research improving outcomes for patients – from better surgery, new drugs and new therapies, to better quality of aftercare.
As a cancer researcher, I am very keen to do my best to add my piece to the jigsaw and drive things further forward.
Specifically, I hope to play a part in developing more targeted treatments for patients, something which is becoming more and more important.
‘Thank you from me, my family and many more like us’
Without research, I know that my cancer wouldn’t have been cured. And neither would the cancers of many others, including my patients.
I’m very grateful for the support from so many people at Cancer Research UK. Their fundraising brings people together and enables world-leading research which is used to treat patients globally. People who support the charity make that research happen and deserve our respect and thanks.
So thank you from me, my family and many more like us.
Dr Richard Adams