Don’t Give Up on Testicular Cancer

The Healing Power of Motorcycle Track Racing for Testicular Cancer

October 06, 2022 The Max Mallory Foundation - Joyce Lofstrom host Season 2 Episode 17
The Healing Power of Motorcycle Track Racing for Testicular Cancer
Don’t Give Up on Testicular Cancer
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Don’t Give Up on Testicular Cancer
The Healing Power of Motorcycle Track Racing for Testicular Cancer
Oct 06, 2022 Season 2 Episode 17
The Max Mallory Foundation - Joyce Lofstrom host

Matt Finch grew up in a family that rode and raced motorcycles. He continues this tradition that helped him heal from his testicular cancer diagnosis and treatment at age 29. He had two children, aged 7 and 5 when he learned about his cancer.

Four years later, he’s added another child to his family and spends his time as a police officer in Woodbridge, Suffolk, in the UK, with his children and partner Lucy, and on his bike to help raise awareness about this disease. Find Matt on Instagram at 445oneballracing. 

Listen to this episode of the Don't Give Up on Testicular Cancer  from the Max Mallory Foundation. 

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If you can please support our nonprofit through Patreon.

Show Notes Transcript

Matt Finch grew up in a family that rode and raced motorcycles. He continues this tradition that helped him heal from his testicular cancer diagnosis and treatment at age 29. He had two children, aged 7 and 5 when he learned about his cancer.

Four years later, he’s added another child to his family and spends his time as a police officer in Woodbridge, Suffolk, in the UK, with his children and partner Lucy, and on his bike to help raise awareness about this disease. Find Matt on Instagram at 445oneballracing. 

Listen to this episode of the Don't Give Up on Testicular Cancer  from the Max Mallory Foundation. 

Send us a Text Message.

Support the Show.

Find us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook & Linkedin.

If you can please support our nonprofit through Patreon.

Swell AI Transcript: Matt Finch - the-healing-power-of-motorcycle-track-racing-for-testicular-cancer.mp3

Welcome to Don't Give Up on Testicular Cancer, a podcast where testicular cancer survivors, caregivers, and others who have navigated the cancer journey share their stories. The podcast comes to you from the Max Mallory Foundation. A non-profit family foundation focused on educating about testicular cancer in honor and in memory of Max Mallory, who died in 2016 at the young age of 22 from testicular cancer. Had he survived, Max wanted to help young adults with cancer. This podcast helps meet that goal. Here now is your host, Joyce Lofstrom, Max's mom and a young adult cancer survivor.

JOYCE: Matt Finch grew up in a motorcycle racing and riding family, and he's been riding since high school. At age 29, married and the father of three children, Matt learned he had testicular cancer, an unexpected interruption to his life, family, and track racing bikes near and far from his home in Woodbridge, Suffolk in the United Kingdom. More than four years later, he continues to race his motorcycle and uses racing as his platform to raise awareness about testicular cancer. Matt joins me today to tell his story of cancer survival and life on the racing track. So Matt, I'm glad that you could be with me today.

MATT: Thanks for having me, Joyce. Thank you.

JOYCE: So tell us about your testicular cancer journey. What happened? How you got through it. Anything you'd like to share?

MATT: Well, it was a bit of a strange one. I joined the army at 17, went away, done all that stuff, done a few years, done a couple of tours, things like that. I'd always been fit, active, and ate well. So the whole cancer thing was a bit of a shock to me, because I thought I'd always lived a healthy lifestyle. After the army, I worked as a personal trainer, so again, that sort of emphasized the whole eating well, living a good lifestyle, exercising and showing other people how to do that as well.

So if I go back to 2017 when I was diagnosed, I wanted something similar to the army that was a little bit more regular in terms of employment and more of a regular income so I could support the family. So I applied for the police. It was something that I wanted to do because it was similar to the army and offered all of those things, like I said before, about job security and the income and all the rest of it. I've been applying for about 10 years to try and get into the police. It's quite hard to get into in the UK. And I was in the final stages.

It was the day of my interview, my final interview. I had to give like a 10-minute presentation to all these officers that are quite high up. And I was sitting at the table practicing and rehearsing what I was going to say and what I was going to talk about. And I just noticed this uncomfortable feeling on my left testicle. Had a quick feel, realized that there was something strange about it. You know, there was a bit of a lump on the side, and that sort of thing. But I didn't really think much of it. I thought, as I said to you before, like I was fit, healthy, exercised, lived a good lifestyle. It's not going to be cancer. So I kind of put it to the back of my mind and went off for the interview. I got the job and then thought, right, let me go and get this looked at. Let me go and get it checked out, and went off to the doctors.

