AN ALLOA man has opened up about the devastating toll testicular cancer has had on his mental health over the years.

Jim Cook was diagnosed with the condition back in 2001, and was left infertile while in his early thirties.

In the years since, he's gone from crushing lows that led to him attempting to end his own life, to a huge high after discovering a passion for helping others.

Now, almost 20 years later, the 49-year-old wants to share his story to open up a wider conversation about mental health and wellbeing.

Speaking to the Advertiser, Jim said that before he was diagnosed with cancer, he was fit and healthy.

He said: "I found a lump on my testicle, and it's probably like quite a lot of men to ignore it.

"I was getting in from work and would sit down on the couch and I would fall asleep – this went on for about three or four months.

"My brother actually called the doctor for me, and they advised not to worry about it because: 'You've got a lump but it's probably just a cyst'."

But a visit to a urologist led to him being sent for an urgent ultrasound.

"In my mind I knew I had cancer," Jim said.

"I was sent for the ultrasound, and they said: 'There's no easy way to tell you this, you've got a nasty' – that was the word they used."

After that, Jim was sent to Glasgow to see whether the testicular cancer had affected his sperm – and to have samples taken in case it affected his fertility later on.

He said: "They take sperm from you, so that if the cancer affected your ability to have kids, you've still got that there.

"They tried this about six or seven times, and said the cancer had killed off all the sperm in my body.

"It was a 10-second conversation, and they just told me you're never going to be able to father children."

The effect of that news was crushing. Jim said: "I think that affected me more than the cancer did.

"Something I always wanted to do in my life was father children."

Shortly after receiving that news, things became even worse.

Jim said: "I got an operation for the cancer, and I was going through radiotherapy.

"During the radiotherapy they done an x-ray and found a shadow on my lungs.

"It was pneumonia.

"When I started treatment, it was an 85 per cent survival rate, and that shot down to about 35 per cent.

"I was really, really, worried, but still managed to fight through it."

Incredibly, despite all the crushing news that hit him at that time, Jim said he managed to stay positive while undergoing treatment.

It was only after he got the "all clear" from doctors that the enormity of what had happened started to sink in.

In the period that followed, he has suffered from debilitating bouts of anxiety and depression.

He said: "I'm still dealing with it today.

"I've had times where I've swallowed a whole lot of tablets, trying to take my own life.

"I'm reaching out and getting support for it now."

He added that as well as the whole ordeal of beating the cancer, he said there was a time when the surgery to remove one of his testicles left him feeling like "less of a man".

"I was offered a prosthetic testicle, which my body rejected," Jim said.

"I was like: 'I've got to have something there because women will want something there'.

"The reason I got it done was to feel more of a man again."

But this just led to him undergoing more medical treatment to have it removed.

In spite of all of this, over time, Jim managed to find strength from his ordeal, and has even found a way to use the experience to help others.

He is now in the final stages of an HNC in social services, and is actively and enthusiastically involved with various mental health support groups.

What's more, he feels able to finally share his personal story, and in doing so he hopes to help break down the stigma around testicular cancer and mental health.

Putting it simply, he said: "I'm trying to help."