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James Corry: My hockey family helped me through cancer nightmare as I experienced the brilliance of the NHS staff

 

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Prize fighter: James Corry with with fiancée Jenna

Prize fighter: James Corry with with fiancée Jenna

James Corry celebrating success

James Corry celebrating success

Prize fighter: James Corry with with fiancée Jenna

Coping with the current lockdown is testing the patience of sportsmen and women but Lisnagarvey hockey captain James Corry is just thankful that he's alive and well - and he is happy to wait as long as it takes to get back playing again.

It was two years ago today that the 29-year-old Lisburn man received the all clear after being diagnosed with testicular cancer which had put not only his sporting career on hold but his life at risk.

Just before Christmas 2017, Corry first began to worry that he might have the killer disease - something that obviously came as a shock to the system for a fit and healthy young person.

In a remarkable turnaround, he was given the green light to return to playing hockey just a few months after his initial diagnosis and undergoing painful chemotherapy treatment which he describes as "hands down the worst experience of my life".

He had the honour of being handed the Lisnagarvey captaincy and lifted the All-Ireland League trophy in April 2019 - a year to the day after his final session of chemo.

That was something he couldn't have imagined possible just over a year earlier when he began displaying symptoms.

"When I developed a lump, I did some research and always had testicular cancer in the back of my head but I convinced myself it was just a cyst and that it would go away," he recalled.

"I started to get a dull ache in my stomach and lower abdomen when I was playing hockey and after a match on January 13, I was really struggling physically with shortness of breath and then I started to get severe lower back pain as well.

"From my research, I pretty much knew I had testicular cancer because I had three of the main symptoms so I knew then I had to go to the doctors to get this sorted.

"After visiting my GP, I was immediately referred to see a specialist in the City Hospital. He was 99% sure it was stage one testicular cancer and that it was confined to the testicle.

"In late January 2018, I had an orchiectomy (removal of testicle). It was such a quick turnaround from training on the previous Saturday to being a cancer patient the following week.

"But I felt great that I had the testicle removed because I thought the tumour was gone and I was cancer-free. My spirits were high for a few weeks."

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James Corry celebrating success

James Corry celebrating success

James Corry celebrating success

 

But worse news was to follow when a CT scan revealed that the disease had spread to Corry's lungs and lymph nodes in his lower abdomen.

"This was known as stage four testicular cancer and if you have it in any other form, there is generally a 5% survival rate," he explained.

"The urologist said it was a 90% survival rate for me which I was pleased about, although 'doctor Google' suggested otherwise; a gloomy 65% survival rate.

"I went to see my oncologist, Dr Bode Oladipo, soon after. He was amazing in talking me through everything related to the chemotherapy.

"He was adamant that everything would be fine and gave me a very positive prognosis. I am forever grateful for his amazing help and support."

Naturally, Corry's family were deeply concerned about the prognosis and playing hockey was the last thing on his mind at that stage.

"Obviously, it was very difficult news for a mother and father to take in but they did everything possible to keep me positive and calm throughout," he said

"Thankfully I also had my fiancée Jenna for the most unbelievable support. She kept my spirits high and encouraged me every step of the way - even if that meant going for walks when I didn't feel mentally or physically 100%.

"I had a great network of friends at work and in hockey and I can't imagine I was easy to deal with during this time but everyone was so supportive throughout."

Just a few weeks after completing his chemotherapy, Corry ran a leg of the Belfast marathon relay in May 2018 when he was joined by colleagues from Ballyclare High School where he is head of PE.

"We had 30 staff from the school to run it to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support and Oddballs Testicular Cancer Foundation. We raised around £18,000," said the Donegal native.

Now he has come through the other side, Corry is able to reflect on the care he received from medical staff during the worst months of his life - put into sharper focus by the work done by NHS personnel during the current Covid-19 pandemic.

"I never thought I'd need the help and support of the NHS as I always thought, 'I would never get cancer because I'm healthy'. Little did I know, it can go after anyone," he said.

"The NHS staff were so uplifting when I was going through treatment. They are fantastic at reassuring and caring for people.

"It is no surprise to me to hear all the news reports about how amazing the NHS staff are during the current crisis. I have experienced it and I know they are amazing.

"If there is a positive to be taken from the current situation, it has to be that NHS workers are finally getting the recognition they deserve.

"They are putting the patients' health before their own but it's terrible that we need a national emergency to recognise the outstanding work that the NHS staff do."

Belfast Telegraph