Testimonies

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is an STD test, and the cancers it causes can devastate people’s lives.

Josef Mombers – Life is Still Beautiful:

Surviving HPV Lab Tests and Related Penile Cancer

Josef Mombers, from Belgium, was diagnosed with human papillomavirus (HPV Type Test)-related cancer of the penis three years ago when he was 57 years of age. VIt is an aggressive form of the disease that requires radical therapy and typically has a poor prognosis. The next morning, the urologist, who I know well, needed less than five minutes to tell me I had cancer. He immediately arranged a full STD Home test and a CT scan that confirmed I had metastases in the groin. He also arranged an appointment at a renowned specialist centre for the next day.

Yet, I still ignored the life-threatening situation I found myself in.

The next day at the centre, a biopsy was taken, and I was given a thorough explanation of what was coming next in terms of therapies, as well as my prognosis. They told me I had a 35% chance of being alive in five years. In other words, the chances of not reaching five years were double that of being alive by then. Horrible. I drove home and did possibly the hardest thing I have ever done: My wife and I went to tell my children about the HPV Test verdict. I remember saying that the worst for me was that my grandson, who was five months old at the time, would maybe never have any memories of me.

Less than two weeks after my STD test, I went into the hospital for surgery, a procedure to remove some or all of the penis known as a penectomy. I was calm at first, but a wave of panic came over me that evening. An experienced nurse took the time to talk to me, for which I am still very grateful. In the recovery room after the surgery, they told me they had been able to remove everything, which was a hopeful sign. The growth of the tumour after the CT scan was less than expected, which also gave me some hope.

The Grieving Process 

Facing an STD diagnosis with aggressive cancer, you pass through the classical stages of grief: Before the HPV Exam, denial; then, shock and anger, “it’s unfair to have cancer”; bargaining, “I’ll do anything it takes”; depression, “I’ve run out of luck”; acceptance; and finally, hope. The loss I was grieving was that of a ‘normal’ healthy life with no major adversities.

It was also a shock to have to alter my position in life from my STD test report. I went from someone who took care of others, taking things into his own hands to make things better, to someone others had to take care of, who had to hand himself over to trained and skilled professionals.

During the six months of therapy, I learned that others were willing to take care of me. When I told one of my colleagues how many people seemed to care, she said: “You are now reaping what you have sown your whole life.”

A cancer diagnosis at a relatively young age makes you think about the end of your life. Of course, we all think about that occasionally, but not ‘for real’. And that’s a good thing. Otherwise, life would be unbearable. Some people seem to need the ‘great shock’ of a cancer diagnosis to live their lives less superficially. I didn’t experience that. We didn’t have a ‘superficial’ life beforehand, and I always thought over things. I always tried to be aware of how good our lives were and how grateful we should be.

A Huge Impact 

The impact of receiving an HPV Swab Test and cancer diagnosis with a poor prognosis and subsequent therapies cannot be overstated. There are several aspects to this.

Emotional 

Initially, there is a real fear of not making it. You think a lot about things you believe you are experiencing for the last time. Christmas with the family, birthday parties, seeing the sea, hearing the birds in springtime, etc. To give you an example, the wedding of one of my daughters was planned for about seven months after my STD research Tests. I went with my wife to look for a dress. I became very emotional when I saw her dressed up for our daughter’s wedding. Thinking this would be the last time I would see her wearing it.

Sexual impact 

It will not be a surprise to learn that having a penectomy has an impact on the sexual life of a couple. This is not only for the patient but also for his partner.

Whereas sex should, ideally, be a mix of physicality and intimacy. There is a clear shift towards intimacy after such an operation. It does not mean there is no longer any physical lovemaking, but it changes, and both partners must learn how to deal with the new situation from scratch.

The partner’s role is of utmost importance. Not only in accepting the situation but also in helping the patient accept his ‘new body’. ‘For better or worse’ is easy to say at a wedding, but if your partner lives by them, you are blessed.

Do I miss it? Do we miss it? Of course, no matter how much we like our ‘normal’ sex life, we are happy with what is left. It may seem very little to other people, but it means a lot to us.