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!
Were you diagnosed with cancer as an adolescent or young adult, between the ages of 13 and 39? Are you now over the age of 18?
Liane Kandler (Doctoral Student, Lakehead University, Canada) created an online survey to try and understand the impact of cancer and would like your input.
Email AYA Research Study for more information on how to complete the survey or visit the AYA Survey Research Facebook page . Participants will be entered into a random prize draw for one of three prizes: a personalized iPod nano in the colour of choice, a Kindle e-reader, or a $100 VISA gift card!”
A recent blog post on the AYA Research Survey can also be found at the Cancer Knowledge Network.
Testicular Cancer at 20?
The only thing on my mind was school starting. I had just received straight A’s, made a lot of new friends and was looking forward to getting an internship in the spring. It was less than a week before the spring semester would start and I was looking forward to going back to school.
I woke up just like any other day during winter-cold. Usually when I am cold, I stick my hands in my pants since most of my sweatpants do not have pockets. I noticed a small lump I had never felt before in my left testicle. This bump was not huge and did not cause me any pain. I told myself if I still felt it in a week I would notify my parents. The next night at dinner my brother asked my mom about a rash he had on his leg. She thought it might be herpes and suggested he get checked immediately. Since we were on the subject, I told her about the small bump. She told me to see a doctor before I went back to school.
The next day I went to the pediatrician (yes, I still go to the pediatrician). He had a hard time finding it but as soon as he felt it recommended I see a urologist immediately. He had no idea what it was but assured me there was something there. I was to see a urologist the next day to finally find out what this mass was. I will never forget sitting on my mom’s bed the night before. We were talking about my appointment and she asked me if I was scared. Usually I would say no, but for some reason my stomach didn’t feel good about this. She assured me that everything was fine and that this was probably just an infection. I agreed with her because I did not want to worry her, but that night my worst fears were not even close to the reality.
As soon as I got to the urologist’s office, my urologist requested I take a pee test to see if it was an infection or kidney stones. I had just urinated so I told him that he would have to wait. He asked me to show him the mass and I would do the test after. I showed him the bump and as soon as he felt it he left the room. He got on the phone and I heard him say “I don’t care if you are booked today, you NEED to see this kid! It’s an emergency”. He told me I would need an ultrasound to determine whether or not this mass was just a cyst or a scar or if it was a tumor. I tried to not think the worst but I started to get scared. I saw the screen while I was getting my ultrasound and noticed a black circle on my left testicle. I tried to keep calm, but it was getting harder and harder. I would bring the ultrasound results back to my urologist who would give me the horrible news.
My urologist, Dr. Bloom, sat me down and told me “There’s no easy way to tell you…but you have a malignant tumor on your left testicle that is cancerous. You will need to have surgery to remove your testicle”. No one in their life ever expects to hear they have cancer, but not having any family present was even more difficult. I told Dr. Bloom that he had to call my parents and let them know, there was no way I could ever tell them “I have cancer”. Hearing my parents’ reaction to that might be the hardest thing I have ever dealt with in my life.
It took me about ten hours for me to process I had cancer. Word spread so fast that people were calling and texting me all day to talk to me and to show their support. I received so much comfort right away that it was not until I was in my bed that night by myself that it hit me. I had cancer.
Nobody expects to get cancer, but I thought my case was very unique. I was 20 years old, worked out twice a day, ate very healthy, and had no family history of cancer. I never thought that anything would ever happen to me, that I was impervious to harm. I would need an orchiectomy and not be able to workout or lift anything over ten pounds for six weeks. This recovery time was especially hard for me. I can’t explain how hard it is to be so active one week and the next week, barely able to walk.
The recovery period was a changing point for me in my life. Not being able to attend school, exercise, or do anything pretty much limits how much you can do. A lot of my days were spent thinking about a variety of things. Having cancer affected me mentally as much as it did physically, it really changes who you are and your outlook on life. I told myself that after the six week recovery period was over that I wanted to be a different person. Although my life was not in jeopardy, it certainly changed my viewpoint on life. I cut out people in my life who I did not think were beneficial to me and changed my demeanor. I was always and still am a very generous and nice person. However, in the past I would sometimes allow people to walk all over me (partially because I’m only 5’5”). Coming out of this, I had the mindset that I just BEAT cancer and I would not let people disrespect me the way before. I also told myself that when the doctor told me I was cancer-free that I would get a tattoo to show my accomplishment as a reminder everyday that I beat cancer.
It has been a little over four months since my diagnosis and I could not picture my life being better. I am surrounded by amazing friends and family who constantly check up on me and make me feel appreciated. I continue to workout twice a day and am almost in as good shape as I was before surgery. Most people who find out I had cancer are very surprised because of how I look now and the energy I have.
