Actor turned motorcycle diarist Charley Boorman has had his fair share of scrapes and knocks while riding across the world on a variety of adventures.
But a recent health scare hit him much closer to home when he discovered a lump on one of his testicles during a routine check.
Charley, the son of film director John Boorman, has lost a sister, Telsche, to ovarian cancer and knew how important it was that he act quickly.
“The thing with testicular cancer is there are lots of different types and they affect different ages. If you do feel any anomalies it is very important to go and get it checked out as soon as possible,
“The more in denial you are the worse it could potentially be. The quicker you act, the less of a hassle it is, people should merely see it as an inconvenience.”
The treatment of testicular cancer has a very high success if it is caught early and dealt with swiftly.
Charley, 43, had to have one of his testicles removed and replaced with a false one, made of silicon.
“It was a simple operation. I was out the next day and carried on with my life. I didn’t really have to time to dwell on it. I was very lucky, it hadn’t spread anywhere.
“I suppose I am a bit more cancer-aware because of my sister. It is a terrible thing for anyone to have to go through.
“I was checking for testicular cancer the same way women should check for breast cancer. You have to vigilant of your body, if you find an anomaly get it looked at.”
Charley was back on his beloved bikes within a week of the operation.
He has been riding since he was a boy, after seeing some motorbikes being raced around at the age of seven or eight and thinking he’d “like to give that a go”.
It remained a private passion, however, until he and Ewan McGregor decided to embark on a motorcycle trip from London to New York, which formed the basis of the TV series Long Way Round.
The two friends, who had met on the film The Serpent’s Kiss, reteamed for Long Way Down, which saw them riding from John O’Groats to Cape Town.
While Ewan has returned to movie making, Charley has continued on his travels.
He has gone, starting from his home town in County Wicklow, around the world By Any Means, ending in Sydney. Then he went from Sydney to Tokyo in By Any Means 2.
He also took part in the gruelling Dakar Rally in 2006 but had to withdraw when he broke his hand.
“I think when you ride off-road that comes as part and parcel of it. I have been very lucky, just broken the odd collar bone and other bits and pieces like that,” he says.
Because the trips are so taxing he has to train to get “bike fit”.
“I do a lot of stamina work, running and that kind of thing. But you also need to be motorbike fit because you use your muscles in a different type of way so you need to spend a lot of time on the motorbike doing races and all sorts of stuff, as much as possible.
“On Dakar you are riding for 18 hours a day. If you are lucky you grab three or four hours sleep and then you are out again, so it is a tough call, But that is why you do it, for the challenge and for the mental strain, to see if you can push yourself. It is amazing what the human body does and what you can achieve.”
Charley is currently on a live tour, joined by Dakar legend Simon Pavey, talking about his adventures and showing video clips from them, some of which have never been screened before.
He will be at Wolverhampton Grand tomorrow night (March 5), Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre on Saturday (March 6) and Warwick Arts Centre on March 16. For more details look up www.charleyboormanlive.com
He is also inviting people to join him on a 5,000 km trip to Victoria Falls in Southern Africa in August. Details are available on the website.
* Before he set off on his tour of the country’s theatres, we asked Charley what are the four things he can’t without on his great bike ride through life.
* My motorbikes. I couldn’t do without them. I use them every single day. To get around town, to have fun in. I use them for everything.
* My wife, Olivia. She is my soul mate and she is the one who, whenever I have ideas, tells me if they are rubbish or not. I think she does sometimes get worried about my job but chooses not to think about it. She knows I love it and she is always happy for me to be out and about an doing things I love. The kids (Doone and Kinvara) like it as well. At the end of the trips they all come out to meet me and then we go off on a little trip on our own. The other day one of my kids said ‘I’ve never been to the west coast of America so I don’t know whether you can finish one of your trips there’. I said ‘I’ll try and work it out for you’.
* Baby wipes. When you are travelling and are in the middle of nowhere for long period of time you don’t get a chance to shower. Baby wipes are an essential item and handy for everything. They are brilliant, especially if you ride a motorbike a lot, the last thing you want is a rashy bum! Actually you don’t really get one. When you are doing anything for long period of time you just get used to it. You get weather worn.
* Quality sleeping bag. When we did some training with ex-special forces guys, they always said spend your money on a decent sleeping bag and mat to sleep on. If you get a good night’s sleep it doesn’t matter how much trouble you are in or how difficult it is, you are always ready for it in the morning.