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INTERVIEW: Don't be embarrassed, have the balls to ask for help

A very personal message from rehab physio Geoff Haugh

7 January 2023

Club News

INTERVIEW: Don't be embarrassed, have the balls to ask for help

A very personal message from rehab physio Geoff Haugh

7 January 2023

United’s link-up with OddBalls just before Christmas saw the club receive specially designed Carlisle United branded boxer shorts which not only add a bit of fun to the underwear drawer, but also help to reinforce the important message that the first line of defence against testicular cancer is yourself – with men of all ages encouraged to carry out self-checks regularly for what can be a serious and sometimes life-threatening illness.

And for one member of the club’s first-team staff that message is all too real as he continues to undergo treatment and after-care, as we speak, having been diagnosed with testicular cancer last August.

Waking up one morning in that hot summer with an unusual swelling in his testicle, rehab physio Geoff Haugh immediately sought help and went through a series of consultations which led to the confirmation of a tumour, and the subsequent complete removal of the affected area early in September.

An intensive course of chemotherapy followed in November, to get rid of any lingering cancer cells, and the 62-year-old now accepts that he’ll face regular check-ups and appointments to make sure that he remains all-clear.

Now, let’s be honest, checking ourselves is something the vast majority of us simply don’t do.

Geoff has very bravely decided to share his story with us in the hope that he encourages you – yes you – to change that so that together we can all start to turn the statistics of this particular disease around.

“It’s like anything, and particularly with men, we all think we’re bullet proof or Superman or something, and that the bad things will never happen to us,” he said. “I can tell you right now that isn’t how it is, and the statistics back that up.

“From the research it says it affects 1 in 250 men in their life, so if we’re getting gates of 8,000, as we did on Boxing Day, you can see how many people in there are who are going to come across this in some form.

“If me talking about this encourages just a few to check or get tested, then it’s been worth me doing it. There’s a quote that tries to deal with the worry and stigma of it being someone’s private parts – don’t be embarrassed, have the balls to ask for help.

“That’s important because there are a lot of people who find it awkward to deal with anything that might be wrong down below. We need to get past that.

“If just some of the people out there get themselves checked, or get into the routine so that they can tell when they do their check that something has changed, or they find a lump where one wasn’t, that will be a really good thing.

“The fact is that the sooner you find it, the sooner you’ll be treated, and the chances of beating it are then massively higher, because there are different stages of cancer within the body.

“I was at stage one, it was found, and that’s what we want for anyone who will have to face this. I had four days of chemo, but if it’s at a more advanced stage it’s four days then a break, then four days and on and on it goes.

“I just want people to help themselves to find it early and get it sorted before it gets really difficult to fight.”

“The main message is that if there’s any doubt whatsoever, if something doesn’t feel right, get yourself booked into your doctors,” he continued. “Whether the GPs would like me saying that and they’d get inundated, no, that’s irrelevant.

“The longer you leave it, the more treatment you’re going to need. So check regularly and act quickly, even if it’s found to be a false alarm. The medical people want that to be the case as well.

“Look, I have to be honest, but maybe I should have checked more. The way it happened for me means that I’m speaking from a position of real experience.

“As soon as I realised something wasn’t right I got it sorted. To be honest, I never checked, it just wasn’t something I did. But when I woke up that morning and it had swollen, I knew it wasn’t great.

“The thing with me is that I’m never ill, ever, and when I was at the Sands (33 years) I didn’t have a day off sick in 25 of them. The times I was off sick was when I had my appendix out and I had a slipped disc.

“When we had the kids I’d catch a little bug, but I’d phone in and say I was taking a holiday day, and my boss used to say it was a sick day so that I didn’t lose holidays.

“I’ve never drank or smoked, I’ve kept fit, and I never thought that I’d get to the age of 62 and be told I had testicular cancer. It just shows that for any of us your life can change in the blink of an eye.

“That goes for anything, accidents, whatever, but it’s also something like this. Was it there before, I don’t know, and would I have found it even sooner if I’d checked regularly, again I don’t know.

“What is certain is that if you do check, and you find it, it gets dealt with. The NHS gets hammered by some, but I can’t fault them. They’ve been amazing.

“It was the August Bank Holiday when the lump came and by the middle of November I’d had the op and was having four days of chemo. That’s just fantastic.

