During Joe Biden’s announcement that he would not be running for president in 2016 he stated,
“And I believe we need a moonshot in this country to cure cancer. It’s personal. But I know we can do this. The president and I have already been working hard on increasing funding for research and development — because there are so many breakthroughs just on the horizon in science and medicine.”
His statements and vigor about increasing cancer research funding during his last 15 months in office were great to hear. However, was this just rhetoric or, based on his past 81 months in office, are his intentions and efforts futile?
In 2008, The Obama-Biden Plan to Combat Cancer promised to double federal funding for cancer research focusing on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI). But, this has not occurred, as funding of the NCI has not shown growth since 2003.
In my opinion, funding for cancer research is plain scary. Five years ago, I made a post about how U.S. consumers spend more on Halloween than the NCI does on cancer research. Unfortunately, it appears that the gap is getting worse.
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), Americans are expected to spend $6.9 billion on Halloween this year. In contrast, the NCI’s budget for fiscal year 2015 was just $4.95 billion.
It is impressive that, as consumers, we spend more on candy and costumes than the NCI does on cancer and cures. The NRF estimates that 157 million Americans will spend an average of $74.34 on Halloween this year.
Perhaps the power of the people’s purse is the approach that is needed to properly fund cancer research.
If President Obama and Vice President Biden have really tried in earnest to double cancer research funding for the NCI for almost 7 years and failed then perhaps our tax and political system have failed us as well.
Why don’t we try a different approach?
What if, as the people, we were given a $100 tax rebate if we can document a $100 donation to the NCI each year?
Now, that would be “an absolute national commitment to end cancer as we know it today” as Mr. Biden mentioned was needed in his announcement.
We the people have paid our taxes and elected our officials based on the promises to increase funding for cancer research and yet our efforts via those avenues have failed. Let us decide to fund cancer research. Let us crowdfund our tax dollars to the right place and put an end to this scariness.
Thanks for Reading,
MyGratefulSelf is an online program designed to enhance well-being and promote positive emotion in young adults with advanced or metastatic cancer.
We are currently seeking volunteers between the ages of 20-39 to help test the program.
The study is entirely online and can be done from anywhere – no travel is required! For more information, head over to the study website: www.mygratefulself.org. There, you can learn about the study in detail and fill out the interest form.
You can also contact the research team directly at email@example.com
My name is Alexis Johnson and I am a doctoral student in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. My research centers on health communication processes, and I am conducting research that I hope will improve our understanding of supportive communication between social networks and family caregivers of patients with cancer. As someone who has provided care to a patient with cancer, I am interested in conducting research that is aimed at better understanding the memorable, supportive messages that are shared with family caregivers in cancer. You may access the survey at the following links:
To participate: Participants in the states of Nebraska and Alabama must be at least 19 years old or older to participate, participants in the state of Mississippi must be at least 21 years old to participate, and participants in all other states must be at least 18 years old to participate. If you meet these requirements, and are a current or former family caregiver of a patient with cancer, and have 20-30 minutes to complete an online survey, you are eligible to participate in this important research.
Alexis Johnson, M.A.
Primary Investigator Secondary Investigator
Alexis Johnson, M.A. Jody Koenig Kellas, Ph.D.
Dept. of Communication Studies Dept. of Communication Studies
University of Nebraska-Lincoln University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Phone: (708) 772-2626 Phone: (402) 472-2079
Thank you so much for your consideration. My goal is to help people cope more effectively. I’ve dedicated my life to helping others who are going through or have had to go through this experience.
A group of researchers at CeRGAS, the Centre for Research on Health and Social Care Management of Bocconi University, Milan, Italy, invite you to participate in the project we have developed together with Helsinn Group: “Mhealth for improving quality of life: enhancing cancer supportive care”.
We would ask you for your cooperation to complete our short survey, which you can find at the following link:
A Family After Testicular Cancer Is Possible
My name is Dennis Kochis. I am 37 years old and a testicular cancer survivor. My diagnosis occurred on April 25, 2012, but to tell the true story I need to back track a little. The year 2012 was starting out amazingly. I was recently promoted, I was engaged to be married to my now wife, and my New York Giants had just beat the Patriots to win the Super Bowl. Also, I was set to head to Boston for my bachelor party with my friends, brothers and father to watch the Yankees take on the Red Sox and some good old fashion guy’s time. Sounds like a story out of a movie doesn’t it? Little did I know what was about to happen when I returned from Boston.
