The Message I Want Men to Take From My Experience With Testicular Cancer
The following story is brought to you by The Movember Foundation. The Movember Foundation is the leading charity dedicated to changing the face of men’s health around the world. With a singular goal to stop men dying too young, the Foundation supports the following causes: prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention. Since 2003, the support of more than 5 million participants has funded over 1,200 innovative projects across more than 20 countries. To donate or learn more, please visit Movember.com
I had just gotten back from spending my summer studying abroad in Europe, a couple of weeks after turning 20 years old. I had an incredible time and was excited to start my third year of school at Cal Poly. I was home in Las Vegas for about only a week, and it was the first time I remember noticing that something was off. I definitely didn’t pay much attention at first because I thought it might just be irritation or something like that.
I continued to check myself, and I soon began to wonder what this lump was. I did a lot of internet searches and tried to convince myself that it was just an infection that would go away. I continued to live my life, but I soon realized that the mass was getting bigger. I eventually decided to make an appointment at my college health center. I still wasn’t worried going in, not until the doctor examined me for a minute and became concerned. He requested that I have an ultrasound the next day, and that was truly the start of it all.
I had my ultrasound in the morning, and the last line of the report read, “3 cm mass, suspicious of testicular cancer.” I called my parents and told them about the results, but other than that, I went the whole weekend living my “normal” life. I went to a friend’s barbecue and attended our giant soccer rivalry game, but my mind was definitely elsewhere. That Monday, I went to the college health center and they immediately suggested that I go home to Las Vegas to figure out a treatment plan.
Having to tell my friends was probably the hardest day of my life. I had no idea what was going to happen. I made it home on Tuesday, saw a urologist on Wednesday, had my labs done on Thursday, had a CT scan on Monday, and finally had an orchiectomy on Wednesday. It was all incredibly quick and went as smoothly as possible. It turned out to be an aggressive form of cancer that fortunately had not spread, so the next step was to see an oncologist. My doctor didn’t want to take any additional steps as he thought I was fine after the surgery, but it all depended on another blood test. Twenty-four hours later, the blood test didn’t come back as we hoped and chemotherapy became the next big stage in my life.
Over the course of one week, I had many more tests done, banked my sperm, learned all about chemotherapy, and had my helpful chest port installed. My father was with me during every one of my infusions. Since the very beginning of chemotherapy, I felt weak and had little appetite, so spent a lot of my time watching television. Chemo would last a week, I would get two weeks off, and repeat over the course of the next few months. I quickly realized how lucky I was to be so young and healthy, and be able to handle this harrowing treatment.
The support and love that I received from all around me was incredible, and it was what inspired me to start participating in Movember. I started growing my mustache and raising money for a cause that was suddenly a part of me forever. I continued to use humor to talk about something that nobody wanted to talk about, and by the end of the month, I had raised over $1,000.
I lost all my hair right after Thanksgiving, and fell right in line with the typical bald, pale, chemo look. The nine weeks of treatment was not easy, but I managed to get through it. Nobody wants to get chemo for Christmas (I did), but if you’re able to spend it with your family, you can’t complain. After treatment ended, I was able to see a lot of my friends before they headed back to college, and I was excited to get back to a “normal” life again. By the end I felt great, and my doctor was surprised at how well I did throughout chemotherapy and I soon went back to school, missing only one week.
Now two months after finishing chemo, I’m cancer-free and back in school getting adjusted to my new “normal.” I learned a lot throughout my journey, and most important was surrounding myself with people who encouraged and comforted me. Everyone should have access to that physical and mental support no matter what they are going through. I’m excited to now raise awareness about testicular cancer and make sure that every man knows how to check himself. As a college student, I’m surrounded by people every day who are just as likely to find themselves in my position. I know now that I can help save lives and I am so thankful for the Movember Foundation helping me to spread that message. Take care of your health and happiness and make sure to check your nuts!