By Harriet Whitehead
A brave young dad has shared his heartbreaking battle against terminal penis cancer as he plans to make precious memories with his family – knowing he may not have long to live.
Dale Clarke, 25, who has already had part of his penis removed and is convinced he will soon lose it altogether, received the shock diagnosis in July 2017 after discovering a lump.
Since then the former fitness fanatic has undergone five operations, nine rounds of radiotherapy and two rounds of chemotherapy – but the tumours keep coming back.
In a courageous admission, Dale revealed he no longer has any sensation in his penis and that his sex life with his fiancée Paige King, 24, is ruined as a result.
But Dale, who has a six-year-old son Cole Clarke and a baby on the way, is determined to stay positive and focus on making happy memories with his family and a big Las Vegas wedding.
The joiner, who describes himself as a ‘soldier’, is sharing his story as a warning to other men with symptoms to seek medical attention straight away.
Dale from Newcastle said: “It’s absolutely destroyed me as a person. I struggle to walk to the toilet and my penis has no use other than to try and urinate from it.
“It has no feeling. The cancer is busy eating away around it so I will probably lose it altogether soon.
“But I’m a solider. I’ve got my kids to think about and I can’t be selfish and give up.
“The doctors said I was one of the youngest people they had treated with it and it was one of the most aggressive forms they had seen.
“Using it sexually – that part of my life is gone now and I’ve accepted it. They could cut it all off and it wouldn’t bother me, that’s how far past it I am.
“I know it’s terminal but I’m not planning to go anywhere for a few years. I want to concentrate on watching my children grow up.
“Having chemotherapy was hell. If they tell me another round is likely to work I will do it but if the likelihood is it will not I’m not putting myself through that again.
“I have come to terms with it but it’s the thought of leaving my kids that’s the worst thing.
“My son Cole has been in hospital with me a couple of times. He doesn’t know too much – he knows I’m not well but he’s too young to understand.”
At first, Dale thought he was suffering from an infection as he was struggling to urinate and discovered a lump on the tip of his penis in June.
The dad claims doctors initially thought the lump might have been caused by his foreskin being too tight and carried out a circumcision.
But after being referred to a specialist and undergoing tests two weeks later Dale received the devastating news he had cancer.
Dale said: “I knew from quite early on, I’d researched it and I was convinced that it was cancer.
“At first the lump was the size of a grain of rice but within the space of three weeks it was the size of a grape.
“The pain was unbelievable. It was that bad that I would try not to go to the toilet.
“I was going about once a day and was crying with the pain, it was like the worst kind of burning.
“I remember when they phoned me to confirm it was cancer, I couldn’t say anything.
“I just had to hang up the phone and broke down. I’ve tried to pick myself back up again and get on with it. I’ve accepted it.”
And Paige described the moment they received the phone call as ‘heart breaking’.
Paige said: “He just looked at me and said ‘Paige they’re saying it’s cancer’. We both broke down and just sobbed our hearts out.
“It was very tough on both of us but we tried to carry on as normal.”
In seven months the young dad has had numerous operations and sessions of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
He has been left with a gaping wound at the top of his groin area while skin taken from his thigh has been grafted onto his penis.
Dale also struggles to use his legs since having cancerous lymph nodes removed from his groin and his fiancée Paige has become his carer.
Dale said: “She’s been incredible. She works as a carer and it’s like she’s working two jobs because she’s having to look after me.
“I need somebody to help me all of the time because of my lack of mobility.
“I used to love football, I would play five or six times a week and go to the gym five times a week. It’s horrible not being able to do that anymore.
“It’s amazing how much you take for granted. If I can walk around the block now it’s a miracle.
“It’s the simplest things that you take for granted and that gets taken away from you before you know it.
“I used to love going out with my mates. I would be out all the time but I can’t do that now.”
Although they can no longer by physically intimate, Paige said it doesn’t affect the strength of their relationship.
Before the shock diagnosis, the couple had been trying for a baby but gave up all hope after the news of Dale’s penis cancer.
But two months later Paige discovered she was expecting a ‘little miracle’ – their baby girl who is due in July.
Paige, who will be a first time mum, said: “It’s normal now and we don’t really think about it. It wasn’t one of the main reasons we were together – we’re together because we love each other.
“The diagnosis has brought us closer together. We’re stronger as a team and are taking each day as it comes. Knowing we have each other is helping.
“He’s the best thing that came into my life and made me look at life in a totally different way.
“I couldn’t thank him enough for giving me a chance to become a mum.
“I’ve wanted a baby for a very long time and he made it come true. He made me believe in love again.
“When he was diagnosed we gave up on the idea but then it happened. We are calling it our little miracle, obviously someone is looking over us.
“I broke the news to him when he was in hospital, we were so excited.
“We’re hopeful that we will have a few years together. We’re are trying to stay positive and are planning things for the future and thinking about when the baby arrives.
“He’s so determined to be back on his feet. Before all this he was out most weekends with his friends and had a very active social life.
“We loved going out for dinner and spending time with his son Cole. He loved playing football and going to the gym – he was just a happy-go-lucky lad.
“Dale will live on through his baby – if it’s a girl her middle name is going to be Dayle.”
While he may only have a short time left, Dale is determined to make as many happy memories as possible with his fiancée and their kids.
Dale said: “My focus now is spending time with my family and hopefully I’ll be well enough to be there for the birth of my daughter.
“She was planned, I thought it would be my last opportunity and I wanted to have my family complete.
“I took that chance and I see her as our little miracle. It’s amazing how something so special can come out of this.
“I hope I can watch her grow up for a few years – I’m not planning to go anywhere any time soon.
“I want to go to Vegas to get married, that’s something we’re saving up for now.
“Getting married, bringing my little girl up and spending as much time as I can with my little boy is what I want to do now.”
According to Macmillan Cancer Support there were just two men aged between 25 and 29 diagnosed with penile cancer in 2016.
The couple, who have been struggling to afford the rent after Dale gave up work, are urging men to go to the doctor if they experience any pain.
Dale said: “If something doesn’t look or feel right just make sure you get checked out. Push to get a circumcision – before the lump gets too big to do anything about.”
Friends have also set up a JustGiving page to help the couple when the baby arrives.
To donate visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/dale-clarke
FACT BOX: WHAT IS PENIS CANCER?
Cancer of the penis is very rare, there are around 630 cases in the UK each year.
It’s most often diagnosed in men over the age of 60 years however men in their 30s and 40s can also be affected.
Symptoms can include:
A growth or ulcer on the penis, especially on the glans or foreskin.
Changes in the colour of the penis.
Skin thickening on the penis.
Persistent discharge with foul odour beneath the foreskin.
Blood coming from the tip of the penis or under the foreskin.
Unexplained pain in the shaft or tip of the penis.
Irregular or growing bluish-brown flat lesions or marks beneath the foreskin or on the body of the penis.
Reddish, velvety rash beneath the foreskin.
Small, crusty bumps beneath the foreskin.
Irregular swelling at the end of the penis.