The Monday after my bachelor party I was working from home. I was sitting at my computer when I started to get a blunt pain in my left testicle. It wasn’t uncommon to be sore in that area after long drives, walking or standing a lot, and under normal circumstances I would’ve ignored it as I’d done in the past. But this time was different. Why? Well, a few weeks earlier on Easter night, I was in bed and grazed my testicle to feel a bad pain shoot through it. Like most men, I ignored it, chalked it up to playing with the kids and must’ve gotten hit there. I never considered checking myself. Testicular cancer wasn’t discussed when I was growing up. We weren’t taught in school about it and to check. I heard about it from Lance Armstrong , Tom Greene and John Kruk, but never thought it could happen to me, so to check never crossed my mind. As I sat at my computer that day, I realized this doesn’t seem like a coincidence, so looked up how to check myself. I gave myself a screening and felt what seemed like a large lump on the side of my left testicle. I already had a physical scheduled with my doctor the next day, so I figured I’d tell her and get checked there.
As I sat in my doctor’s office, I had all types of thoughts going through my head, always going to the worst scenario for some reason. Much to my relief, the doctor told me she didn’t think it was serious by where it was and how it felt. She thought it was a harmless fluid sack that could be drained. The doctor ordered an ultra sound and gave me an urologist to visit. I went for the very uncomfortable, cold and embarrassing ultra sound of my testicles and slept soundly that night.
The next morning when I woke up to go to the urologist (which I never even heard of until this btw), I received a call from my doctor saying – it’s amazing I can quote this word for word – “I got the ultra sound results and was expecting to see fluid, but didn’t. Worst case scenario, this is cancer, but it is treatable. Dr. Rosen will tell you more.” My stomach sunk, and I was never so nervous for a doctor’s appointment in my life.
The urologist came in, gave me a quick test (which has become a norm in my life now), sat back in his chair, and uttered those dreaded words, “This type of tumor is cancer.” Cancer. There is that word again, but now it’s reality. I didn’t even know what to say or do. I’m three weeks from my wedding and was just told I have cancer. I asked the doctor to get my fiancé in the waiting room. She came in and I cried. As he went through the next steps of what will happen, my head was spinning. I was about to lose a testicle, I may need chemo or radiation, what if it spread, what if I can’t have kids, am I going to leave my wife a widow right after we are married? It was the scariest and most emotional moment of my life. The emotions continued as I informed family and friends. As hard as it was for me knowing I had cancer, making it harder was the fear in my fiancé and families faces. I was scheduled for surgery the next day. At this point it was still unknown if the cancer spread, but all I kept thinking was I’m a guy about to lose a testicle.
After my surgery, I struggled mentally. The change to my body. The fear of if the cancer spread (a question that wouldn’t be answered until after my wedding). I remember the first time I felt the prosthetic in my body I had a complete meltdown and anxiety attack. But thanks to my wife, family, friends and a great set of doctors I was able to manage through this time. My wedding day came and for the first time cancer wasn’t on my mind. A week later I was back at the doctor. My marker results were in and there were no signs of cancer in my body anymore! The surgery was enough and now it was time for the monitoring phase. I started to see an oncologist whose first words to me I will never forget: “Testicular cancer, when caught early, is not something we hope we can cure, but it’s something we CAN cure.”
As the next year progressed, I was at the doctors constantly for check ins, catscans, and x-rays, which made it difficult for me to mentally get a grip. Each visit was lead with fear of bad news. That was until June 2013. Why? Because that’s when my wife came out of the bathroom and told me she was pregnant! The joy, relief, happiness and emotions I felt at that moment were so overwhelming. I can’t even describe it. A year removed from having my testicle removed, a year of stress both physically and mentally, lifted by the fact that I was going to be a dad!
Today I’m three years removed from my surgery. While I still have my moments of stress, mainly at doctor visit time, I am in a great place. I am 100% cancer free and a husband and a father. In fact, we are expecting our second child as I write this. I am thankful that I had a pain and checked myself; I caught the cancer early, and because of that, surgery was enough to rid the cancer out of my body and allow me to produce a baby naturally and have a second on the way. Every minute I look at my son, I am thankful I gave myself that test and I am thankful for the wonderful doctors and amazing people I have in my life to help me get through this. Early detection is the key. Most men don’t feel pain and testicular cancer can be an embarrassing subject to young men. But I will always make sure my son, my nephews, and my cousins all know to check themselves regularly, and if they find something, get it checked because, like me, if you find it early you can live a long “normal” life.
Why Cancer Survivors Should Try to Get Life Insurance
A guest post by: Brad Cummins, founder of Local Life Agents
A cancer survivor is just that: A survivor, through physical strength and personal resolve, of a vicious condition. The survivors I know have an encyclopedia-like awareness of their illness; they can cite, chapter and verse, every treatment they have undergone, every round of radiation or surgery they have received, and name every major research center or pharmaceutical company they have contacted.
What many survivors do not, however, know is this: Some of them can purchase life insurance. Cancer is not an actuarial scarlet letter, the sort of Big C that underwriters use as an excuse to deny all applicants coverage.
