Love Island’s Chris Hughes: We shouldn’t have to wait for a wake-up call before thinking about our health

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9:15am, Wed 21 Apr 2021
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When someone close to us gets cancer, it can be a wake-up call to pay a bit more attention to our own health. Love Island’s Chris Hughes doesn’t think it should be this way though.

“It shouldn’t be like that, where it takes somebody in your family to actually get cancer to kick you all into gear. We want people checking themselves and for that to be completely normal, really. We want to be proactive, not reactive,” says the 28-year-old model and TV personality.

He’s teamed up with KP Nuts and men’s health charity Movember for April’s Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, encouraging men and anybody with testicles to ‘check their nuts’ routinely.

Back in 2018, Hughes underwent a live testicular examination on ITV’s This Morning, to highlight how important and easy it is to check for anything unusual. Loads of viewers were inspired to check themselves as a result – including Hughes’ brother Ben, who found a lump the next day and was then diagnosed with the disease.

Ben, who is now cancer-free, credited his brother for saving his life. The pair, who’ve always been close (Ben is older by a year) went on to make a BBC documentary together – Me, My Brother And Our Balls – in which they also explored male infertility (Ben’s treatment affected his sperm production), and the mental health impact of these issues.

The most common cancer in young men, around 2500 cases of testicular cancer are diagnosed each year in the UK and Ireland. If caught early, it’s easily treatable with a 95% survival rate. “But that’s not really comforting to the one in 20 man who doesn’t survive,” says Gloucestershire-born Hughes, who came third in 2017’s Love Island.

And KP Nuts did some research which showed a third of men don’t check themselves for lumps and bumps the recommended once a month, and 9% said they’d never checked themselves. Still more concerning, a fifth don’t know how to check themselves.

“When you’re in the bath or shower is the easiest time to check, and it’s important people check regularly because then you know what you’re feeling for, and if you find something that doesn’t feel natural to what you’ve felt before, you know then to get it checked out,” explains Hughes.

“And you also know, for your own peace of mind, [if it is cancer] you’ve caught it early.”

Chris Hughes at the 2019 Pride of Britain Awards

Hughes is also known for his love of sports, especially golf and horse racing (he’s been presenting for ITV Racing a few years now) so we caught up with him to chat more about health, life and getting back on the golf course…

Did Ben’s diagnosis affect how you think about your own health?

“I’ve already had four operations on my testicles [Hughes was treated for varicocele, enlarged veins in the scrotum, during his teens], so we have had complications in our family around these things.

“I get quite bad health anxiety. If something doesn’t look right or feel right, I panic more than I probably should and I’m very cautious – that’s just me, I’m not embarrassed to say it, although you can be labelled a hypochondriac. But if something doesn’t feel right, I will go and get it checked, and I will go and get checked for minimal things because I’d rather have the peace of mind.

“It [the cancer] definitely had knock-on effects though. My brother now is struggling with his fertility and obviously that affects you mentally, because it starts to drain you and eat you up. It is tough. These things are all real, so it is important we look after ourselves.”

What sort of things do you find helpful for the anxiety?

“More fitness, really. Playing golf is massive for me. Golf courses – being able to get out for four or five hours a day is so good, it’s so stress-relieving, you’re in an open field, it’s brilliant. Also just going for a walk and going to the gym. Just the feeling of getting outdoors, being in the sun, it’s amazing what a bit of being outside in the sun can do.

“I have to be active and keep my mind occupied. I’m one of them – I’m never satisfied with what I’ve got, I always want more, whether it’s work or whatever, and I feel like it’s a good thing because it keeps me motivated. But I can’t just relax, unless I’m watching sport. That’s just the way I am. I watch sport, I play sport, and that does it for me, that helps me massively.”

How do you approach things like work-life balance and keeping boundaries with social media?

Chris Hughes riding Carnageo during The Best Western Hotels & Macmillan Ride of their Lives, during the Macmillan Charity Raceday at York Racecourse, 2018.

“With social media, I don’t feel like I’m on there a crazy amount. I flick through it but don’t feel like I spend so much of my day on there that it’s a concern, where some other people my age probably would. I’m entertained watching sport – if I’m not playing sport, I’m watching sport, and that keeps me off my phone.

“Work wise, I like being busy. I like being out and about, I like being surrounded by people. I’m not very good in my own company, I’d rather have someone there. Even watching sport, I like having someone to talk to about the sport! I just buzz off other people’s company, I think. I’m lucky I have a housemate, or [lockdown] would have been a lot tougher.”

Is there a piece of advice that’s really stuck with you, or a mantra or philosophy you live by?

“It’s not really a mantra, but I never take myself too seriously. I think you get far more enjoyment out of life if you’re a bit more laidback and can enjoy things and almost take the mick out of yourself too. It loosens you up.

“Also, when I feel stressed or say I’ve got a million things on the go, it fries my brain completely. I struggle with mentally setting things out in my head, so I have to have a diary to write things down. I swear I couldn’t live without a proper diary.

“I write everything down in there – what jobs I’ve been to, what money I’m earning, what I’m doing each day. Otherwise I’ll end up forgetting, or my brain will fry and I’ll just get stressed. People look at me as being old-fashioned, but I love a diary!

“And I don’t really live with any regrets, because I always feel like at the time, it was what I wanted to do or felt like the right thing to do.”And here’s how to check your balls for lumps

Movember suggests giving your testicles a bit of a feel each month while in the bath or shower, it takes just minutes to do. Roll one testicle between thumb and fingers to get to know what’s normal and repeat with the other one. If you notice a change in size or shape, a lump that wasn’t there before, or if they become painful to touch, see a doctor.

Chris Hughes has teamed up with KP Nuts and Movember to encourage men to ‘check their nuts’.

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