Seán Defoe on testicular cancer diagnosis: 'I went completely dizzy'

“Everything flipped and I thought, from this point on, my life was never going to be the same."
Robert Kindregan
Robert Kindregan

13.04 29 May 2024

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Seán Defoe on testicular cance...

Seán Defoe on testicular cancer diagnosis: 'I went completely dizzy'

Robert Kindregan
Robert Kindregan

13.04 29 May 2024

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Last year’s IMRO Radio Awards should have been a night of celebration for Seán Defoe.

Instead, Newstalk's Political Correspondent “shuffled off early,” having received a testicular cancer diagnosis that morning.

He’s been out of action since, having undergone surgery and chemotherapy, but returned to The Pat Kenny Show today to share his recovery story.


Seán said it began a couple of weeks after he turned 30 last June and “noticed a bit of pain” in one of his testicles.

“It went away a couple days later and I didn’t think much of it,” he said.

“Then it came back toward the end of August and didn’t go away; it was nagging me, but I couldn’t feel a lump, and like most men, I was completely in denial it could be cancer.

“I was putting off getting it checked until one day when I was out walking the dog, he suddenly pulled very sharply to the left and clipped me – the pain was extraordinary, and I couldn’t ignore it any longer.”

'I went completely dizzy'

Initially, doctors told Seán it was likely an infection and antibiotics seemed to do the trick until a scan showed there was a “solid lump” on his testicle.

“I went completely dizzy, had to sit down, and wasn’t taking anything in that was going on,” he said.

“Everything flipped and I thought, from this point on, my life was never going to be the same.

“A week later I met the urologist, the morning of the IMROs, who gave the formal diagnosis and said, ‘Yes this is cancer, and we need to act quickly here’.

“I still went to the IMROs that night; I wanted one more night of normality with my colleagues, but looking around I thought, ‘This is it for a while for me.’”

Within weeks, Seán had an operation to remove one of his testicles.

“It was a very quick surgery, about 15 minutes,” he said.

“There’s a bit of pain afterwards, you’re walking and sitting a bit awkwardly for a while but it’s not too bad.

"The same morning, I had a CT scan and that was to check whether or not the cancer had spread – we were told we’d have the results in 24 hours.”

'I was afraid of chemo'

When the results took five days to come back, he expected the worst.

“They found out it was a fast-moving cancer and had spread to my abdomen – a lymph node – traditionally the next stop for testicular cancer,” he said.

“I wasn’t afraid of surgery, and I wasn’t afraid of the cancer at that stage, it was all a bit surreal, but I was afraid of chemo.”

Bauer Media political correspondent Sean Defoe. Image: Newstalk

Seán was sent to undergo three cycles of chemotherapy, spread over nine weeks.

“I didn’t get sick at any point, but you felt nauseous," he said.

“About four weeks in, the start of the second cycle, was when my hair started to come out.

“It was the strangest thing; one morning there were a few hairs on my pillow and then the next day I was in the shower and put a bit of shampoo on, ran my hand through and half my hair was on my hand.

“It was gone then in a couple of days but at least I know that if I go bald naturally, my skull shape doesn’t look terrible – it’s not too bad.”

The chemotherapy was a success and the latest scan “showed the cancer was all gone,” but Seán said they will be keeping an eye on it over the coming months.

'Why me?'

Seán said there were times when he asked himself, ‘Why me?’

“For a lot of people, you never get the answer; you could understand it if you get lung cancer and smoke 40 cigarettes a day,” he said.

“But I had a pretty good diet, I didn’t drink much, decent weight, exercise and all that stuff.

“With testicular cancer, there’s a couple of risk factors, if someone in your family has had it or you’ve had an undescended testicle – but sometimes it just happens which seems the case for me.”

Around 170 men are diagnosed with testicular cancer every year in Ireland.

Main image: Sean Defoe in studio today. Image: Newstalk

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