And, while it is true that someone who is a survivor of testicular cancer (to cite one example) often has a better chance of getting life insurance than someone with breast or brain cancer, a life insurance agent should nonetheless pursue all opportunities for each customer.
If this fact is news to many, and I am sure it is, please accept my apology on behalf of the insurance industry. For insurance agents need to do a better job educating the public in general and cancer survivors in particular about the options – yes: options, plural – available to men and women of different ages, incomes, interests and medical conditions.
Consider the alternative, which is nothing of the sort, because there already is a $15 trillion (in unmet needs) life insurance crisis in this country. That means, among U.S. households, the percentage of families with life insurance is at a 50-year low.
At least 70% of those households would be unable to meet everyday living expenses within a few months if a primary wage earner were to die today.
Bottom line: America’s families are on the brink of a massive “Quiet Depression,” where there are no conventional warning signs – there are no alerts from the S&P 500 or the NASDAQ – that a catastrophe is about to strike.
Analyze these numbers from the perspective of a cancer patient or a survivor, who, though he or she may not be privy to certain industry facts, recognizes the obvious: That, in the event this disease were to recur, and without any savings to offset a multitude of debts, including expenses related to out-of-pocket medical costs, credit card bills, monthly mortgage payments, student loans, and the charges (food, gas and utilities) of everyday life, a cancer survivor – a cancer survivor without life insurance – would leave his or her family without the financial means to survive.
I return, therefore, to my earlier point about the false belief that a cancer patient or a cancer survivor is never able to get life insurance. In fact, there are many life insurance policies for applicants with one or more of the following types of cancer: Bladder, breast, cervical, colorectal, leukemia, prostate, skin and testicular cancer.
Each of these conditions is serious, but none of these ailments is always an automatic rejection from a life insurance underwriter.
The problem is, instead, the triumph of perception over reality. For example: Since every individual is different, and since an underwriter evaluates an application based on medical factors that relate exclusively to that specific applicant, denial of coverage – from only one life insurer – furthers the mistaken belief that a cancer survivor (any cancer survivor) is ineligible to buy life insurance.
Upon further review, that applicant may have a so-called captive life insurance agent, who only presents policies from a single insurer. That means an agent works for one company, thereby preventing that person from offering similar policies – perhaps even cheaper and more comprehensive types of coverage – to any and all clients, cancer survivors included.
In contrast, an independent life insurance agent has the freedom to shop rates from over 40 of America’s top life insurance companies.
An independent agent is impartial; he or she has no ulterior motive, there is no secret incentive or special commission structure, regarding what that agent shows a potential customer.
It is the agent’s job to help a cancer survivor through the underwriting process, and to find a policy that best meets that person’s budget and financial goals.
The underwriting process is, as stated previously, a case-by-case analysis not only of the type of cancer a person has, but a review of so many additional factors – such as age, gender and a person’s complete medical history – that influence whether an applicant will be approved or denied to get coverage.
Cancer survivors need agents who know.
For any survivor who may need more information we have put together a great resource just for you. You can read in detail about what it takes to get life insurance after cancer here.
We touch on many different cancer types, underwriting guidelines, and even give possible underwriting outcome. So feel free to take a look.
Cancer The Second Time Sucks More
Finding out you have cancer once, sucks. Finding out it decided to come back, well, that sucks even more.
My first go at this went like many others. I had a lumpy testicle. You can deny, for as long as I did, that you have testicular cancer but ultimately, lumpy testicle=cancer. For two years I was in denial. Didn’t do a damn thing about it. All you ever heard was Lance Armstrong’s situation and mine was NOTHING like that. Had it grown to the size of a grape fruit, I’d like to think I would have gone to the doctor. But no, mine never increased in size. Just a lumpy shape shifting testicle.
I ended up getting that taken care of, AKA, I have one less testicle. I didn’t have good insurance at the time and that is where this story really begins and if you think you might have an issue or just went through all this without insurance, like I did, this is when you need to pay attention.
24 years old, with less then impressive insurance and just had my testicle removed. Needless to say, it cost me a few bucks. As I am typing this, it reminds me to write the check for a CT scan that happen 6 years ago.
I went into debt because of cancer, like many do. I’m a big fan of Dave Ramsey. Not only for his knowledge of personal finance but for his faith he isn’t afraid to share. If you have ever listen to him, “debt is dumb and cash is king”, is a saying you have heard a time or two. This first battle with cancer only put me in debt around $20,000. This is a minimal sum of money for this disease, I know, but for a 24 year old, it is the majority of your annual income. I was lucky enough to have my Urologist be a family friend and everything he did was for free. Surgery included. After surgery, I had one CT scan a week later and everything came back fine.
One year later and now having awesome insurance, I had a follow up CT scan, due to pressure from my then girlfriend, now wife, to check things out. I did it and it came back all clear. My thought process, I had a lumpy ball for two years, nothing happened, I checked it a year later after surgery, I’m good forever. That’s where follow ups stopped.
