Daniel Simpson, (35) originally from Comber, was diagnosed with testicular cancer at 17 years old. Being ill really helped him focus on how he wanted his life to look and it was then that he set himself the goal of coaching in professional football. He is now living in England and working as a Game Insights Analyst at the English Football Association. Daniel also became a dad to his partner Aswalia’s daughter Imara (11) and their daughter Ayla (2). He is a keen advocate of being aware of your body and checking out anything abnormal. Daniel wants to encourage young men to not be too embarrassed to speak about your symptoms as he was, something that ultimately very nearly cost him his life.
Now recovered, Daniel reflects on his diagnosis:
“When I was 16 or 17, I was experiencing a lot of back pain which made it very difficult to sleep at night or move around. I was playing football at the time and had to stop because of the pain. These symptoms continued for over a year and having seen a doctor they thought it might be a kidney infection but being a young and shy lad, I was too embarrassed to mention a huge swelling in one of my testicles. It wasn’t until I mentioned this to the GP that I was sent immediately to the Ulster Hospital with no real idea what was going on.
“When I got to the Ulster, I was met with posters on all the walls about cancer which worried me a little, but I didn’t think too much of it as I thought this type of thing doesn’t happen to young healthy people like me. What a shock I was in for then when they told me! The consultant sat me down and told me I had a tumour, to which I replied, “What’s that?”. When the consultant answered my question with the word ‘cancer’ everything became a bit surreal. I was too shocked to even tell my mum and dad and to this day one of my biggest regrets is that they had to hear my diagnosis from the consultant and not me. I held it together quite well until my mum and dad appeared at the hospital and seeing their reaction everything hit home at once.
“Almost immediately I was booked in to have the affected testicle removed, but this was only to allow the doctors to find out the extent of the problem. As I had ignored the symptoms for so long the cancer had spread to my lungs, kidneys, back of my stomach, stomach and lymph nodes. It was decided then that I would need chemotherapy. This process consumed most of the following year and because my cancer had reached stage 4 it made it very difficult to get rid of. The staff at the City Hospital were incredible and I owe a lot to them. The first night I was in the hospital was the scariest of my life and I begged my parents not to leave me there. I was moved to a ward with people close to my age, however, I think the youngest was still 10 years older than me. The chemotherapy got rid of a lot of the tumours but ultimately, I needed a major operation to remove tumours and problem cells that remained after chemotherapy . The consultant told me, ‘If you don’t have this operation pretty soon you will be looking upwards at the flowers.The operation didn’t seem to go to plan initially as the scans afterwards were showing that it had not cleared enough . My mum begged the consultant to allow her and my dad to take me home. As a mother’s worst fear of losing a child, her intention for this was to allow me to pass away at home rather than the hospital.”
“Fortunately, as the days went by the operation turned out to be more of a success than the doctors first thought and a few months later I was incredibly given the all-clear! Going through his diagnosis and treatment, Daniel was told and always believed that the chances of having children were incredibly unlikely. Having met my partner Aswalia and her 7 year old daughter Imara at the time, I got the opportunity to become a dad and then the impossible really happened to me. I was also lucky enough to have Ayla come along shortly after. She is now 2 and being a dad is the greatest achievement I could ever have hoped for.”
Daniel added: “My advice for people going through cancer is to keep doing the things you love, even in a smaller capacity and keep finding ways to grow. It really helped me to focus on my new goal of working in professional football and I wanted to put myself in the best possible position for when I get better.”
Daniel maintains that although it was a traumatic experience, he is now a much better and stronger person for having gone through it.
“I now run ultra-marathons, took part in Cancer Focus NI’s Mourne Seven Summits and I have recently signed up for a race in Madeira in April which I’m really looking forward to, especially as we can make it into a family holiday. When I’m having really tough moments, I often reflect back on what I’ve achieved, and with belief and a positive mindset, you give yourself a great opportunity to overcome whatever is put in front of you.