This feature was originally conceived as part of a re-design pitch for the aggregates business Tarmac at a time when the internal communications print contract was up for renewal. I was the assistant editor with the agency Trident Communications at the time. The agency had held the contract for several years. The client was looking for fresh ideas and approaches, with their being a risk they would seek these via a new agency and with new relationships.
The piece was designed to be something different to what the agency had previously produced in terms of lifestyle pieces and to act as a talking point in the pitch meeting to discuss how comfortable the client would be in changing the tone and style of the publication. In the pitch, only the design was complete. I worked with the senior designer to discuss the aesthetic approach so that, when discussing the piece, we could speak to a creative project that brought together all of the agency’s strengths – from editorial through to photography and design. The tender was successful and this was one of the first pieces commissioned by the client following the signing of the new contract. This piece was written for the December 2006 issue of Tarmac’s in-house magazine, Tarmac World.
The majority of the client’s employees were men and the majority of those were blue-collar labourers working across the UK. I wanted to create an article that wasn’t just informative but was also entertaining (often the first casualty of internal communications). The bright pink and yellow design was designed to grab the reader’s attention as they flicked through the magazine (most pages were white) and the direct, lads mag approach to language was used to reflect the straight talking approach the employees used on site – and, to an extent, the company wished to use in its communications (when appropriate). I was keen to also speak to the employees' partners in the article. A large proportion of the magazine’s readership had the issues delivered to their homes and, from past readership surveys, we knew that those partners were often the first to read the publication. As such, I wrote the article with a mind to encouraging discussion – both at home and in the workplace – and sharing of the content.
MIND THE BOLLOCKS
Balls, cojones, goolies, love spuds, nuts, nadgers, knackers – guys have a glut of names for the part of their body they look at the least but should probably think about the most. In an effort to make his fellow men take care of the crown jewels, Gareth Jenkins talks bollocks.
I love my bollocks. It wouldn’t be unfair to say I’m quite attached to them. I couldn’t imagine losing them but that’s a reality 2,000 men in Britain have to deal with every year. The cause is testicular cancer, the prime cancer affecting men aged 15-45 – that’s me (I’m 25) or you or the guys you work with. But it’s a hushed up subject and one that blokes tend to push to the back of their minds, unlike women and breast cancer. I’ll be honest; I don’t talk about it with my mates and I don’t remember the last time I gave my testicles a once-over.
The thing is, 99 per cent of testicular cancer cases are curable – if they’re caught early. What you need to do is check your tackle.
A good time to check yourself is after a warm shower. Your body is at its most relaxed and you’ll be able to feel any irregularities. If you’re not sure about checking yourself, why not ask your partner to have a feel.
For a basic check, support your sack in the palm of your hand so that you can feel the weight, then roll each testicle between your fingers and thumb – gently feeling for lumps, swellings or changes in firmness. Each testicle does have a tube carrying sperm to the end of your penis, so don’t worry if you comes across this, it’s completely normal. Part of the self-check is to make you familiar with your testicles. The only way you’re going to know if something is wrong is if you know how things feel when they’re right.
Regularly checking your testicles, and by regularly I mean at least once a month, will make you aware of the normal feel, size and weight of your balls. If you notice a change then you should see your doctor as soon as possible. I know it can be embarrassing but the sooner you get it looked at the sooner the doctor can either put your mind at rest or get you seen by a specialist. Your doctor won’t mind.
Signs to look out for while you’re checking things include
- A lump on – or increase in size of – either testicle
- A feeling of heaviness in your sack or a dull ache around your abdomen or groin
- A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum or growth and/or tenderness of the upper chest.
If you get any of these symptoms, do not mess about – go and see a doctor.
Remember, most cases are curable if they’re caught early. But the longer you wait the more difficult it can be for the doctors to act. It’s your life and you need to grab it by the balls.
Side panel: My privates’ life
Peter lives in London. In September 2000 he found a lump in his testicles. After a week of worrying a friend convinced him to see a doctor.
Q) What happened next?
A) The doctor knew straight away that something was wrong and he got me to see a specialist that day. A week after the doctor’s initial examination, I was in hospital having the cancerous lump removed. It was caught at a very early stage so I didn’t need to go through chemotherapy.
Q) And now?
A) Everything’s fine. My specialist considers me ‘cancer free’ but I have an annual check-up just to make sure. Because I caught it early, I’ve avoided the long-term health effects and more serious consequences.
Q) How’s your sex life?
A) It’s absolutely fine. The cancerous testicle was removed but this had no physical impact on my sex life. Men do get worried about this and the problems can be purely psychological – but I think this is down to how men view cancer. Male cancers are all kept behind closed doors whereas women’s cancers are talked about in the open. We should be looking to get to a stage where can talk about this down the pub.
Q) Do you ever think about differently things would be if you’d waited?
A) Absolutely. When I had my initial check-up, my doctor told me what might have been – had I waited – and it’s stuck with me. It’s one of the reasons I’m so driven to talk to anyone who’ll listen about the need to regularly self-examine. Should you find anything unusual, get down the doctor’s as soon as possible.
This feature picked up two CiB awards in 2007, one regional and one national. Both were for feature writing. Mind The Bollocks was the class winner at the nationals. In the judges’ comments, one judge stated he had begun to change his own habits as a result of reading the feature.