'It blindsided me': Young man shocked after discovering truth behind 'rugby injury'

Olivia Lambert
·News Editor

A man who thought he had a rugby injury that would take care of itself was “blindsided” when he discovered it was cancer.

Two years ago, Harvee Pene noticed a lump on his left testicle. He brushed it off thinking he just knocked it around during a rugby game and decided to just keep an eye on it.

But after seeing no changes, he booked himself into the GP and a week later was having a tumour removed.

“Things moved really quickly,” he told Yahoo News Australia.

“At 31 you’re a young man and feel like you’ve got your whole life ahead of you – you’re invincible and bulletproof. It really blindsided me.”

The Brisbane man, who is now 33, is telling his story to encourage men to keep a check on their health and raise awareness for Movember, an annual event where men are urged to grow a mo to inspire donations, conversations and real change when it comes to men’s health.

‘I was on the edge of not seeing the GP’

Having no other symptoms and thinking his lump was nothing, Mr Pene said he was tempted to cancel his doctor’s appointment to have his lump checked out in the first place.

“I was on the edge of not going. Lucky I did,” he said.

“It was the fear of not wanting to find out and didn’t want anybody prodding around a private place.”

Sarah Pene cradles her husband, Harvee Pene, in a hospital bed after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
Harvee Pene and his wife, Sarah, in the hospital following his cancer diagnosis. Source: Supplied

Mr Pene said one of the biggest issues men had was not being open about emotions and their health.

“Overlay that with a sensitive area, our manhood, it’s a lot of our identity,” he said

“I can’t count the number of people prodding around down there now and it’s not the most empowering experience.”

Mr Pene said however it was a small price to pay when you’re talking about your life.

“Compare that to not surviving and not finding out. If we don’t have our health what do we have?” he said.

Mr Pene said he was shocked when the doctor sat him down to tell him he had testicular cancer, a moment he describes as quite isolating.

“It felt like everything was falling down on top of you, a bit like a house of cards,” he said.

“You get lots of information in a really short amount of time.

“To have cancer, it’s something nobody wants to hear and testicular cancer, men especially don’t want to hear.”

Harvee Pene holds his daughter Havana in front of a blue lake and mountains.
Mr Pene says he could realise his dream of having children after catching his cancer early. Source: Supplied

Mr Pene was flooded with information about chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

“It was insanely overwhelming and I felt super alone,” he said.

“It was really tough to tell family, and I would have loved the opportunity to speak to somebody who had gone through that experience.”

Proud Movember supporter grateful for ‘second chance at life’

Not only facing the prospect of ongoing treatment to destroy his cancer cells, Mr Pene faced his dream of having children not ever being realised.

“I have always wanted to have my own family and this experience almost took this possibility away,” he said.

Thankfully after an operation to remove the tumour, Mr Pene did not need to undergo further treatment. He also now has a one-year-old daughter, Havana.

He changed his lifestyle to include a healthier diet and regular exercise, and is now under a surveillance program where he has X-rays, blood tests and scans every six months to keep the cancer at bay.

Harvee Pene pictured with daughter Havana and wife Sarah. Source: Supplied
The 33-year-old father with his daughter Havana and wife Sarah. Source: Supplied

“I’m stoked I am cancer free and now have a baby girl. She is a miracle baby and a reminder every day that life is precious. I feel like I have a second chance at life.

“You kind of don’t appreciate things until they are gone, or almost gone and that’s why I’m a super proud supporter of Movember and find every opportunity I can to encourage men to keep on top of their health.”

Not only is Mr Pene an advocate for men’s health due to his own experience, but also because of that of his grandfather.

When Mr Pene was young, his grandfather died from prostate cancer – an illness his family didn’t know he had until the very end.

“This story is a common and classic example of men in general keeping things to ourselves,” he said.

“I would have loved to have him around and get to know him, and him get to know his great granddaughter. He just wasn’t proactive enough.”

‘Testicular cancer strikes young’

According to the Movember website, testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young Australian men.

Despite having a 95 per cent survival rate, one in 20 do not make it.

Movember does not only raise awareness for testicular cancer, but also prostate cancer and mental health and suicide prevention.

“Men are dying too young. We can’t afford to stay silent,” the Movember website says.

“Our fathers, partners, brothers and friends are facing a health crisis, yet it’s rarely talked about.

“By 2030, we aim to reduce the number of men dying prematurely by 25 per cent.”

The Brisbane man pictured with his wife in hospital right after the birth of their daughter.
Mr Pene and his wife welcome their baby girl almost two years ago. Source: Supplied

Freeze Your Nuts Off Brisbane fundraiser

Nine men die from prostate cancer every year as more than 200,000 men are living with the disease.

According to Movember, six men in Australia take their own lives every day, the biggest killer of men under 45.

As part of his fundraising efforts, Mr Pene will be holding the Freeze Your Nuts Off event where he will dunk himself in 500kg of ice for five minutes in Brisbane on November 30 to raise $10,000 for men’s health.

The month-long Movember fundraiser challenge will run from November 1 to November 30.

Anybody wanting to find out more information about taking part in Movember can visit here.

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