What’s in store for me now? I am heading into my senior year at Towson and am pursuing a sport management degree. I have to get frequent blood work, CT scans, and X-rays for the next four years with lessening frequency each year. I believe sometimes in life we have a revelation that lets us know we need change in our lives. I was never expecting cancer in my life, but I had to make the most of the unfortunate situation I was handed. I wake up everyday and feel blessed because I know not everyone is guaranteed tomorrow.
Participants needed for a study concerning the emotional aspects of cancer care
What implications do your partners’ psychological traits and self-conscious emotional factors have on your emotional responses?
In the Department of Psychology at the University of Sheffield, we are conducting research into how partners’ psychological traits and self-conscious emotional factors might impact on how people with cancer feel about themselves.
The study needs you and your spouse/partner to participate as a pair, but for the study to be valid and produce meaningful results you must complete the survey separately. The study involves filling out a series of short questionnaires and will take approximately 15 minutes. All responses are anonymous and will be treated confidentially.
As part of the research we would like to carry out follow-up administrations of the same set of questionnaires at 2 and 4 weeks following the initial survey. The aim of these follow-ups is to assess and get deeper understanding of people’s responses over time. Further information about the survey will be provided before you and your partner decide whether or not to participate.
A full debrief will be available following participation and we will give participants feedback on the results at the end of the study.
£1 will be donated to Worldwide Cancer Research for every dyad that takes part.
If you are interested in taking part in the research, please use the following link to access the study pages, find out more information and to take part by following the link to the survey below:
The study is password-protected and you will need the following password to log in: sheffpsy
Thanks, your participation is very much appreciated.
Haffiezhah An-Nadiah Azlan
You have no balls… I do not know how many times in my life I have heard that statement, it has to be thousands of times. Every single in reference is based on the idea of me not being macho enough, or not having the guts to take on a challenge. I’m not saying that I am a wimp, but men tend to challenge each other’s “testicular fortitude” for basically anything.
Taken literally most people don’t really think about that statement, but for me, a bilateral testicular cancer survivor, this is a fact of life.
I was diagnosed the first time, on February 7th, 2007. At 22 years old, and in college, the last thing on my mind was cancer, so as you could imagine this diagnosis hit like a ton of bricks. I will never forget the moment, sitting in my Urologist’s office, (at that age I do not even think I knew what a Urologist was) he was telling me that I had cancer, I was in such shock, the doctor had to call my parents to explain the situation. Speechless, the doctor explained to me what the next steps were, and he noted how from the start that this cancer can be beaten. Moments after my diagnosis he was giving percentage chances of survival at 90+%.
Lucky, for me I had only felt the lump down there three days earlier, a simple self-examination. I cannot express how important my next actions were. Like I said early, at the age of 22, I could have felt the lump, and went on with my life, at that age any man basically feels indestructible, so it was pretty obvious that cancer was not on my mind. However something did not sit right with me, and I made the decision to not wait, I was in my primary care physicians office the next morning, and two days later I was in with the urologist, and by February 9th, I was having surgery to remove one of my testicles.
Seeing that this was such a quick turn around, I got even luckier to find out that my cancer had not spread, it was localized to the testicle and there was no need for chemotherapy or radiation. My treatment plan was to start a comprehensive tracking program to make sure the cancer did not come back. In the first year, monthly blood work checks, x-rays and cat scans; second year every-other month, and so on. I was told that at five years you are considered cancer free, and have a clean bill of health. I was starting a long progress of being in a doctor’s office way more than I ever wanted, but I knew it had to be done.
That takes us to May 5th of 2010. My wife and I (at the time we were just dating), had completed the inspection on the home we were about to purchase the night before. I had the engagement ring ready to go for the first moment we were alone in the house together, it was a joyous time, and then I felt a lump again. I did not wait, within hours I was at my urologist’s office (this time I knew what that doctor treated) and was being told, you have testicular cancer again.
Being told the second time that you have been diagnosed with testicular cancer was harder than the first. I had been in a comprehensive plan to track and make sure it didn’t come back, and questions lingered. How would I start a family? What does this mean for my sex life? If we had been tracking it so diligently, how did this happen? Has the cancer spread this time? Without a doubt, the most mentally exhausting moment of my young life.
