Three years ago, Frankston backman Liam Hiscock was diagnosed with testicular cancer. What followed was a 95 day battle that tested his determination multiple times. He reflects on it as a bump in the road and has learned one key lesson.
Part 1: The surgery, the emotion
It’s Tuesday 27th June 2017.
Liam Hiscock returns to his Beaumaris residence from footy training at Casey Fields, heads to his room, slumps himself on his bed, and “lets it all out.”
His then girlfriend, by his side, knows he had a doctor’s appointment earlier that day.
She knows that the doctor sent Hiscock in for a precautionary ultrasound on his left testicle after he felt a lump the previous night.
She knows that if the results are urgent he would have heard back by now.
So she realises, consoles, and sympathises.
“I was in all sorts in that moment. Those releases actually made it pretty good,” Hiscock reflects.
To illustrate it’s significance, it’s perhaps best to briefly examine Hiscock’s persona.
An amusing livewire, carefree and energetic, happy and glass-half-full, he doesn’t miss an opportunity to prank a mate, which has seen him promoted to club fines master for Frankston this season.
Yet he recalls that night as one of three emotional times during his cancer experience.
The following day, Frankston’s key defender was given his most difficult opponent: testicular cancer.
“When I got told, I was laughing a bit, I was actually laughing.
“I said sh*t, so does that mean I don’t have to go back to work today? But that night before was a big release,” Hiscock reflected.
“The surgeon said at the first opportunity we’ll get you in, so he booked me in for surgery on Monday.
“The [oncology team] said ‘because of the size [14 millimetres], because of the positioning, just get rid of the whole ball,’ so I did.
“I had the opportunity to get a prosthetic, but I like the calling card of a one ball bandit,” Hiscock laughed.
In those few days, Hiscock had footy to occupy him, playing one final development league match and revealing his diagnosis to the head coach Justin Plapp and a few close mates at the club.
The surgery seemed successful giving cause for cautious optimism but six weeks later his oncologists at Cabrini Brighton delivered bad news.
To put it in football terms, Hiscock thought the siren had sounded on his cancer battle, but it was only quarter time, if that.
The cancer was more aggressive than first thought, which saw him presented with multiple courses of treatment.
Part 2: The mates, the chemo, the win
Just like the days following his diagnosis, Hiscock again has footy to distract him from his second bout of grim news.
Privy to his upcoming battle, a mate asks the then Casey Demon over to watch Friday night footy, with a hidden agenda.
Hiscock walked in and sat on the same couch, in the same living room as he had done countless times before, but this time it wasn’t the footy, the beers or the jokes that he remembers most fondly.
“When halftime came on, two of the boys went out the back, then they returned and stood in front of the TV,” Hiscock recalls.
“They’ve gone ‘if you’ve got to do chemo and you’re living this, it’s one in, all in,’ so they all got the clippers and, we all went bald.”
“It was probably one of the few times I did actually get quite emotional. When I looked around, there was hair everywhere and fifteen of my best mates I’ve grown up with just completely bald.
“It’s a different kind of feeling, a kind you rarely get. It’s very special.”
The decision to undertake chemotherapy was a no-brainer.
“[The oncologist] said ‘if you don’t have the chemo there is a 40% chance of it coming back in the next 5-10 years, or you can have 6 weeks of chemo now and it goes down to below 5% of it coming back.”
“If I did not opt to have chemo and then it came back and I needed chemo, that would have been nine weeks so I’ve just gone, ‘I may as well just write off the rest of the year.”
Constantly asked about the experience of going through chemo, he says: “if you’ve ever had a really big night, and you wake up feeling horrendous the next day.”
But he concedes the drawn-out nights, alone in his thoughts where he was too exhausted to do anything but not enough to sleep, were a low point, testing his usual positivity and grit.
The nausea, mouth-ulcers, loss of appetite and peeling skin didn’t help either.
“There were two intensive weeks [where] I was in the hospital full-time.
“I woke up, at 9.00 and I walked over to the oncology ward where I would sit and they put two litres of fluid into me, then all the chemo drugs and another litre of fluid because I wasn’t eating,” he recalls.
“They walked me back to the room at 3.30-4.00 and I’d pretty much just sit there. I had my laptop there but when you’re in that mood you don’t really want to watch anything so I just lay there until the next day.
“That time was pretty bleak.”
Through it he learned a key lesson.
“Life is short, and if you enjoy doing something, you’ve got to go balls out on it,” he laughs, wit on full display.
“It teaches you sh*t is gonna happen, it’s moreso how you deal with it and if you can overcome it, it’s only going to put you in a better spot.”
Hiscock was officially declared cancer free on October 1st 2017 and as a mover, not a dweller, he was keen to resume normal life pronto- by November he was training on a modified program with his Casey team-mates.
The cycle of footy-fun-uni has recommenced as night falls around Hiscock in April 2018.
The cancer fight is far enough behind not to be a lingering concern, but remains a common thought-clogger.
Drifting in his thoughts, Hiscock ponders the importance- and counts his chickens- of the upcoming first year anniversary of his diagnosis when a celebration that ‘just feels right’ enters his mind.
“I’ve gone, what if I get the date I was diagnosed tattooed just as a reminder but also so it’s there, it’s been, it’s happened, and we can move on.
“So it’s always gonna be there, but I don’t have to think about it everyday.”
So to celebrate one year since his diagnosis, the business student inked his chest, with it permanently closing the most demanding chapter of his life.
Two years later, June 28 2020, was on Sunday, and he ‘ticked another box,’ but kept the celebration low-key.
With many of the same mates that shaved their heads, Hiscock went out for dinner, knocked back a few cold ones and cracked some banter.
Only differences, save for the COVID-19 protocols, was that Hiscock had greater appreciation for the essence of time, and all had a head full of hair.
-By Jonty Ralphsmith