The doctor was really good. She said, so what do you want from me? I said, well, you know, it's not right. It's not been like that before. I've never known, you know, I'm worried it's cancer. She said, okay, hopefully it's not. We'll get you an urgent referral through to urology. And I went to see the doctor on Friday and luckily, was seen by [urology on] Tuesday and that's where I had all the examinations done. I was told that, yeah, it's a tumor. I don't know if it's cancer yet, but we're going to get it taken out nice and quick. That's pretty much it, really, in terms of the diagnosis and where my life was at. So I couldn't really come at a worse time.

JOYCE: Yeah, right. After [getting] your job.

MATT: Yeah, luckily, I got the job offer on the table and got the job secured and then told them after, because I didn't want to be like leaving them with sort of half information, if you know what I mean.

JOYCE: Yes. So did you have to do chemo or was it just the surgery?

MATT: I had the surgery. I got told on Tuesday, then had surgery on the Friday. So it was a bit of a mad few days between being told and having the surgery done. So I don't know how you, how you do it in America, but in the UK, I had a meeting with a neurologist who said, yeah, you've got a tumor and then you need to come back in a couple of hours and speak to a nurse specialist. And then I read her name badge and saw that her name was Debbie and she's an oncology specialist. And that's when I realized that this is a bit more serious. And then what happened? I went for an appointment at a fertility clinic to give a sperm sample. I don't know if you do that in the U.S.

JOYCE: Yeah, they do.

MATT: And then, it was a pre-operation checkup that they do. So they do your blood pressure, your pulse, listen to your breathing and all of that stuff. And then I was in for surgery on Friday. That all fell over like the Christmas period, which is never a good time. But I guess the whole Christmas period could have potentially put a little bit of delay on kind of getting results done. So I had the operation done on the Friday and then I think I went to get a CT scan done the week after; that was Christmas Eve.

I had a big delay on results to say whether things had spread and moved on. But luckily, the tumor was only on the testicle. It hadn't spread anywhere else, not to my lungs, to my lymph nodes, anywhere else, which was obviously really good. I was offered a follow-up of chemo. It's either way, whether you decide to do it or whether you don't, [but] it just obviously reduces the risk of anything else occurring, and it makes sure that all the cells are taken care of. So obviously I took that chemo up just to be on the really safe side.

JOYCE: Yeah, I would too.

MATT: That's what my partner said. She said, you know, you're having that chemo. I said, okay, well, I'll have it then. You sure? So yeah, I went off and had it. What do you have in America?

JOYCE: It's kind of like that. Once they find the lump, they want to move ahead pretty quickly. They don't want to delay because it does spread quickly if it's more advanced. So I think your time frame is about right, trying to get it done within a week and the chemo. I've talked to some young men who it hadn't spread, and they didn't do the chemo and it came back a few years later. I know one guy out of all the people I've talked to, which is probably 25 plus that didn't do the chemo and it has never come back. So, you know, it's so personal.

MATT: It's 50-50, isn't it?

JOYCE: Yeah. You never know.

MATT: I thought the course I was offered was a five-day course. It's called BEP [bleomycin, etoposide phosphate, and cisplatin].


MATT: So it's a mixture of three drugs. Again, I don't know if it's the same for you guys over there, but that was what I was offered. So that was a five-day stay in hospital, which ended up being about seven, actually, two separate visits. one week after the five-day stay, and then another one the week after. So five days, a week’s break in hospital for a day, another week's break, and then in hospital again for like a two-hour session and then all done.

JOYCE: That's great. So you only had to have one session of chemo, so that's much easier.

MATT: Yeah, definitely. I mean, I've done a lot of reading and a lot of research around it. And of course, when you do that, people only talk about the bad experiences of it all, don't they? With anything, you know, you go to it, you read up and do some research, say, on a restaurant. I don't know what they're like in America, but in the UK, people will say, I've had a bad meal. They won't say, I've had a brilliant meal. People will say, it's been a bad meal. So it's the same for like the chemo, obviously. It's not something that you choose to have, is it? It's not something like you go out for a meal and you want to have it, but you know, a lot of information was out there, and it was all, oh, it was really bad, you know, fatigue and all of that. And I wish I hadn't read it because the fear of having that chemo was a lot worse than the reality for sure.