This time around things didn’t move as quickly. The day I saw my urologist I was told in order to have a family I would have to cryogenically freeze my sperm. I would have to perform the act multiple times on multiple different days so that the center for reproductive services would have enough. I was also told that with the removal of my second testicle, I would not produce testosterone, and as such I would need to start and continue through the rest of my life testosterone replacement therapy. On May 28, 2010 I had surgery to remove my second testicle, and shortly thereafter I was told that again the cancer did not spread. Phewww! However in order to really make sure things were not going to come back my oncologist suggested one round of strong chemotherapy. Like the first time I was diagnosed I sought a second opinion, but unlike the first time I was given a different option.
My second opinion physician suggested that chemotherapy was one of a number of options, but tracking the disease as we did the first time would also be an option. This was without a doubt the hardest decision I had to make. I chose to not go through chemotherapy and track my disease just as we did the first time. I am still counting the days to May 28th, 2015 (so close).
Being diagnosed with testicular cancer or any type of cancer is a struggle. It drains you physically and emotionally, it stresses family members and friends, and it makes you question some of the bigger picture in life.
As I mentioned earlier at the same time I was diagnosed I was ready to propose to my then girlfriend, and ready to buy a house. I was also working on my Master’s Degree in Business Administration. Quite the busy time for me. It wasn’t until maybe 18 months later in which not having any balls really impacted my life. Lynne and I had been happily married for about six months, and were thinking about starting a family. In pure honesty, for most married couples these is an easy decision on when, and soon after that many couples are pregnant. For us it was completely different. We were faced with the challenge of when to start In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), and the cost of it.
After finding out that this type of treatment was not covered under either of our insurances, my wife and I had to decide how to pay for the $16,000.00 for the treatment. With both of us fairly young in our careers and being home owners, the money was not just there for us to go and spend. For three years we grappled with the financial responsibility of attempting to have a child, throughout the process a number of married friends and family made wonderful announcements that they were expecting. This is mentally draining for a couple who wants to have children but cannot afford it. It is like being completely torn as you are incredibly excited for your friends, but completely upset that it wasn’t you.
Finally after making some incredible tough decisions, in September of 2013 we decided to go for it, the IVF was paid for and the medications where in our hand. However going through IVF does not mean any guarantees of having a baby. The process of going through IVF is painful and tireless for a woman. I believe that my wife went through more pain and discomfort than I ever did with surgeries or any testing; IVF requires that you to inject your wife with multiple medications on a daily basis for almost two and a half months. It requires multiple procedures for the women, including the harvesting of eggs, and placement of embryos. Once an embryo is placed it is a waiting game.
One of the biggest decisions a couple has to make when choosing to proceed with IVF is how many embryos they want to put “in.” In our situation we decided to place two healthy embryos. This means that if both take than we would be blessed with twins. Many IVF places will even put more in, but the best places are ones that provide a high pregnancy rate with only a placement of one or two embryos. Our treatment at the University of Connecticut Center for Reproductive Services in our state had the highest success rate with only placing one or two embryos.
Now to the good news, approximately a month after the placement of the embryos we found out Lynne was pregnant, we also found out that only one of the two placed embryos made it, we were expecting once child, what a blessing!
As a man, to be diagnosed with testicular cancer twice, provides itself with a number of different challenges. The reality of my disease is with me every day; however, I consider myself incredibly lucky. I have read and learned about many people who have been diagnosed with the same disease and because of the situation had to treat with chemotherapy and radiation, and of course, a number of men will die from this disease even with today’s advanced medicine and treatment.
Our son Joseph Anthony Buccheri is now 8 months old, and is the greatest thing that has ever happened to us. If I can provide any advice to anyone who is reading this, is that the mental part of going through the thought of treatment and cancer has been the toughest part, even harder to deal with was the mental anxiety and anguish of attempting to start a family. However, any survivor reading this can know, that no matter how down you are about it, the next time someone says “you have no balls,” you can smile and laugh knowing that in fact that no matter what, you do, and you should be proud of it.
Also check out Rocco’s story that was featured on the local news.
Two out of three young men say, “None of these people” have spoken to them about testicular cancer.
Testicular cancer is the leading cause of cancer in young men age 15-35, yet not many people appear to be educating these young men about the disease.
In January 2015, the Testicular Cancer Society surveyed 1000 young men, age 18-34 in the U.S. and asked them, “Which of the following people have spoken to you about testicular cancer?” Respondents were given 5 multiple-choices in a multiple-answer format.
67% of respondents answered None of the Above
19% of respondents answered My Doctor
8% of respondents answered My Parent
8% of respondents answered My High School Teacher/Nurse
5% of respondents answered My Sports Coach
5% of respondents answered My College Professor/Nurse
These results indicate that those most likely closest to these young men are not discussing testicular cancer with them in a time when these young men are in the age group most at risk for the disease. While testicular cancer can occur at any age, opportunities to educate those at highest risk are being missed.
These results were also consistent with a previous survey conducted by the Testicular Cancer Society in November 2013, which indicated 71% answered None of Above, 16% My Doctor, 7% My Parent, 6% My High School Teacher/Nurse, 4% My Sports Coach and 3% My College Professor/Nurse.
For more information about this survey please contact the Testicular Cancer Society.
Testicular cancer is the leading cause of cancer in guys age 15-35, yet a January 2015 survey indicates that only 1 in 3 young men know how to do a self-testicular exam.
The Testicular Cancer Society asked 500 young men, age 18-34, in the U.S., “Do you know how to do a self-testicular exam?”
32% of the respondents indicated Yes.
49% of respondents indicated No.
19% of respondents indicated I’m Not Sure.
If caught and treated early testicular cancer is almost 100% curable. However, if diagnosed in later stages the survival rates drop and the treatment burdens are increased. A monthly testicular self-exam can help men become more familiar with their bodies, lead to early detection of testicular cancer and possibly save their life because they’ve noticed changes.
What is troubling about the survey is that the men surveyed, age 18-34, are also men that are in the age group most at risk for the disease.
In October 2014, the Testicular Cancer Society released their Ball Checker app in hopes of educating more men about how to do self-exams. Besides self-exam instructions, the app, available on iTunes and Google Play, allows men to schedule a reminder to do their monthly self-exam. You can learn more about the app at www.BallChecker.com
For more information on this survey, please contact the Testicular Cancer Society.
I wrote my personal story a few months ago when I finally felt ready to revisit some of the memories. I thought I would share it more to support those that may be experiencing the same struggles in life.
A little over four years ago I found a lump. With this lump I found complete fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. I was paralyzed with emotions. I’m unsure of the following 5 days leading up to surgery, as everything became a blur. I remember sitting in the waiting room with my mother. Everything seemed cold, the floors, the chairs – the people. The only warmth was from my mother’s hand holding mine. I recall not being able to walk on my own to the operating room. I became weak in the knees and fell in the hall as I was passing operating room equipment that was covered in blood from the prior individual that was in surgery. What was their illness? What was their fate?
As I was supported into this bright white room these questions quickly slipped away from my mind. I was frozen in fear. I found myself lying on a cold table – arms stretched out in both directions, naked, scared. I looked around the room and seen roughly 5 other people preparing various things. I.V and needles being placed in both arms – at the same time – as another individual began to write lines on my lower abdomen. Another individual approached me with a document that I had to sign – agreeing that no legal action could be taken against the hospital if I died – more fear. I was told to count backwards from 10, 9, 8, 7 – the walls melted.
I woke hours later – reaching down in disbelief and complete pain. I seen a nurse walking by and attempted to ask a question. I got as far as “Is it…?”. She immediately stopped what she was doing while nodding “yes”. She came over to my side and took my arm for a few moments in a supporting gesture. The only medical staff that had shown feeling towards me – and I never even got to know her name.
I was sent home later that evening, unable to walk straight, and heavily medicated. I kissed my mother, I kissed my wife. I held and hugged my son – and prayed for the child that my wife had been carrying for the past 3 months.
Now I waited – fear, anxiety, and uncertainty – with every ring of the phone. Waiting for the phone call seemed to take forever. I was unable to do anything on my own. I was depressed and had lost my independence. My wife helped me get dressed, showered, cooked meals, and even assisted me with using the bathroom. My wife that was 3 months pregnant- suffering from severe morning sickness – and still caring for our 2 year old son.
Three weeks after surgery the phone rang. My wife answered it however she had to come and help me out of bed to take the call, as the doctor would only speak with me – fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. The walk down to the living room was a mirror reflection of how I felt walking into the operating room.
I cannot remember this conversation. I can remember my mother and wife embracing me – warmth. The cancer had spread to my stomach, abdomen, and my neck. I spoke with my family, my friends. My father passed away from Leukemia when I was 8. My mother fought cancer a few times and had won. So, this is my fate? This is how it ends? NO!
I was back at the hospital within 24 hours being prepared for chemotherapy. My veins were collapsing so I had another surgery to have a PIC line placed in my left arm – a tube that lead to my heart to deliver the chemo into my blood stream. I came home and spent time with my family and friends. I got everything in order. Work, Bank, Rent – Everything – including my will.
Four years ago today I stated my first chemo. I had to change everything, and everything changed. I did not focus on how I felt – I couldn’t – nor did my wife, as the stress would not be positive for our unborn child. I fought – She fought – We all fought! My wife was not able to come to my treatments due to being pregnant. My mother and family came as often as they could – I preferred to be on my own, as I wanted my independence. I did not want to be seen for my physical appearance however for the strength I had found in everyone around me. The first week of chemo caught me by surprise. It was everything you think it is and even more. I adopted a routine – I took control. Nothing was going to fuck with me!
While at home it was an interesting juggle of things. I would be in the bathroom from midnight until the morning hours due to the side effects of the chemo. My wife would then be in the bathroom for most of the morning due to the side effects of pregnancy. This was a blessing on its own as we only have 1 bathroom.
Around the third week of chemo my hair began to fall out. I did not recognize myself in the mirror anymore. I felt sad and depressed for a brief moment – I took control. I did not want this change in my appearance to bother my son – so as I was looking in the mirror I decided to write my name with a nice bold spot as I removed my hair in little chunks. It took me almost an hour however I did it. I had a bald spot that said “Jon”. I went downstairs and eagerly asked my son to read it. It took him a moment and he sounded it out “Noj”? Apparently I forget to take into consideration that when you write using a mirror it comes out backwards. Lesson learned and we have never forgotten this.
As the first 3 weeks came to an end I was getting bored – and bored of being sick. I had read everything I could find about my form of cancer, joined all the groups online, seen all the specialists. – I was not content and very anxious as a result. It was time for another distraction. My wife was now 4 months pregnant and we had yet to renovate and establish a nursery – Mission accepted!
After taking the bus to Wal-Mart and Millwork I was set to begin my next task. Within 2 weeks the nursery was painted, furniture built – I was at peace – and exhausted.
I would often walk daily to the hospital for my treatments. I was blessed to meet extraordinary people during this time –sadly lost some of the bravest as well. As I was walking home one day I was stopped by the police. I was questioned as to if I had been drinking and using drugs due to my appearance. The officer did not believe me – questioning the marks on my arms. The officer continued to ask me if I have any dirty needles on me as he was talking into his radio – not paying attention to what I was saying – he had already made up his mind on me. I was asked for my I.D and provided it – along with my cancer patient I.D card and a long list of medications that I was prescribed. I smiled as he attempted to read them out loud. I now had his full attention – but didn’t care. I kindly turned down the drive home and asked to be excused. I walked the rest of the way home with a large question mark floating around in my head.
I got home and checked the mail – an eviction notice. I promptly went over to the landlord’s home and rang the bell. I was greeted by a new landlord that only opened the door a small crack. She promptly seen the letter in my hand and stated, “You don’t pay your rent – you’re out!” and closed the door in my face. I was exhausted and went home. I sat in the living room questioning what had just occurred over the past hour. I went into the kitchen to get some water. I looked around and was not pleased with the colour – another distraction had been found. Three days later the kitchen was repainted – and had a nice highchair to match!
I reached out for support and attended an office of parliament. Sadly this meeting can be summed up as to the same prior mentioned police officer for the way I was treated by the reception lady. After waiting for over an hour in the office to meet with someone I was told that no one would be able to meet with me. I was asked to sign consent forms to open a line of communication. I struggled to the desk area after being seated for so long. I began to read over the forms as the members of parliament exited behind me. I attempted to introduce myself however I was greeted by blank stares –I seen the hesitation in their faces as I reached out to shake their hands. I was again judged all too quickly. I left the office and never looked back – and never voted for him again. I should add that he lost the recent election. I returned home to my family.
I spoke with the housing tribunal along with some friends I had made along the way. I was no longer being evicted. Also we got a new landlord pretty quick after that – coincidence?
Days turned into weeks. I kept distracted – happy, full of humor and love, with a new aspect on life. I surrounded myself with those that I wanted to be like – people that treated me the way they wanted to be treated in return – unselfish and not materialistic – people that give back to the less fortunate and expect nothing else in return. I spent a lot of time with family – my mother was with me all the way.
On Friday December 18th I was told that the chemo was not working as my cancer cells had spiked. I went home – I was again lost. I found comfort in everyone around me and the ones I had met on this journey. I do not consider myself religious – however I prayed.
I prayed for my Son,
I prayed for my Mother,
I prayed for my Wife and Unborn son,
I prayed for my Family and all Loved Ones.
On Monday December 2st I arrived at the doctors to continue this fight. After being prepped for chemo again my fresh blood work results came back. Due to a “false negative” on Friday my tests were wrong.
I was in REMISSION!!
Apparently someone along the way had prayed for me as well.
Four years later I have 1460 days to be thankful for – surrounded by the best family and friends I could ever ask for.
Thank you for taking the time to read,