Waikato teenager fighting testicular cancer speaks out to 'remove the stigma'

Eighteen-year-old Tommy O'Brien is staring down a few challenges with his cancer.

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Tommy O’Brien who’s the head boy of Cambridge High School says “being with people” helps him deal with it. Source: Seven Sharp

But, he said knowing that his whole school was backing him gave him hope.

“I've been overwhelmed at the amount of care and support that people have shown towards me," O’Brien said.

O’Brien had just come back from a life-changing student exchange experience in Europe in time for his final year at Cambridge High School, where he’d been named head boy.

But, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer in March.

He told TVNZ1’s Seven Sharp it wasn’t the easiest cancer to talk about.

"It's kind of important to remove the stigma,” O’Brien said.

"I never would have expected for my final year at high school that I'd be the guy with testicular cancer. But, that is what it is and I think it’s getting people talking.”

And the school is talking, indeed, with many giving up their locks for Shave for a Cure. In total, the school raised more than $16,000 for cancer research.

"Honestly he's powering through it and I'm proud of him,” one student said.

"He's an absolute trooper, such a positive attitude even though he's going
through the worst part of his life,” said another.

Principal Greg Thornton said O’Brien had a “huge impact on the school”.

“He’s a lovely kid.”

O’Brien underwent surgery just as Covid-19 took hold in New Zealand. Now, he’s getting through multiple rounds of chemotherapy.

He said he remained positive most of the time, but there were certain days were he got lost in his thoughts.

"Being with people is the best way of dealing with something that is tough on you mentally,” he said.

"If my journey can help anyone I would be really proud of that.”