Boy I was wrong.
February 13, 2015
It is absolutely amazing how things can change over night. One of my best friends, a guy I’ve known for 20+ years was in town and hung out the night before and I felt fine. Friday morning, I woke up pretty early with some dull back pain but thought nothing of it. The morning progressed and the pain kept getting worse and worse. The back pain reminded me of the back pain I had due to the cancer the first time. The pain kept getting worse and worse, all the way to the point that I had to call my wife and tell her to come pick me up and take me to the hospital.
Now let me take a break and give my wife the credit she deserves. My wife, when she was just the girlfriend, was only 21 years old and a junior in college when I first had to go through this. If you are battling this and you have a wife, girlfriend, partner, whatever, holding your hand through this, you are a lucky man. This is equally difficult, if not more, on them.
Back to the story
My wife swoops me up but before she got there, I took the time to WebMD myself and I figured I had a kidney stone. Obviously, the Internet told me so. That kidney stone hurt like hell and caused me to hunch over in the car the entire ride to the hospital. Luckily, my wife works for a hospital and made some calls on the way there and I was able to go in the back door and not have to wait in the ER line. At this point, I was in the most pain I had ever been in, in my entire life. Apparently lying down on the cold hospital floor is frowned upon and gross, I didn’t care, I went full fetal position.
They get me in an ER room and then they drugged me. That was great. What wasn’t great is the fact that they thought it was a kidney stone too and I didn’t need to pee. One test for kidney stones is checking for blood in your pee. Well, if you don’t have to pee, then they have to got get it, via catheter. WOW, that is not enjoyable, especially when they don’t find blood in your pee. CT scan time.
Post CT scan
Hanging out in the room, somewhat drugged up, with the wife and in walks the ER doc. She walked in, closed the door and instantly you can tell she is not looking forward to the news she has to share with us. “There is a sizable mass in your abdomen, pressing on your kidney. Presumably, cancerous.”
Without hesitation, I grabbed my wife, Sara’s, hand.
Sara instantly jumps into “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health” mode and asks, “What do we need to do next?” Clearly upset but being the tough as nails woman she is, she powered though it. I’m just sitting there thinking, well, this is going to be expensive. That sizeable mass was the size of a football. How a football grows inside me without me knowing, I have no idea, but there it was. Pressing on a kidney and making it bleed. AWESOME.
This is why I wanted you to pay attention, if you weren’t before, and you think you might be in my situation. I was ignorant enough to think that after a year, I was scott free, and didn’t have to worry about cancer anymore. Had I continued my check ups like I was suppose to, this would have been caught well before it got the size it did.
The first battle with cancer, no chemo was involved. Just the snip snip.
The second battle I spend 11 days in the hospital and received the first round of chemo there too.
CHEMO ……. SUCKS
If you thought chemo might not be that bad, you are in for a rude awakening. Testicular cancer is super treatable by chemo. But, in order to do so, they literally kick your ass with it.
Wanna feel like you are having the life sucked out of you? Get hooked up to chemo for 5 days in a row. Two bags of chemo, two bags of hydration, 4-5 hours total and a tube hanging out of your chest for those five days too. I forgot to mention, you get a port in your chest. It makes it easier for them to “plug you into chemo” as it’s just under the skin on your chest. Yes, you can tell its there but you get used to it.
I had friend ask me, “ Is chemo like being really hung-over?” No. If you have to experience chemo, it will be like nothing you have ever felt before and not in a good way. I have never experienced anything like it. The actual infusions aren’t that bad. Sure you can taste it in your mouth and you get kind of sleepy, but the five days aren’t the worst part. It’s the days after chemo that tend to be less fun. It’s progressive too. You feel shitty after the first round but you bounce back in two days. The next round, it takes maybe 3 or 4 days to recoup. The following round it takes, 5 to 6 days. My last week was the worst. I went into the hospital weighing 190 pounds the biggest I had ever been in my life. As my brother in law would say, “I was swoll!” Thank God I had that weight to loose. I had always been right around 150-160 pounds post college. Coming to Texas, I put on some weight but mainly muscle, a lot of muscle. I did not weight myself that last recovery week of chemo, that was the last thing on my mind, but I guarantee, I was in that 150-155 ballpark, if not less. I threw up for a week straight and ate nothing for 5 days. Popsicles. Saved my life. You can keep those down. Remember that.
Your hair falls out too.
I loved my hair. I had great hair. I cared for it. I styled it daily.
It’s a sad day when you notice it coming out in the shower. It comes to the point that it’s annoying to have any hair left because everything you rest your head on, tugs at the hair and ultimately pulls it out. Pillows, hats, blankets, and don’t you dare run your fingers through your hair. Just shave it off. It eventually falls out everywhere. And by everywhere, I mean everywhere. Your face is going to swell up too so be ready for being hairless and fat faced.
