“I think it’s going to be lasting legacy”

01/02/2021

img_6251.jpeg-600×600

Alex Corbisiero, the former England rugby star, gave the 2020 TUF guest lecture at the British Association of Urologists conference following his diagnosis of testicular cancer the year before. He is now working to raise money to support TUF research into the disease – Ian Le Guillou.

During his professional career, Alex earned 31 caps for England, also playing for the British and Irish Lions, London Irish and Northampton.

“My father and uncle have both had testicular cancer at a similar age to me, so I’ve always been quite aware of checking,” he told the virtual lecture audience.

Thanks to his careful checking, Alex had previously noticed many years ago a change in the size of his left testicle. This turned out to be a hydrocele – a build-up of fluid that is harmless but made it difficult for him to notice changes when the cancer developed.

“That testicle had always been slightly bigger and slightly heavier than the other one and I just got used to that […] it wasn’t until it got alarmingly big, that I realised there was something wrong,” Alex said.

Alex had an orchidectomy to remove the affected testicle in November 2019, followed by chemotherapy in January 2020. He briefly went back to work as a rugby pundit at NBC in the US, when the pandemic halted professional sports.

Alex with his fiancee, Abby Gustaitis

“Being locked down for four months, I trained every day, I ate extremely healthily and I felt like I got back into peak condition,” said Alex.

That summer, Alex developed an acute pain in his abdomen and a CT scan showed a mass in his lymph node.

“I didn’t expect it to say that my cancer was back […] mainly because I felt so good. I was fit and strong,” he recalled.

“But on the other side, I thought: I’m incredibly lucky I caught this now because the plan was probably not to scan until November, and the fact that it was already there in early August, where might it have spread to by November? In some ways it’s a blessing.”

Speaking at the lecture, he had just finished three cycles of further chemotherapy.

Alex is now working to raise £60,000 to support TUF research into improving the diagnosis or treatment of testicular cancer

“I think it’s going to be a lasting legacy,” he said. “There are men that are going to follow after me that go through this and if I can make the road for them easier to travel, it will be so worthwhile.”