“You need to find it first, so all I’d say is learn how to do the checks, keep checking, and as soon as you think something has changed, see a doctor. Don’t worry about it not being anything, it’s better to know for certain, and much better to catch it early so that it can be dealt with and you can get on with life.”

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That belief we all have that it won’t be us, we won’t be the 1 in 250 - that’ll be somebody else - added to the sense of shock for Geoff as diagnosis rapidly became treatment shortly after the reality of being told that it was something much more than a simple infection had hit home.

“That morning when I first had the swelling I was so convinced it was nothing that I actually went for a run,” he revealed. “Exercise is my thing, so I felt I had to do something and it would simply go away.

“That was daft, it really was, because the testicle was something like two-and-a-half times it’s normal size. That was a Thursday, and on Saturday we were playing Gillingham at home.

“I mentioned it to Ross the physio, I told him I felt I had a problem, and he advised me to get the doctor to look at it. It was Duncan Robertson from Fleetwood who was on duty for that game and he was very thorough.

“He told me to see him after the game for a scan, and after he’d done that he told me he didn’t like the look of it at all. It was a Bank Holiday weekend, but Duncan got back to me to tell me that I could go for a private scan in Lancaster the following week, and my immediate reaction was to say that I couldn’t do that because we were away at Harrogate.

“He said right away, ‘you need to forget the football Geoff, you’ve got a problem and we need to get to the bottom of it.’

“I was on antibiotics at that point, convinced it was just an infection, so I was still waiting for it to go down. That was on the Friday morning, so I phoned the number he’d given me, and they asked me to go to Barrow that night at 10.30pm.

“Even at that point I was thinking that I would go, but that it was going to turn out to be nothing. I told my wife, and she said she’d come with me, but again I was that convinced that it was nothing to worry about that I told her there was no point.

“It felt like I was ticking a box on the way to things getting back to normal. The clinic was in the middle of town in Barrow in what used to be a bank, and it was right next door to a pub, so you could hear everybody having a good time, which was interesting.

“They were running late, so I had to wait for a while, but when I got in I was put on a bed with a huge 42” screen right there beside it. He started to do the scan and he confirmed right away that I had cancer in the testicle.

“He said that it would need to be removed, and I have to say, that was a massive shock.”

With the speed of going from waking up with the swelling to being told that an operation was required, we pressed again to see if he’d had any inkling whatsoever that things weren’t as they should be before that morning arrived.

“Absolutely nothing,” he insisted. “A few of the medical people I’ve spoken to since have said that there must have been something, I just hadn’t realised.

“I mean, in the June, just a few months earlier, I was in Florida going down slides in water parks and stuff, and I hadn’t felt a thing. When you’re told you’re going to lose the testicle you try to deflect it and deal with it, and one of my boyhood heroes was Bobby Moore, so I told the doctor that if it was good enough for Bobby it was good enough for me.

“He was obviously confused, so I explained that Bobby had one of his testicles removed in 1964, and two years later he was picking the World Cup up. He’d kept that to himself, he hadn’t told his team mates or anyone, and back in those days it was a fortnight in bed after the operation as well.”

Having been given the news, it was the long drive home from Barrow, alone, with just his thoughts for company.

“When I came out of the clinic it was dark, I had that long drive, I didn’t really know the road and I just felt really down in the dumps,” he admitted. “I just kept asking myself, what am I going to do here.

“It does hit you really hard - it’s the cancer word as much as anything. I maybe drove for 20 minutes with my own thoughts rattling around then I thought, I know what I’ll do, I’ll phone Paul Simpson.

“He’d been through the process with his kidney and I felt that he’d be able to give me some advice. I told him it wasn’t good news, and that I needed to have the testicle removed, and I simply asked, what do I do?

“It’s funny because as we were having the conversation we were passing Barrow’s ground and I was half wondering if Denno was still stuck in the away end celebrating his goal!

“Simmo told me that I needed to tell the people who needed to know right away and then I had to deal with it. He wasn’t being blunt, it was just that he’d dealt with his situation in that way. He told me to get my head down and get on with it.”

Adding to the whirlwind feel of what he was going through was the speed in which his next consultation went from what he thought would be a check-up to the rapid agreement of a date for surgery.

“After Barrow I was in with the specialist the following Tuesday, and he barely looked at it,” he explained. “He did a quick evaluation then he sat down, and as he was picking up the phone he handed me a form and told me to sign it.

