I asked Nando if he’d allow me to share my story and he agreed. So here it is, my Journey with Testicular Cancer , which began May, 2011. I started a much needed long weekend in Vegas. I showered after a long drive into town in the hot May weather. I was relaxing on the bed watching TV and I did my semi-regular self-examination of the boys. A few years earlier I found a lump that turned out to be a cyst in the epididymis, so I did the examination every so often. I felt a small nodule on my left testicle and it stopped me cold. It was definitely inside the testicle. Although it was not very big in size, to me, at that moment, it was the only thing I could feel. I felt it over and over, it did feel like a hard lump and not another cyst, but it could be, so I told myself not to worry. There was nothing I could do until Tuesday. I enjoyed myself for the weekend but in the back of my mind I kept coming up with all these scenarios on how my doctor’s appointment would play out. Over the rest of the weekend I even tried to talk myself out of it. I tried to tell myself that I felt it before and it was the same size so I should just ignore it. I came from a long line of men that ignored health issues, my father being the prime example ignoring signs of cancer until it was too late to do anything. I could not ignore it.
I called my doctor on Tuesday, they got me in the same day. He examined it and sent me for an ultrasound. They did the ultrasound and then said I should go back to my doctor and he will have the results. I went back to my doctor’s office. He saw me right away and told me that the lump was definitely confirmed to be a hard mass, not a cyst. So, my next stop is a urologist, they recommended a urologist, made the appointment for me the next day and took some blood tests. My mind was reeling and I had one night to digest what happened already. The next day I went to the urologist, he examined me, looked the images from the ultrasound and got the results from my doctor of the tests they took the day before. He confirmed what I already suspected, I had cancer, it was small, but they will remove the testicle. OK, now – all of that that seems rather fast and radical, and it was. There is a reason for that. 95% of all testicular cancer is malignant. Although it is highly treatable with a very high cure rate, time is always a factor from this point on. I had done my research and thanks to the Internet I was prepared. I had a list of questions. For example, I knew to ask in advance for a prosthetic, i.e. a fake ball. I just could not imagine not having that symmetry. According to my brother-in-law, it was because I didn’t want to walk lopsided. Normally I would have had the surgery the following day (yes, really – fast track, remember?) Because I was on blood thinners we had to wait five days so my blood would clot right for the surgery. So I had five days, which included a weekend to say goodbye to leftie.
I had a lot longer than most to digest all of this prior to the surgery. OK, at this point I am scared. Given my experience I already had, I imagined scenarios where cancer was spread all throughout my body. My partner, the ever practical one, refused to be concerned (at least on the surface) or even consider the more dire possibilities until there was proof of such. This would frustrate me, at first I thought he was in denial, but then I realized, as he said, he’s not going to worry about something until there is something to worry about. I actually found that a good point of view once I let it settle a bit. I was deprived of my rightful melodramatic freak out, but in the long run it was better and helped me to be more stable and prepared mentally. One of the worst parts was the next step, telling my family. I come from a large family and we had a messaging system in place. I knew I only had to call a couple siblings, the ones that would not freak out and exaggerate my news and pass it on from there. Despite that I still ended up fielding calls from two siblings that were freaked out and crying. Oddly enough, these were the siblings I heard from the least and they call ME to freak out about MY cancer? We all have family like that I guess. I had to reassure them of what I had read, i.e. that it was highly treatable, the odds are it was caught early, etc, etc. I think reassuring them helped me to believe it a little. The surgery happened, and a couple weeks went by.
I went back for a follow up with the Urologist, there was still no final biopsy. I had another follow-up a couple weeks later and got the final news. It was a very rare tumor that was “most likely benign”. It was great news, I was happy. I beat the 95 percentile, but of course that caveat (“most likely benign”) stuck in the back of my mind. The Urologist then asked if I wanted an Oncologist to review it. I was lucky in that my Hematologist is also one of the top Oncologists for testicular cancer. So I asked the Urologist to send all the information to my Hematologist, I had an appointment with him in a couple weeks and we could discuss. My Oncologist is now on the case to make sure nothing else crops up. My tumor was so rare and there is so little information on it that even though they expect it not to return, my doctor will do annual CAT scans to make sure. I was VERY lucky from the physical point of view. Mentally, cancer does a number on you. Anyone who has been through this either personally or with a family member knows what I mean. I was at my father’s side for the last 18 months of his life so I already had that experience. Now I had to deal with it firsthand. I made the decision to post the progress of everything on Facebook. I struggled with that, my first instinct was to keep it private. After some thought I decided that if anyone else was encouraged to check themselves and catch it early, then it was worth it. There were friends that saw it and were supportive all the way, there were some who said nothing the whole time, but would ask me abou it later. And of course there were those never saw the posts, so I had friends months later who said “You had what?” I’m very open about my cancer and even joke with friends and family about my fake ball, my remaining ball, etc. It throws people a curve ball sometimes, especially guys,, when they realize what we are talking about. I think it helps to demystify the whole thing for everyone. I’m certainly not making light of it, two of my friends that I joke with the most work in the cancer field in one form or another, and they know how this can play out all too well. Regardless, even though I had a very good outcome and prognosis for the future, I still worry sometimes.
Will the cancer come back in some form? I do wonder if I ever became single how exactly do I tell someone I’m going to be intimate with that what they feel down there isn’t real before they freak out. Would they freak out? I don’t know. Imagine feeling a potential partner in the heat of passion and finding one sack filled with a little round ball. Do I think about my lost testicle? Every time I shower or handle my business. Would I do anything differently? No. Should you examine your boys regularly? Yes. Testicular cancer itself is still very rare but don’t ignore something that is very easy to do.
Have I learned anything from it? I think the whole situation just drove home what I already learned with my Dad. Don’t take advantage of anything or anyone. Don’t take life for granted. These are all clichés, pretty trite stuff, but it all takes on a reality when you experience it firsthand. If there is anything you want to do, as the add says, just do it. As for me, I’m taking steps to do more writing, including a creative writing course to see where that goes.
If you have any questions about my journey or about my online references – feel free to find me on facebook.com/tazz602 or Twitter.com/Tazz602. I’ll talk about what I learned, what I know, and give you the resources that I found very helpful.