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A first class outcome as Ethan beats cancer and gets top degree

By Angela Rainey

Published 02/07/2016

Ethan McLaughlin with his partner Alicia Brittain
Ethan McLaughlin with his partner Alicia Brittain

A Queen's University student is celebrating a double success after successfully battling cancer and gaining a first class degree in the same year.

Ethan McLaughlin (21) was given the shock news he had testicular cancer in March while in his third and final year studying international politics and conflict studies.

Ethan, from Birmingham, had been in Poland when he returned to Belfast to see girlfriend Alicia Brittain (21), a third year philosophy student.

Alicia told him that he needed to see a doctor "as something didn't look quite right".

Unable to get a quick appointment in Belfast, Ethan flew back home where doctors confirmed stage 1 testicular cancer, the earliest and most treatable stage of the illness.

He said: "I knew I was experiencing the symptoms like a strange sensation in the nipples and a tight abdomen so I had built myself up mentally to hear the worst, though I was trying to stay positive at the same time.

"I was sent straight to the hospital where it was confirmed as testicular cancer. And within three days I was in surgery having it removed. It was all in a very condensed space of time.

"But it was scary, not knowing what was going to happen to me or to my future."

Now recovering, Ethan regards himself as fortunate.

But he added that the shock was a blow that he is still coming to terms with.

"It's weird and I am still struggling to get my head around the fact a portion of my life will be spent attending appointments," he said.

Ethan said any potential embarrassment soon went out the window. "On my initial check-up I had to take my trousers off about four times for complete strangers and by the end of it I was very laid-back.

"Then there's the chats I had to have with Alicia about whether we might want kids further down the line."

Ethan's sperm will be frozen for 15 years, giving him plenty of time to carve his desired career in international development and potentially still become a father.

"My advice is to get checked," he added. "Even if you think it is nothing, don't assume, get checked. Leaving something like that can mean it ends up life-threatening when it need not be."

Although Ethan's class graduated on Thursday he was unable to attend and instead watched via a live internet stream.

He has been accepted for a Master's in international development at Birmingham University and is due to start in September.

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