Pregnancy joy and infertility heartache for twin brothers diagnosed with testicular cancer days apart
Ryan and Sean Collard’s story has always highlighted the harsh and humbling reality of early cancer diagnosis.
In September 2017, Ryan, then 23, was diagnosed with stage four testicular cancer and, just 20 days later, his twin brother Sean was also told he had the same form of cancer – although it was caught at a much earlier stage.
They stood by each other through operations and gruelling chemotherapy treatments, have previously shared their fears of infertility and have set up their own organisation to support other young men called Cancer Lads.
Now Sean’s partner Sophie Campbell is 24-weeks pregnant and the Hetton couple are expecting the arrival of their baby boy in September.
Sean, 26, says they’re ‘over the moon’ but remain cautious after devastatingly losing a baby last year just weeks into the pregnancy.
“It was a horrible experience,” said Sean. “We don’t know if it was natural causes or if it was something to do with me.
“This time it was great when we found out Sophie was pregnant. As she had fallen pregnant previously I knew she was going to be fertile.
“It was a bigger surprise the first time, we didn’t know it was going to happen. There was a possibility I wouldn’t be fertile.”
But amongst the joy the news of a baby has brought to the whole family, it is ‘bittersweet’ as Sean’s non-identical twin Ryan remains infertile and fears he may never be able to father children.
“I phoned him with some of the best news you could ever give someone but knowing deep down it’s going to be crucifying him,” said Sean.
“He’s been really great but I also know it’s a reminder of something that may never happen for Ryan.
“It is very bittersweet. It’s something I’d like to talk to him about but I know, as much as he says he doesn’t mind, it is hard for him. I would be the same.
“I do keep him updated. I know it does upset him because it’s something he’s always wanted. I would never want him to feel, and I know he wouldn’t, that I was rubbing it in his face. So I try to keep it as balanced as possible."
Ryan, who is a primary school teacher based in London, has always dreamed of having children and is still undergoing tests to see if he will be fertile.
Due to the severity of the cancer when he was diagnosed, Ryan was never given the opportunity to bank sperm and was rushed straight in for treatment.
And recent fertility tests haven’t given him the positive results he’d desperately hoped for.
He has spoken openly to Cancer Lads followers about the ‘devastation’ of telling his partner Sophie Huggett that his chances of being able to give her a baby naturally are extremely slim.
The next step would be an operation which will take semen from the testicle.
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Ryan said: “The longer we leave it the better. Two years isn’t a long period of time for things to go back to normal.
“’Don’t give up hope’ was the fertility doctor’s message. Just leave it in the hands of the almighty really. If I thought about it every day it would just bring me down.”
“Sean and I have had a real heart to heart. I don’t want him to think I’m not excited but it hurts quite a lot for me too,” said Ryan.
“He’s well aware of how I feel and he understands that. It’s not because I don’t care. I just don’t really know how to deal with it.
“There is an element of jealousy and I think it will take time. I think when I know for certain what my situation is it will be different.”
The brothers, who both attended Houghton Kepier Academy, have stood by each other through so much and have continued to support one another. Ryan added: “I’ve also never been so excited, it’s bringing so much joy to the whole family.
“A twin brother is something so, so close to you. It’s almost a second version of yourself, I’m going to be there as much as I can for him.”