The worst part of chemo… My vote goes to the sweating
Chemo is essentially a poison. The tumor doesn’t like it but neither does the rest of your body. If you think about it, God went all out when he made the human body. It’s nuts. Your body is going to do its damnedest to push that poison every chance it gets. It is going to come out in your urine and it is going to come out of your pores. Both of which smell horrible but for some reason, my wife couldn’t smell it. The sweats were sooo bad that my nurse in the hospital had to change my sheets nightly because they were soaked from it. Even when I was home, for the five days of chemo, all out patient, I slept on the living room floor so we didn’t have to change the sheets every night. Do you like long showers? I hope you do, they are one of the few things that are actually relaxing. Lay down in the bathtub and let the water just wash over you and the piece of plastic covering the tube in your chest. It makes you feel better. Kinda normal.
The last week of April, I had my last infusion. Thank God that was over and I started to lead a normal life again. We use to live in Indianapolis, for about 4 years. When I went into the hospital and told everyone where we were from they kept asking, did you get treated at IU health, in Indy, the first time. I did not and I am not joking, every doctor asked that. Doctor Lawrence Einhorn, works for IU Health, treated Lance Armstrong, and truly wrote the book on how to treat testicular cancer. Sara use to work for IU before we moved to Texas. Sara, being the amazing wife she is, made an appointment with him, to get a second opinion. Again, you are going to get mad at whoever is lucky enough to take care of you through this, there is no question about it, it will happen. But in the end, you realize that they only want the absolute best for you and they want to do everything in their power, to keep you around. And that’s what Sara did. She made the appointment, booked the flight, rented the car and told me we were going to Indy whether I wanted to or not. She loves me and wanted me to see the best.
Dr. Einhorn was great. My Doc here is great too but his specialty isn’t testicular cancer. There are about 8000 case of testicular cancer in the U.S. every year. There are equally the same number of Urologists in the U.S. This means, each doctor sees about one testicular cancer patient a year. When you toss in it reoccurring, like mine did and the size of the tumor, even less have dealt with it. Lets face it, testicular cancer is a cancer that doesn’t get talked about. It doesn’t take that many lives and it’s really treatable out of all the cancers. But is it still CANCER! We went to Einhorn and he basically told us we were on the right track. He went into more detail with my doctor in Texas and was able to explain things to but both Sara and myself at ease.
The tumor is no longer the size of a football but more like a baseball. It is continuing to shrink and as long as that happens, I won’t need any other treatment. If it does start to grow, I will start chemo again.
I apologize if I scare anyone with the whole chemo talk. It does suck a lot but it does work. You’ll be ok.
If you take anything from this, do your follow ups. No matter what the cost is. This could have been caught a long time ago had I been doing my follow up.
Lastly, I just had my 3-year wedding anniversary with my wife Sara. She has now had to deal with me and cancer twice and she is only 27. I cannot stress how important, loving, strong, caring and helpful she was throughout all of this. She sat there for every minute of every infusion I had. She stayed all 11 nights with me in the hospital. She drove me to every doctor’s appointment. She changed the sheets in the middle of the night after I cover them in sweat. She stayed with me as I was throwing up everything in my stomach. She took care of our home, did all the laundry, all while putting in 50 hours of work a week. I can’t ask for a better wife. I love you Sara and I thank God you are in my life every day.
To those of you battling this, God bless and remember to always smile and laugh, you only have one ball now.
August 12, 1993. This was the date that changed my life forever. In hindsight – for the better. I was 19 years old; one year removed from high school; and starting to live out a childhood dream of being a firefighter. Four days prior, I had played in an all day softball and volleyball game with the neighboring department, so I knew I’d be sore and a bit dehydrated. What I didn’t expect was urinating blood the next day, while at work! The ER pumped me full of NaCl (Normal saline IV) and referred me to a urologist. The appointment was set for 8/12/93. After peeing in a cup, having x-rays, and my “boys fondled” – for what seemed to be an eternity – the Dr. walked into the exam room and told me “Everything is normal with your kidneys…but have you ever noticed that knot on the side of your left testicle?”. (22 years later and I can recall the exact phrasing; even the monotone sound in his voice) Being 19 and embarrassed at the question – or to admit that I HAD in fact noticed – I did what any 19y/o would do…I lied. He told me it might be “nothing more than a cyst” but he would like to schedule me for a Contrast IV and Ultrasound the following week “just to check it out”. The following Friday, 8/20, I had the tests (including a surprise blood draw) and didn’t think much about it for the next 7 days. No one seemed concerned – not the doc; not the nurses. If they weren’t showing concern, then why should I? (Isn’t 19 year old logic great?!)
