Check yourself out, says special constable
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As Movember draws to a close, one of our Specials wants to emphasise the importance of men continuing to talk about and take an interest in their own health the whole year round.
“There's a lot in the news about women's health, particularly when talking about cancer and the importance of breast screening.
“Women certainly find it easier to talk about their issues and health in general than men do but we need to think about why this is and how we can get men to change.“
Special Constable Mikey Mihalyfi
Mikey is the Community Special Constable for Halstead and has been a Special since July 2018. Almost exactly a year later he was diagnosed with testicular cancer - in the same week he moved into a new house.
Mikey says his story begins in January 2019 when he signed up with fellow Specials for the Three Peaks Challenge. A couple of months later while out running, he first noticed ‘a bit of pain down below’.
“I thought nothing of it and put it down to the running and exercising I was now doing. After all, I felt good, had loads of energy so who would have suspected anything nasty like cancer? I couldn't have been more wrong!”
Mikey continued running and was excited about moving into his new house and the upcoming Three Peaks. But, one day, ‘out of nowhere’ he found himself in agony.
“My right testicle was at least double the size it should have been and I could hardly walk without pain. There was no way I could 'put it off' so I got a doctor’s appointment for the following day.
“The next six weeks were a bit of a blur. Within a week I’d moved into my new home, been to the hospital twice, seen a consultant and had a scan. Within a month, I had an orchidectomy and my right testicle was removed.
“I had a lot of complications and the cancer spread to some lymph nodes which blocked and damaged my kidney. But in January, I began chemotherapy at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London so I was under good care with the top doctors. Chemo finished right before Lockdown in March and I've had regular check-ups since.
“However, I can't help but wonder what the outcome would have been if I had seen a doctor in March 2019 when I first noticed and felt those pains. Would the cancer have spread? Would my kidney have got damaged? Probably not! Most cancers can be treated but only if they are caught early.”
Mikey, who is 28, says cancer does not run in his family and so he’d never thought about it before. And he says several friends have remarked that he is young to have cancer but testicular cancer is most common in men aged 19 to 35.
“The point I'm making is the importance of checking yourself regularly and, if something isn't right, speaking to someone - after all, there’s only one person who truly knows their own body, and that's you! It’s essential to check yourself at any age.
“Growing up, I never spoke about things like that with anyone so I never did any checks or comparisons. I urge everyone to do this and, most importantly, to talk to your children about it as they grow up. Cancer doesn’t only target adults, children can get it too. Talking is so, so important when it comes to health and personal issues such as this.”
Mikey admits he doesn’t know how he’d have got through the past year or so without his friends.
“I’ve got some really good friends who have helped me through probably the most important year of my life and I don't know how I would have done it without them. I also had welfare support from Essex Police – particularly my friends within the force but also from the organisation itself. And I also had some support from the Essex Police Benevolent Fund charity.”
In his other life, Mikey runs his own business, Michael James Driver Training, and found it fitted in well with his volunteering as a Special. Circumstances over the past year means that the 60 to 80 hours a month Mikey initially volunteered have dropped but he hopes to do more in the future.
“I became a Special because it had interested me for a while and, being self-employed, I've got great flexibility to work when I want, within reason. Since joining Essex Police, I've made some lifelong friends who have been there for me in the job and outside of the job as well.”
And the Three Peaks Challenge? Well, understandably, Mikey never made it but he still volunteered to be in the team which supported his fellow climbers, just weeks after his surgery.
Mikey found these websites helpful during and after his treatment: