I spotted a pea-sized ‘freckle’ on my penis, months later it had to be amputated. Now I’m warning others how to avoid every man’s worst nightmare

About 700 men are diagnosed with penis enlargement in the UK every year cancerand undergo a partial or total penectomy, in which their penis is removed. Craig MycockThe 54-year-old former bus driver and inspector, who lives in Stockport with his partner Colette, 55, tells his story.

At the beginning of 2020, I went to my GP because of problems emptying my bladder, and she referred me to the hospital for further checks.

A specialist nurse who examined my bladder [using a thin tube with a camera attached] commented on a pea-sized ‘freckle’ on the head of my penis.

I told her it had been there for about six months and wasn’t painful or causing any problems, but she seemed concerned and called a doctor for a second opinion.

She was also concerned and referred me for further investigation. (My bladder problem was unrelated.)

Craig, a former bus driver and inspector, tells his story to warn other men about the signs of penile cancer

Two weeks later I was at Christie Hospital in Manchester where a consultant urologist explained that this could be a sign of penile cancer. Just hearing this was very frightening and worrying.

I had a biopsy: they injected local anesthetic into the tip of my penis and took a small sample of tissue for analysis. The procedure took about 20 minutes and was as horrible as it sounds.

Two weeks later I went back for the results. I was told it was an aggressive, fast-growing cancer and that they would have to remove part of my penis – leaving enough so it could be rebuilt using tissue from my thigh.

I was absolutely stunned by this terrible news. I remember sitting in my car after the appointment and taking it all in. I cried; it seemed so overwhelming.

When I went back to the hospital for the surgery in March, a month after the biopsy, the cancer seemed to have spread; the entire tip of my penis had become scabby and slightly deformed. Deep down I was afraid it had spread.

Because the cancer was so aggressive, it was decided that Craig's entire penis would have to be removed.  Radiotherapy or chemotherapy would not be effective against this

Because the cancer was so aggressive, it was decided that Craig’s entire penis would have to be removed. Radiotherapy or chemotherapy would not be effective against this

It meant that the planned surgery was canceled and I had to undergo a second biopsy instead. This showed that the cancer had spread into the shaft, but luckily it had not affected the lymph nodes in my groin.

Because the cancer was so aggressive, it was decided that my entire penis needed to be removed. Radiotherapy or chemotherapy would not be effective against this.

I was devastated: it’s every man’s worst nightmare; Just the thought of a surgeon cutting into my penis made me cringe, and I felt nauseous just thinking about it.

I felt ashamed; I blamed myself even though I had done nothing to cause it, my advisor said, unfortunately it was one of those things in life that can happen to anyone.

But I found myself in a dark place asking myself a million and one questions about why this had happened to me.

Craig says if his story can help another man avoid what he went through, he would absolutely be happy about it

Craig says if his story can help another man avoid what he went through, he would absolutely love it

I was terrified of the surgery because it would change everything from urinating like most men to ending a sexual relationship with Colette, my partner of 33 years.

I felt like it would make me less masculine. But Colette always reassured me; she told me she still loved me no matter what.

On the day of my operation in May 2020, in the middle of the lockdown, I had to go to the hospital alone. When I woke up, I already feared what it would be like down there. My entire penis would be removed, but my testicles would remain intact [these produce testosterone, and if they’re removed, the patient has to go on hormone replacement therapy: they are only removed if the cancer has spread].

Then I woke up with a flexible tube inserted into the area where my penis had been, with a tap on the end, which I could open to pee. It was humiliating and I hated using it because it was a constant reminder of what had happened to me.

Otherwise, the area just felt numb. But I felt incomplete, like they had taken away my manhood. In fact, from that moment on I no longer interact with that part of my body.

I keep the area clean and wash it, but I don’t look or feel around that area; I really can’t bear to look at it, even in a mirror. I’m Just scared.

Fortunately, they managed to remove the tumor and there were no signs that the tumor had spread.

After two days I was able to go home and about two weeks later the tube was removed [he now passes urine by sitting down on the loo to urinate via an opening between the anus and testicles]but I had a severe urinary tract infection and needed intravenous antibiotics in the hospital.

When I was back in the hospital recovering from this infection, my doctor asked if she could bring student doctors to see me because a penectomy is so rare. I felt like a bit of a circus freak, but I could see why it was useful for them to see.

Covid was still affecting everything, so I isolated myself: I became very depressed – in August I was in a very bad place and tried to end my life with an overdose.

Fortunately, Colette arrived home on time and called an ambulance.

Many of my feelings at the time were mixed with pain, but also with a sense of shame about the fact that I had this specific form of cancer. I was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

I had one-on-one sessions with a mental health nurse and later group sessions with other cancer patients at The Christie where we all shared our different experiences with the disease.

Although I have never met anyone else with penile cancer, we were able to share common ways that helped us cope.

Although in some ways I wish I’d had lung cancer, because people always know someone who has: penile cancer is so isolating because it’s so rare.

Although I have learned to adapt, I am no longer a normal man.

Four years later, I still go to the bathroom to undress so Colette doesn’t see me naked – even though she says it doesn’t bother her and she loves me for who I am.

We can’t have intimate relationships at all anymore, which is hard, but I’ve just had to accept that it’s not part of my life anymore.

I have six monthly check-ups where my testicles and lymph nodes are scanned to check that the cancer has not come back.

I still suffer from frequent urinary tract infections, which require antibiotics, and also have persistent nerve pain around where my penis used to be, so I have to take pain relief day and night (paracetamol or co-codamol and other medications to counter the nerve messages being sent to mute). to my brain).

I have good days and bad days – I try to see the funny side: I was told my penis was flown somewhere for medical examination and my joke is that I have racked up more air miles than I do!

Unfortunately, it’s still the case that men are embarrassed to ask a doctor to look at a spot or blemish, especially if it’s “down there.” I would like to see men talk about this more openly and not be ashamed to visit their doctor if they have concerns about their penis. Even if my story could help one other man avoid what I went through, I would absolutely be happy with that.