That all changed on 8/26.
August 26, 1993 was a Thursday. It was overcast, hot, and just enough rain to make it miserable to be outside. I arrived for my 1pm appointment – expecting nothing more than to be told “You’re fine” – to be lead, not into an exam room, but into the doctor’s private office! Thinking that this seemed “odd”, I still wasn’t concerned. The doctor walked in, sat at his desk, and said, “The mass on your testicle is a tumor. You have testicular cancer. The tumor is the size of a walnut…” For the next few minutes I remember watching his lips moving, but didn’t hear a single word that was spoken. I knew what cancer was. Cancer occurred in the brain, mouth, lungs, breasts, etc. Cancer doesn’t…no, CAN’T happen in your balls! My mother and paternal grandmother had breast cancer just 5 years prior, but cancer of the balls is impossible! This is what was running through my mind while watching his lips form words. Once his voice came back into tune, I heard these words: “This is very curable – if we start right away”. He gave me 3 treatment options and told me it was my choice as to which I could choose.
Option 1: Remove the testicle. Once pathology was done, a course of treatment – if any was needed – would be mapped out. He also was quick to inform me that if I was self-confident, a prosthetic testicle could be inserted later. (Now my shattered world was complete. I just got the worst news I had ever received in my short life, and this guy is talking to me about FAKE NUTS! Did he not remember mentioning the word “CANCER” to me just 2 minutes ago?!?)
Option 2: Needle biopsy. After pathology, a treatment course would be mapped out. (I quickly eliminated this option, in my mind. You know how sensitive our “boys” are… You know what a biopsy needle looks like… The later coming within 20 yards of the former can cause a man to commit murder! You all just crossed you legs and grimaced in sympathy.)
Option 3: Do nothing. He then regaled me with the story of a patient that chose this option. The patient was diagnosed at 22…died at 23!
I was 3-1/2 weeks from my 20th birthday…9/23.
Seeing as I had become very attached to living by this point in my life, another option was eliminated and my mind was made up…”Good-bye left nut!”. He told me to go home and talk it over with my parents, but I had already decided. I still took him up on the offer to process everything and told him I’d call the next day with my decision.
I left the office and stopped at the McDonald’s next door and used the pay phone to call my mom, and break the news to her. (Cell phones were around, but not as prolific as today, and cost a couple hundred dollars per month to own – nearly $1 per minute, per call!) Mom took like a mother should – hard. My next stop was work. They took it slightly better than mom; but, it was here that I unconsciously made the decision on how I would handle my illness. After being barraged with tears, hugs, and other sympathies, delivered with the same solemn tone that is normally reserved for funerals, I quipped, “It’s just cancer. What’s the worst it can do…kill me?”. Yes, humor. As morbid as I sounded, I needed to make a joke. My parents were beyond upset. My friends and co-workers were sullen. Someone had to be upbeat for me; and if they couldn’t do it, I had to! A girl I dated in high school played along and gave me this: “You know, cancer sucks! But, you gain a pick-up line…Want to see my scar?”!
Surgery was scheduled for 9/6 at 7am. I was told to rest for the next week, while my incision healed. Some of my friends stayed with me during the day, while my parents were at work. This is where I had a “setback”, of sorts. 2 days, post-op, I asked my friend that was with me if he would go down to the video store and rent a couple movies. He agreed – since it was a block from the house – and was given strict instructions: No Comedies! 15 minutes later he returned with a couple tapes (remember, it was 19930, telling me he got “drama and horror flicks”. The first tape starts to play and it’s my favorite movie…’Blazing Saddles’! As a captive audience, I could not avoid the comedy styling of Mel Brooks…and neither could the fresh, 5-6 inch incision that graced the lower left abdominal/groin region! The “side-splitting” comedy di just that, as I laughed so hard I tore the sutures! Back to the hospital for a fresh set of cat gut! By the way, that guy is still my best friend.
During my follow-up, I was told that the cancer had not spread, but – out an abundance of caution, due to my strong family history – I was going to have 1 round of radiation to my inguinal lymph nodes. The first therapy coincided with the first day of my Firefighter certification training class. I would go to recruit training during the day, and get treatments in the late afternoon/early evening…for 12 weeks. Around week 3, my instructors became concerned with how “sick” is was looking (and just physically sick) and tried taking me to the urgent care. I finally “spilled the beans” and let them know what was going on. To say they were pissed-off would be an understatement! They were, however, overly impressed with my stubbornness and promised not to treat me any different; but, they did keep an extra close eye on me, and when they saw that I was physically “worn down” they would let up on the whole class, just not me. I appreciated that they never let on to the rest of the class on how sick I was. It wasn’t until about 10 years later that I broke it to my “Fire Buddy” (the partner that I had for the 3 months of training) as to what was up! She said that took balls…to which I corrected her, “No…that’s B-A-L-L. Singular, not plural!”
The last 22 years has been non-eventful. Although there has been 2 scares (1 small cyst on the right testicle; and 1 really bad hernia that mimicked the original pain symptoms), I’ve had no recurrences. Thanks to the radiation, I’m sterile, so no kids. But, given the choice between reproductive sterility or a potential re-occurrence, sterility isn’t a bad trade off! (The world is better off without a “Mini-Me”, according to my close friends) I never got the prosthetic testicle – I feared that ladies would be staring at my crotch and saying, “I bet they’re fake”. Frankly, you can’t even tell unless you physically grab my scrotum. For the first 4 or 5 years, I used to “omit” the orchiectomy from my medical history, on annual employment physicals -and watch the reaction of the P.A. or Nurse Practitioner when they would perform the hernia check! I can still get a reaction from those who medical professionals who don’t take the time to read my medical history, even though I’m open about it.
For those who are reading this, and are going through this yourself, or are supporting someone who is battling it, this is my advice: First, Don’t Stop! Whatever you were doing the day before your diagnosis, do that the day after! You are battling it…it is not battling you. It has moved into your house, sleeping on your couch, eating your food, and using all the toilet paper and leaving the empty tube on the holder! By stopping your life, you are condoning it’s actions and giving it permission to stay forever. Your house. Your rules.
Second, Humor. As I stated, everyone that you share your diagnosis with is going to “boo-hoo” you. This depression thick air is worse than the cancer itself. It’s a natural human reaction. We all do it. Let peole “grieve” for you, but let them know, also, that after this initial reaction, there will be “no more” and that you only want those around you that can be strong for you! Also, do something I never did: take a moment and grieve for yourself – albeit, a brief one. I did not, nor have I ever, taken a moment to completely process what was happening to me. I immediately went into “survival mode” and started finding ways to distract myself. Cry. Say, “Why me?”. Then get back to your life. In 2008, I discovered the book “Cancer on Five Dollars a Day* (*chemo not included): How Humor Got Me Through the Toughest Journey of My Life” by Robert Schimmel. It chronicles the late comedian’s battle with cancer and is a great blueprint for anybody battling it.
Third, Confront it. For years, I never mentioned that I had cancer. I was embarrassed that I had a cancer that was so common, I had never heard of it at the time of my diagnosis. Then Lance started riding his bike through France and suddenly, testicular cancer had a face…had a name. Still didn’t have the respect of other cancers, but it was being talked about. I attribute this to being a strictly “guy” disease…and guys don’t talk about this stuff. Then I had an epiphany: My diagnosis pre-dates that I Lance and John Kruk (Former MLB Player and current ESPN Baseball Analyst, who was diagnosed in 1994). I made getting your balls cut-off trendy! Today, I mention it whenever someone says, “Tell me about yourself”. Remember that pick-up line I was given? It has actually worked on a couple women; although, when I mention it to males, I usually get, “Do it and I’ll take the other one off!”. Such violence for offering medical advice that could, potentially, save their life.
Lastly, Never use the term “Survivor” when referring to your successful battle with cancer. I use “Conqueror”! Survivor, to me, gives the impression that it won, on some level. It didn’t win. I WON! It tried to play in my sandbox, with my toys, and I shot it; stabbed it; hanged it; draw and quartered it; placed it’s head on a stick at the city limits; ate it’s lunch; then – for good measure – peed on it! Survivors don’t do those things…Vikings and Attila the Hun did such things. You know…Conquerors!
Living Life after Testicular Cancer
When you’re 16 years old, your life is just really starting to kick off. The last two years of high school are beginning, and you begin to seriously plan your future. That is exactly what I was doing when my life came to a screeching halt. I had been feeling pain in my right testicle for a few months but didn’t really think much of it. It was always; oh I just picked up something too heavy. The week after I returned from vacation the pain just became too much to just be a “pulled muscle.” I finally decided to get into my family physician. I remember my doctor saying, “Wow I’ve never quite seen anything like this, it could be a number of things. Perhaps a pulled groin or you were hit in the testicles to hard, maybe even cancer but let’s put that on the back burner.” As a 16 year old my mind instantly stuck on cancer. Cancer?! What happens now? What do I do? My doctor immediately sent me to have an ultrasound of my groin performed. I received a call that night instructing me to return to the hospital to pick up a copy of the ultrasound and deliver it to my urologist, at an appointment the following morning. That night all I did was lay in bed wondering what could possibly be wrong that they’re not telling me. Why is everything happening so quickly?
