By Hollie Bone
The widow of a stunt man claims he was driven to suicide when doctors refused to check for low testosterone levels after a cancer op.
Lily Oak-Hannington’s husband Gordon Hannington, 33, hung himself the day after receiving a letter from his GP stating medics had carried out blood tests but had not measured his testosterone levels.
Combat actor Gordon had once loved the outdoors and being active, but after surgery to remove his cancerous left testicle two years ago, Lily, 35, watched her husband spiral downwards into daily mood swings and bouts of depression which left him cooped up indoors for days on end.
After doing their own research, the concerned couple believed Gordon was showing signs of low testosterone, but Lily claims despite his countless pleas for medical professionals to test for this he was rebuffed every time – leading him to take his own life.
The heartbroken widow, from Alnwick, Northumberland, is now speaking out in the hope of preventing other deaths after Gordon’s inquest last month allegedly did not investigate these claims.
Self-employed mum-of-two Lily, said: “It started two years ago when Gordon was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
“He had surgery to remove his left testicle and it was deemed that he didn’t need chemotherapy.
“We thought that was it, but six months later he started getting tired and irritable and he was just really struggling to motivate himself anymore.
“He had been a really active fit guy, he was constantly up, out and about doing things but as time went on he started having huge mood swings and would lay in bed four days a week.
“Over the next two years, he kept going to medics and asking them to test his testosterone levels, but every single time they blankly refused.
“I absolutely believe that if Gordon had been given these tests he would still be here with us. He was let down.
“At every stage there were systematic failings – so many failings – he could and should have been caught so many times.
“A low testosterone diagnosis would have been an explanation for him, it would have allowed him to find a way to manage what was happening to him.”
Lily claims her husband asked consultants and registrars to test his testosterone levels at least five times in the months and years after his op, before pleading with medical professionals once more – this time at his GP surgery.
But she claims each time Gordon was dismissed, and was allegedly even told by one consultant he was instead suffering a Vitamin D deficiency and just needed supplements.
The widow said the couple never received an explanation as to why Gordon couldn’t have the tests, but claims all British Society for Sexual Medicine guidelines (BSSM) guidelines indicate he should have been checked.
The desperate pair had even looked into getting a testosterone prescription privately, but in order to do that, Gordon would have needed to be able to afford a private GP to run tests and conclude he needed this.
In March this year, Lily claims in a last ditch plea, Gordon, stepdad to Lily’s children, Jenson, 14, and Scarlet, 13, went to see his GP to talk about his depression, once again asking to check his male hormone levels.
But on April 4, the day after receiving a letter from the doctors confirming all his blood test results were normal but that the only check they hadn’t conducted was for testosterone levels, Gordon hung himself in the back garden and was discovered by Lily.
While he did not leave a note, a Facebook post from the day of his death reveals how frustrated he felt about the lack of testing.
Lily said: “We had looked into the symptoms of low testosterone and we knew it was what Gordon had.
“What was even more worrying was the fact that this was happening to so many other men across the country.
“It’s scary how closely the numbers of male suicide, and numbers of testicular cancer match up.
“We are constantly telling men to speak up and talk about how they are feeling, but Gordon did do this.
“He told them so many times and he was dismissed.”
Only a month after Gordon’s cancer surgery in 2017, Lily was diagnosed as BRCA2 gene positive – a genetic mutation which increases a woman’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer by 50 to 85 per cent.
Despite not yet actually having cancer, Lily claims she noticed massive disparities in the level of aftercare she was offered to ensure her hormone levels stayed in balance.
Lily said: “I had a double mastectomy and my ovaries and Fallopian tubes removed and the difference was unbelievable.
“I had access to specialist nurses, counselling sessions, regular clinics and check-ups – but the guys are getting none of this.
“I don’t know why this is happening, I think testicular cancer is dismissed a lot more easily because it has a higher survival rate and often men only lose one testicle so people trivialize it and dismiss it quite easily.”
A spokesman for Glendale Surgery, Gordon’s GP, said: “We take our duty of care to all patients very seriously.
“We were very sorry to learn of this patient’s death but our duty of confidentiality towards him means that we cannot divulge any information specific to his care.
“If the family wish to bring any concerns they have directly to us, we will endeavour to respond directly to them in confidence.”
A spokesman for Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust on behalf of the Freeman Hospital said: “We are very sorry to hear of Mr Hannington’s tragic death and our thoughts are with his wife and family at this very sad and difficult time.
“If the family have any outstanding questions or concerns they would like to share with us, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss these further.”
Philly Morris, founder of Checkemlads testicular cancer charity and support group, said: “We see lots of cancer survivors suffering from low testosterone levels and depression.
“The old thinking was that one testicle was enough, but this hasn’t been looked into for the last 50 years and in our experience almost 90 per cent of cancer survivors really struggle afterwards with low testosterone symptoms – weight gain, lethargy, sexual dysfunction and feeling very low.
“People are going to their GPs – having read about the symptoms from the info we have given them – and are knowing more than them, and facing resistance to even get the tests to check what their levels are.
“What needs to happen, is that testosterone level checks are routinely carried out before and after surgery to remove a testicle.
“Men are being told ‘man up, get on with it’, but that attitude is putting people’s lives at risk.”