JOYCE: Right. And the doctors always tell you not to read it. Don't go to ‘Dr. Google,’ but you know, we do.

MATT: I mean, it's human nature. We're just curious, aren't we?

JOYCE: So what do you think was your biggest challenge through all of this?

MATT: I think the biggest challenge was probably telling the kids. I'm trying to think how old they would have been. So we only had two at the time. We had William, I think he was about seven, and Isabella was about five. I think that's about right. Things are pretty black and white when you're seven and five, you know. William kind of knew what cancer was and it was like, oh, you're going to die then? And it was, well, no, not everybody who has cancer dies. It's been caught really early on. And just trying to reassure him and explain to him that things are going to be different for a few weeks, but explain maybe that there might be some side effects. You know, I might lose my hair and all of that. He was actually really good and really receptive to it.

He was a bit more challenging with Isabella, the youngest one. So it was a way of using language and saying, you know, there's something growing in my tummy and it's okay because the doctors have taken it out and I've got to have some medicine just to make sure it doesn't come back. So that was quite hard telling the kids. Of course, it's a fear of the unknown, isn't it? And like I say, I had that long period where it was about three weeks between being told that it was just in the testicle, that it hadn't spread, you know, from doing the CT scan, the x-rays, the blood tests and all of that. That was a big challenge for me, I think, mentally, just the unknown.

JOYCE: Yes. Waiting is, yes, it's the hardest thing of any illness, I think: waiting for the results and what's next.

MATT: I was lucky my nurse, Debbie, who worked with me through everything. She gave me a phone call, whether she should, whether she shouldn't have done. She said, Matt, you know, I know it's Christmas. I know there's a long wait, but I've had a look at your results and everything looks good. So whether she maybe didn't have to say that or shouldn't have said that or what, I don't know, but it was nice that she went out of the way and gave me that bit of reassurance.

JOYCE: And I think that's great. If she could look at the results and call you and tell you that. This is one of my pet peeves, I think, with any kind of test that you have. It's like, OK, we did these blood works, or we did whatever and the doctor will call you. Well, you know, if it's there right the next day or the same day, call me. Don't make me wait. You know what I mean? I think that that's something that it's so hard as a patient, you know, and I'm glad that Debbie called you. I mean, I think that had to help make it much more, much easier, I guess, to enjoy the holidays.

MATT: Yeah. It took a lot of pressure off for sure. It was nothing like having that reassurance from the doctor. I'm not saying the doctor is any better than the nurse or anything like that. Right. They're all, you know, they all have the same information, don't they?

JOYCE: Yeah, they do. So you mentioned earlier about all the things you read that it was all negative. What would have helped you in reading that? What would have helped you not feel or fear the unknown, I guess is what I'm trying to say.

MATT: It would have helped maybe talking to someone that had been through it. But then again, everybody has a different experience with everything, don't they? Especially medication and things. But certainly my actual experience of the chemo wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I think I maybe only had one evening where I was kind of vomiting every, I don't know, once every 15 minutes. You know, a good few hours until they were able to get some anti-sickness in me. But once we realized, okay, this drug does this to me, let's give another drug to sort out the nausea and the vomiting. That's one of the side effects taken care of, isn't it? That's one of those things.

So yeah, it would have been good to have a talk with someone who'd actually been through it. I've spoken to people now that have been through it and said, well, I had the chemo. I've had this drug, and this done this to me, but it didn't do this to me. Do you know what I mean? Certainly, someone to say it's not as bad as maybe it's all been made out. But like I say, my experience might be different from somebody else's. And as I touched on before, I was quite fit, I think, relatively speaking. I'd had years and years and years of exercise and strength training and all that. I don't know whether that helped me out.

JOYCE: I think it probably did. I would think so. So did you go back to being a police officer?

MATT: Yeah. So like I say, I was joining at the time. That's what I'm doing at the moment. That's great. And I hope to stay there. I don't want to change jobs again.

