A few years ago my dad managed to drag me up mount Snowdon in Wales. I didn’t really see the point of it and was kind of p*ssed off that I was the only victim of the family who had been dragged up a bloody mountain. Both my mum and sister managed to wriggle out of it, which annoyed me further, and at the time I couldn’t see a purpose for it – I was a teenager after all. My dad explained to me that he was keen to meet a young man on the climb named Phily from up North who ran a testicular cancer charity called Checkemlads, along with a group of others who are highly dedicated. There is clearly a strong emphasis here on checking your testicles as this plays a key part in tackling cancer. The charity isn’t like a lot of others out there, it doesn’t sugarcoat things and actually allows you to understand on a deeper level, what sufferers and survivors go through. Phily is adamant that donations are extremely kind but his focus is on awareness more than anything – something that sticks with me the most. A cancer survivor himself, Phily’s goal is to spread a massive wave of awareness and support for others going through a difficult time.
It was clear my dad felt an attachment to Phily’s honest but kind spirit. Each summer Phily goes along with friends, family and people from other cancer organisations such as The Mark Gorry Foundation and Testicle Tour, to climb mount Snowdon as a remembrance for those who have lost their lives to cancer. The day gives those who participate a time to reflect, meet others who are going through similar life changes and generally make friends. It is safe to say I certainly gained a new appreciation for my life and those around me during the trek – something I didn’t anticipate happening at all. Don’t get me wrong, Phily and the others never fail to keep you entertained with their cheeky banter, but the climb definitely offers a lot of time to reflect. It can be quite eye opening climbing with other cancer survivors as they don’t hide the fact that they are struggling themselves during the climb.
Climbing up the mountain, I soon learnt about Phily’s blunt approach to testicular cancer. It is ruthless and it can kill you. Without awareness of the effects of testicular cancer on men and their loved ones around them, it can be extremely difficult to understand and endure. I didn’t get to chat that much to the other people that selflessly help Phily to run the charity, but I did get to speak to Phily. His character and soft scouse accent (he’ll probably hate me saying that), was brilliant. Extremely warm from the inside out, he is an incredible guy and I can’t stress this enough. It’s people like him who make a difference to an individual’s life.
A couple of summers later I completed the trek for a second time with my dad, sister and her partner, holding a completely different perspective to the first climb. I understood the purpose on a much clearer level and felt blessed to experience the day with Phily and many others. After only meeting him twice, Phily has already helped me to understand why he is so great at what he is doing. A lot of charities may ignore the emotional consequences of cancer and this is something that I’m sure Phily is great with. Even during a time where I was suffering with depression, Phily acted as someone who was able to support me. It was beneficial having someone to talk to who wasn’t immediately connected to my parents, friends or a counsellor. In a way, I kind of experienced a small part of the support that Phily and others offer to cancer survivors.
The Checkemlads website is definitely worth a view as it holds some substantial information regarding testicular cancer. Phily continues to work so hard on the charity and has begun to launch another website known as Checkemgirls which intends to offer support for women who’s lives have been effected by testicular cancer, which is incredible. The support the websites offer continues to expand and I think it is so important to acknowledge people like Phily who are really trying to help people. I’m sure Phily would agree with me in saying that the most important message that you can take from this is to check your testicles!!!