“I asked what it was, and it was basically a consent form to allow the operation to go ahead. When the call was answered he said to whoever it was that he needed somebody in this Friday, urgently, and that was also a bit of a shock.

“He hadn’t said much to me but I was thinking, wow, am I really that far down the line! As I was signing it he asked if I was able to come to Whitehaven on the Tuesday night, and I said yeah, and that was me booked in for the operation.

“I went, and I had a nurse called Mia who looked after me all day and a lady called Maria who helped me in the recovery room later that night. Everybody there was absolutely brilliant.”

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Operation completed, there was still one more shock in store.

“I had a follow up at the Cumberland Infirmary at the end of October and I thought, at that point, that it was all contained, it was benign, and the removal of the testicle had dealt with it, so that was me going in to get signed off,” he told us.

“I was in really high spirits going in for that appointment, but I was told to sit down and it all changed for me very quickly. He told me that they couldn’t be sure that they’d got it all, then he said – in fact, look, you’ve got two different types of cancer in there, and one is quite aggressive.

“He explained that the next step was chemo, and that I was to be handed over to the Freeman in Newcastle for that next stage. He told me that a phone call would come to explain further.

“Going over to Newcastle was the first time things got really emotional for me. The reason I got upset then is because I lost my brother Gordon to cancer when he was 36, back in 1995.

“When I was asked if there had been any cancer in the family, well, Gordon had three kids and it brought all of that back for me. He was a big Carlisle fan and he moved to Northampton with his family, and it hit all of us hard when we lost him.

“He had a tumour on his lung, and that was quite bad. Me going through this made me realise just how ill he was. I don’t think Harley Street or anywhere could have saved him, he was that ill.

“He went jogging one day and he was absolutely shattered. He ended up in the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, they found this little thing on his lung, took it out, but that caused it to grow even bigger to the point where it wrapped itself around his heart. He couldn’t have chemo, he had to have radiotherapy, and he suffered.

“My emotions on the way to Newcastle for the chemo, I think you revert to being a kid. I didn’t want that chemo, I wanted my dad to come and sort it, and I knew he couldn’t, so then I wanted to run away.

“It’s human nature. But then you have to get on with it and beat it which, obviously, is what I did. Chemo is tough, I don’t want to scare people, but it is. It knocked me for six.”


A wave of messages through his four-day stay for intensive chemo treatment kept spirits high, with visits from friends and relatives also important. Lifelong friend Peter Beardsley was one who popped in, as did Fred Story, who was there almost immediately after the first course of fluids had been administered.

“Working at Brunton Park has been a godsend,” he told us. “It’s given me something to focus on, and that’s been so important. My wife, Sarah-Louise and Charlie and Gabriella my children have been magnificent (along with Bertie the dog).

“Simmo, the rest of the coaching staff, every single one of the players, I can’t put into words how much they’ve picked me up and helped me through. The club admin staff sent me a hospital survival goody bag which was just amazing.

“The texts, messages, words that are said, they seem like little things but they’re actually huge. For example me and Denno have this love hate relationship, he’s just abused me from day one, but the day before I went into hospital he was actually nice to me.

“I had to check it was the same bloke! Joking aside, this has all shown me that everybody is there for me, and I have to say thank you for that.

“Next for me is a check on Tuesday to see where we’re at, and there’ll be regular checks going from there. Having chemo takes the risk of a return from 50% down to 5%, so doing that was an absolute no-brainer.

“Finally, all I can say, is get to know your own body. Check yourself regularly, and don’t try to be a superhero, act and get help if something, anything at all, doesn’t feel right.”


The most common symptom of testicular cancer is a lump or swelling in your testicle.

Testicular symptoms to look out for include:

  • a lump or swelling in part of one testicle
  • a testicle that gets bigger
  • a heavy scrotum
  • discomfort or pain in your testicle or scrotum

The scrotum is the sack of skin that surrounds your testicles. These symptoms can be similar to other conditions that affect the testicles, such as infections. But see a doctor if you have:

  • any of these symptoms
  • symptoms that are unusual for you
  • symptoms that don’t go away or don’t improve

Your symptoms are unlikely to be cancer but it is important to get them checked by a doctor. Try not to be embarrassed. Doctors are used to discussing intimate problems and will try to put you at ease.

OddBalls - originally founded to raise awareness of Testicular Cancer, they have donated in excess of £650,000 to charities since 2014.

Click HERE to purchase your Carlisle United OddBalls underwear.

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