JOYCE: Well, we need, you know, good police officers anywhere in the world. So glad you found your path that way. Let's switch to the track racing on your motorcycle. My experience with motorcycles, bikes, is just with men I've dated, riding on the back of a 450 Honda in college and then a Harley about 20 years ago. I watched your video on this track racing. It's quite challenging. So talk about what track racing is and your bike and just how you got into it.

MATT: I got into it really from parents, grandparents. So everybody in my family has ridden motorbikes. So my grandfather is in his late 80s. He's only just finished riding and he's ridden all his life. My mum used to ride until me and my brother were around. So my dad rode, and he also raced. So it's called Speedway. So it's like a dirt oval track. It's what he used to do. It's dirt.

JOYCE: Oh, wow.

MATT:  Yeah. So it's quite challenging. You know, I've seen it on TV and stuff and remember watching him as a kid and that. And he used to race up until kind of we were, well, till I was in my early teens, really. I learned to ride on one of my grandfather's bikes in his garden, which we actually built up from kind of a box of spares and things. So we had a box, it was all dismantled--a bike. It was all dismantled and we sort of built it together. and I learned to ride it in the garden, which was cool. Took my bike test when I was 16 to learn to ride on like a little moped kind of thing, as you do, most kids do in the UK, and then progressed up through the road riding. I went out on track with a friend of mine who'd done a little bit before me and I really enjoyed it. And then did the odd sort of track day, and things on the bigger bike as I got a bit older.

Then when I got ill, I thought, well, I'll watch the racing on the TV and realize actually it's a bit more accessible than I thought it was. If you know what I mean, it's quite easy to get into. So I thought, once I was better from my illness, I [decided to] give it a go, because I don't want to have any regrets. So here we are. So the bike I have is quite an old bike. It's a Yamaha R6. It was made in 2004. So it's a 600cc bike. It's relatively small in comparison, but it's still capable. It's still quick. It still keeps up with the modern-day bikes and that.

The racing is something that I've done, like I say, since I've been ill. You join a club in the UK, there's a few different clubs around, and all the racing happens on the big main tracks where the British Championship takes place. I've only done about four or five rounds so far, but it's certainly something that I want to carry on in the future. One, because it's something that I've always been interested in, but two, it does help raise awareness of this testicular cancer to everybody else that's in the sort of racing world, because they're all guys.

JOYCE: Right.

MATT: Or a majority are guys within that sort of age range, where you're most at risk of it. Doesn’t it seem like a good thing to do to pair the two together?

JOYCE: So this is a basic question, but so track racing, you're on a track, you're on a team. So the team competes in the race and the track is like concrete or asphalt. It's not dirt, obviously.

MATT: Yeah. Tarmac.

JOYCE: Okay. I just want to make sure I got the picture. So, all right. Well, it looks like it's a lot of maneuvering on the bike, which way you have to turn your body, you know.

MATT: Yeah. You're very involved in how the bike turns and things, you've got to shift your weight over from one side to another. And some tracks are fairly simple and straightforward, there's not too much to it, but there's other tracks where they're quite hilly and there's loads of corners one after another. It's quite physical. You've got laps,  we go for like eight, 10 laps at a time, which isn't that long in comparison to like, what is it? American super bikes and things like that. But you know, it's still on the bike for 20, 30 minutes, working hard physically and having to concentrate hard as well.

JOYCE: I know you've been working with an organization called It’s On The Ball, to raise awareness. So tell us about your work with that group.

MATT: I got approached by Vince, the owner of It's On The Ball, it's a charity. They're based in Norwich, which is like about an hour's drive from here. And it covers the South of England. What they want to do is they go into schools, colleges, businesses, and deliver talks about awareness. So they deliver educational talks. They'll talk about risk factors, signs, symptoms, treatment, how to check yourself, that sort of thing. they hold events. So at the start of the summer, somebody pushed like a giant beer keg from Norwich, where the charity was based, all the way down to London over the course of a week. So that was quite good. His lad, unfortunately, passed away from cancer. So that's why he's involved.

So he raised about £15,000 for the charity, which is incredible for what he done. What else? They offer like a buddy system for anybody who's been through cancer. So it's like what I said earlier, it would have been great to have somebody who's been through it just to kind of put my mind at ease, really. If I'd known about It’s On the Ball, I would have certainly got in touch and maybe found out about this buddy system thing when I was going through it. I really value what they do. I've delivered a couple of educational events at college, and I've taken the bike along to bike show.