The next morning I arrive at the urologist office. The physicians assist examined me and told me the urologist was reviewing the ultrasound that I had brought in and would be in shortly. After 45 minutes of waiting, the doctor finally entered the room. He examined my groin and became very serious. He looked me in the eyes and said, “I am very sorry but I believe you have cancer. I am not going to do a biopsy because I believe it is not needed, the ultrasound showed enough. We need to schedule surgery. I am available tomorrow.” At this point I didn’t know how to react. I sat there in shock looking at my mother crying. Everything was happening so quickly. My orchiectomy was scheduled for the very next morning.
I was very quiet the rest of the night. I called my friends and family, telling them I had cancer and would be having surgery the next day. How do you tell someone you have cancer? How do you bring that up? I sat down and discussed what was going to happen to the rest of my family. After a long period of hugs and well wishes I went to bed awaiting surgery the next day. The fear I felt walking into the hospital for surgery was like nothing I had ever felt. I tried to crack a few jokes with the surgeon just to calm myself down. I took that long walk down the hallway to the operating room. The feeling of the cold table is etched into my memory. I had a wonderful nurse who held my hand while I was put under. The rest of that day is kind of a blur. So in three short days I had gone from seeing my family physician for swelling in my groin to having my right testicle removed.
Now the recovery and countless cat scans begin. I am immediately referred to a local oncologist who breaks down what cancer really is and how we’re going to fight it. Unfortunately my tumor markers hadn’t gone back to a healthy range after my surgery. They weren’t really high, but just not quite where they should be. I was told we are going to do three months of the most aggressive chemotherapy to get those numbers back to normal.
Day 1, August 23rd 2008. This was coincidently my mother’s birthday. She spent the day with me saying I’ll have another birthday next year. I was filled with so many questions and concerns. Will my hair fall out? Will I gain weight? Will I lose weight? After this first visit I was scheduled to have a port inserted into my chest. The next three months were the slowest and hardest months of my life. From feeling sick every hour of everyday to running my hands through my hair and having my hair fall out into my hand and seeing my parents begin to sob. Through these months I had a teacher from my school bring me my work and teach me in my bed at the hospital and even in my home. As hard as these months were I had incredible support from my friends and family. My family never left my side the entire time. I finished hell on October 31, 2008. Unfortunately through that time my tumor markers only decreased a small amount. To this day they are not “normal”. I spent the next few months after chemo to try to get back to my everyday life. I went back to school in February 2009 to open arms from my truly amazing friends. My life slowly went back to normal and I was able to graduate on time in 2010!
Three years later I married my beautiful wife Danielle. I finally felt like my life was coming together. In April of 2014 I found out my wife was pregnant with our first child! We were ecstatic! Then in May my wife unfortunately had an ectopic pregnancy and we lost the baby. We decided to move on with our lives and take a break trying. On October 8th 2014 I found out my wife was pregnant again! On June 5th 2015, my daughter Gracelynn was born! 9lbs 4oz and 21 inches of pure happiness. We are so excited to be parents and to start this new chapter in our lives. Cancer was hell, but it made me into the man and father that I am today.
This is a story I submitted on Adrenaline Training Center’s (in London, Ontario, Canada) Facebook page Nov 2011 while fighting cancer. They had asked for people’s success stories.
My story is not about sports or weight loss, but it is about a fight. Recently I learned that I was in for the fight of my life. In my corner I already had my beautiful wife (Tammy), my family and a few close friends. Once Pete Brown who trains at Adrenaline Training Center and a member of Team Tompkins heard about my fight he offered to train with me at the gym.
I accepted his offer knowing I could use all the help available as my opponent had defeated many people before. With the love and support of my wife, friends, family and the new friendships I made at Adrenaline I knew losing was not an option.
On July 19th, 2011 the official announcement was made that I would compete in a 5 round title fight, my opponent for this epic bout, Stage 3 Testicular Cancer.
After surgery and 3 intense Chemo treatments my doctor tells me that the cancer is almost gone. As I write this it is 4 minutes into round 5. I am in the hospital having one last round of Chemo and with that my opponent is falling to the mat in what might just be the knock out of the night.
In between my treatments when I was able to, Pete would meet me at the gym to train. Some days I would get tired fairly easy due to the Chemo and our workouts would not be as long as other days. He always offered a positive attitude and support; he didn’t care if I was training for 5 minutes or an hour. Even though I was at the gym to train with Pete the rest of the guys there were very supportive. I feel that I have made a lot of friendships from my time at the gym.
I honestly believe that, other than the love and support of my wife, who fought this fight with me, the team at Adrenaline was in my corner helping me get through this fight with a win. What I gained at Adrenaline may not have cured my cancer, but it made the fight a little easier.
I would like to thank my wife (Tammy), Pete Brown, Chris Horodecki, Mark Hominick, Alex Gasson and all of the other members of Adrenaline/ Team Tompkins for helping me get through this and making my story a success!
March 23 2015 was my third year in remission. I am so proud to be a part of this gym/ family! Thanks again to everyone who helped me kick cancers butt!