real life

Amanda noticed something unusual about her partner's testicle. It saved his life.

Comedian Michael Shafar had been feeling sick for months. His right testicle had been growing bigger and bigger, he had back pain and was feeling "fluey."

But he kept pushing the symptoms to the side. It was 2017. He was 26. And he was enjoying a rise to notoriety in the comedy world.

If it wasn't for his girlfriend Amanda, Michael probably wouldn't have even gone to the doctor at all. Even once he was there, he avoided talking about his balls at first, focusing instead on his flu symptoms.

Watch: Shafer on stage talking about his cancer. Post continues after video.


Video via Michael Shafer/YouTube.

"I almost didn't bring up the testicular issues until the last second where I was like, 'while you're here, I think my right testicle is getting big, do you mind having a look at it?'" Michael recalled on Mamamia's news podcast The Quicky.

"I had him look at it in a round-a-bout way, I think I was y'know embarrassed like most guys. You don't want to show your genitals to some guy you don't know that well. He had a look and was like yeah, I think we'll send you off for an ultrasound and a blood test."

It was a Friday, and the results came back by that afternoon. He had testicular cancer. By Monday, Michael was in surgery having his right testicle removed and by the Thursday he'd started chemotherapy. 

Listen to Michael's chat with The Quicky. Post continues after podcast.


"If my girlfriend had not been that encouraging, I might not have gone to the doctor that day, and I might not be speaking to you right now," he said. "I only went to the doctor because Amanda was the one planting the idea in my head to take it seriously."

It took five rounds of surgery and six months of chemotherapy, but nine months into his cancer journey Michael was told he was cancer free. It stayed that way for two years until July 2020 when a routine scan told him something was growing in his abdomen.

Michael went in for more chemotherapy in 2020 and celebrated his last day in hospital in November. It was also his 30th birthday. 

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He continues to talk about his experience on stage, and is lending his story this April as part of Testicular Cancer Awareness Month.

"Men typically don't like going to the doctor. Men don't like talking about their health, so having someone planting the seed or giving them a nudge is really really important,' he said, while stressing the importance of women in heterosexual relationships knowing the signs and symptoms as well.

"My understanding is that women across the board seem to be much more on top of their health. They have better relationships with their GPs and their doctors, and I think that's something men need to create for themselves," he added.

Signs and symptoms: Here's what you need to know about testicular cancer. 

Testicular cancer is not a common cancer but it is the second most common cancer in young men (aged 20 to 39) excluding non-melanoma skin cancer. 

Cancer Council reports that the risk of being diagnosed by age 85 is one in 202, but the rate of men being diagnosed has grown by 50 per cent in the past 30 years.

Symptoms include a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum, a feeling of unevenness, pain in the testicle, and back pain.

Medical oncologist at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Associate Professor Ben Tran tells The Quicky, "unlike many other cancers, testicular cancer is highly curable even if it spreads to other parts of the body. You might recall Lance Armstrong had testicular cancer that ended up in his brain and other major organs. He was able to be cured. The reason that is, is because testicular cancer is particularly sensitive to the type of chemotherapy we've developed."

Associate Professor Tran says the most common presentation that leads to a diagnosis is a lump in the testicle, and he advises men become familiar with their balls daily in the shower so they can detect any lumps.

"In order to know that a lump is new, you need to know what [your balls felt like] beforehand. So every time you hop in the shower, have a feel," he told The Quicky. 

If you, or someone you know has been diagnosed with, or is showing symptoms of testicular cancer, you can visit nutsandbolts.movember.com, an online hub co-designed with men who have lived experience.

You can also visit movember.com/knowthynuts for more information about testicular health.

Feature image: Instagram @michael.shafer.