JOYCE: Oh, that's great.

MATT: Yeah, it's a good audience to be delivering that to, really. And obviously the bike's a good talking point, isn't it? It gets people interested and then you get talking about the charity and before you know it, they're experts on testicular cancer as well, which is good.

JOYCE: Well, it shows them too, what happens after testicular cancer and how your life goes on and what you can do. And, you know, and I noticed in one of the clips that you had, I'll call it an ad, but you had that name on the back of your bike, didn't you? It's On The Ball.

MATT: Yeah, that's them. So they've just got some stickers on the bike for them. Which again, is like another talking point, isn't it?

JOYCE: Well, it is, yeah. I think it's great. I was going to say it's an unusual way to raise awareness, but you know, it really isn't when you think about the number of men who like to ride motorcycles or bikes. What do you call it? I call them bikes or motorcycles. What do you call them? Bikes? Okay. I just wondered what the UK terminology was, you know? So what advice do you have for any young man that might think he has testicular cancer?

MATT: Go to the doctors as soon as you can and explain to them, tell them that I think it could be cancer, or I'm worried it might be cancer. Can we please rule it in or out, so we can deal with it?

Because in my time of doing this, I've been approached by a few people and they've said, oh, I've got this symptom, I've got this pain, I've got this lump, whatever. They've gone to the doctors and the doctors have said, go away, have a week, have some antibiotics, have some painkillers, keep an eye on it and come back if it doesn't go away. And a lot of people go away and not want to bother the doctor again and potentially miss something that's really quite important. So my message is for people to see the doctor, be quite insistent and say, I want it ruled out or in, and deal with it because it is easy to kind of not deal with it.

JOYCE: You know, that's good advice because a lot of people, like you say, once the doctor says, that they're not going to come back.

MATT: Yeah. And I've had friends that have, like I say, they've had issues and they've gone to the doctors, and they've been told just to go away in a week, you know, come back in a week's time and a week could make quite a bit of difference to somebody. Yes. I'd hate to think how it would have been if I'd waited a week, you know, things might have changed, you know, could have ended up in the bloodstream and who knows what. 

JOYCE: So what's next for you, Matt? What's, what's ahead in your life? Anything?

MATT: My life, the dream for the racing, would be to kind of race at a national level. I'm a little way off that yet. I'm a long way off from that actually, but I've come a long way since I first started. So I've got a lot of support from ex-professional racers and things like that. And I'd like to take It’s On The Ball on the journey with me and carry on doing what I'm doing.

Since all this cancer thing, I've had a little boy. Rufus is two now, so again, that shows that life does go on. You know, you still can have kids after cancer and after having a testicle removed and things like that. And he was conceived naturally, so everything's doing what it should be doing. So I want to carry on being a good dad to all the kids and,  living a good life and making the best of what time I have for them and the family, obviously with Lucy as well, my partner. So yeah, just carry on working hard, and kind of not put cancer behind me, but carry on living.

JOYCE: So my last question is a fun question, I think. So what song, when you hear it, that you just have to sing along when you hear that song?

MATT: It's got to be something Nickelback, I think. I think it takes me back to kind of being a teenager.

JOYCE: Yeah. Okay. Well, I always say the Beatles. So the Beatles. Yeah, when I was a teenager.

MATT: Well, yeah, I won't say I won't say when life was more simple as a kid or easy, but just different.

JOYCE: Yeah, I think that's it. Yeah, you're right. Just different. Well, thanks for taking the time and the patience so we could connect to do our podcast. I really appreciate it.

MATT: Thanks for having me on.

JOYCE: So when you get to that national race, I'll be watching, and we'll call you back.

MATT: Yeah, we'll let you know. Yeah.

JOYCE: For any time. It doesn't have to be the national race, but I know that's a goal.

MATT: So yeah. If the listeners want to get me on social media or anything, you can find me on Instagram. If you look at 445 One Ball Racing, that's me. That's probably the best way of getting hold of me. Yeah, I've got a Facebook page, which I'm not as up to date on, but yeah, Instagram's probably the one. I've also got the YouTube channel as well. So if you look at 445 One Ball Racing, that's all the videos and things about racing and bike maintenance and all of that sort of stuff. So give it a look, drop me a message, say hi. Be good to hear from you.

JOYCE: It'd be great. So thanks for sharing that. Thanks once again. Thank you.

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