Overcoming the 'Ball-Ache' of Testicular Cancer
William Sheepskin (Credit: William Sheepskin)

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Testicular Cancer: Cape Town Photographer raises over R230 000

In May 2022, William Sheepskin, a 27-year-old photographer from Sea Point, Cape Town, faced a life-altering diagnosis: testicular cancer.

25-10-23 12:01
Overcoming the 'Ball-Ache' of Testicular Cancer
William Sheepskin (Credit: William Sheepskin)

This unexpected medical journey not only tested his physical strength but also posed financial challenges that threatened to eclipse his dreams and future plans.

Maya, William’s partner of six years, a 25-year-old student pursuing a Master’s in Architecture at the University of Cape Town, shared her perspective on the daunting moment of diagnosis, saying, “There is never a good time for a cancer diagnosis. But Will’s career was gaining momentum, and I had just begun my postgraduate studies in architecture at UCT. It’s quite something to be twenty-five and twenty-seven, smacked in the face with urgent existential thoughts: What does OUR future look like? Do we want kids? Should we freeze sperm? Is Will going to die?”

Pictured above: Will and Maya

Despite the emotional turmoil, William remained resilient as he prepared for a Radical Inguinal Orchiectomy, a surgical procedure to remove a testicle. However, the emotional blow struck when their fertility doctor revealed that due to cancer, William was likely permanently infertile. Their only option for future parenthood would be in vitro fertilization, a procedure they could only consider years later due to the lingering effects of chemotherapy.

The biopsy results confirmed the tumour’s malignancy, leading to a two-month recovery period after surgery. William then embarked on a course of carboplatin chemotherapy to minimize the risk of cancer spreading to vital organs. While the treatment marked a significant milestone, it was only the beginning of a tumultuous journey.

Three days after chemotherapy, William resumed remote work, determined to press on despite the challenges. Cancer didn’t deter his work ethic; it only made life more expensive. The financial strain, coupled with physical fatigue, burnout, and anxiety, continued to take a toll on his well-being. He often pushed himself to work long hours, only to face weeks of bedridden repercussions.

Pictured above: Self-portrait with family post-surgery (Credit: William Sheepskin)

This cycle endured for a year, during which time William’s savings steadily diminished while he grappled with mounting medical expenses not covered by insurance.

Amidst the challenges of dealing with what they often humorously referred to as this “ball-ache of a disease,” Maya highlighted their shared coping mechanism. She explained, “A cancer journey is an immense burden, and humour has been our way of lightening it. We’ve found that making light of the situation is a strategy that Will and I tend to turn to. People inquire about your well-being, and you respond with, ‘Yeah, everything is fine!’ even as you strive to convince yourself that it’s true.”

Determined to ease their financial burden and support William’s return to photography, Maya launched a crowdfunding campaign on Backabuddy. The campaign aimed to raise funds for medical bills, four more years of medical tests and check-ups, CT scans, fertility storage, and essential supplements that had become too expensive to maintain.

Maya’s heartfelt plea to help her partner recover read, “Most of all, I want my strong, creative, and passionate Will to enjoy his craft and offer him the time to find his footing again to make a living from his lens. I miss this Will.”

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The response was overwhelming. Within a month, the campaign received support from over 1000 donors, surpassing the initial target of R140,000 and raising over R235,000. The outpouring of generosity not only alleviated financial stress but also brought renewed hope and determination to Will and Maya as they faced the ongoing challenges of his cancer journey.

Pictured above: William and Maya

Maya expressed her gratitude, saying, “The support has meant that all of the stress associated with the financial burden of having cancer and going through the process of treating it has been alleviated. It also dramatically reduced the stress of being out of work for an extended period of time. Will was always tired and becoming extremely burnt out since he never had a chance to just reflect on what he’d been going through, and the BackaBuddy campaign has allowed him to start living on his own terms again instead of making decisions informed by the weight of illness.”

Now Will has been able to start taking on jobs that focus on progressing his career, rather than merely securing money. It no longer feels like cancer completely changed the way he had to make decisions about life. It’s been such a relief to see him come out of the place he was in as a result of the illness. The fundraiser was far more successful than they could ever have hoped for.

Support this campaign on BackaBuddy