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Chris Watkins's Testicular Cancer Story...
Written by Chris

Hi, my name is Chris Watkins, from Seattle, Washington. I was diagnosed with testicular cancer, pure seminoma, in October 2003.

How did I find out? How did I know I had it?
The Real SurvivorsThe first time I noticed something wrong was when I did a regular self-exam of my testes, and I noticed that one of them was half the size of the other! I thought it was weird but I didn't think much of it at the moment. Some time later — maybe a month? — the next thing I noticed was that the testicle had grown bigger (not yet normal size again), but the center was hard. That's when I was worried, and in the back of my mind I said, "Oh, *$%*, it's testicular cancer!" But I was in denial, and I was going through a very difficult time in my life, and to top it off I had no health insurance at the time. I didn't immediately go to the doctor because I was worried it might be nothing and I'd pay big medical bills for tests that would reveal nothing. I was so wrong! When I look back, I realize that I was slowly walking towards death. I had a time bomb ticking inside my scrotum!

Finally, in October 2003, I had a new job and health insurance. By this time the cancerous testicle was completely hard, and it felt heavier than the healthy one. But I figured that if it were cancer, it would have been very large, like a grapefruit! Years ago, my doctor had told me that a testicle would grow really big really quick if I had TC. He said it could double in size in just a couple weeks, and that stood out in my memory. Until I found TC-Cancer.com, I had known very little about TC. This web site helped me find out sooo much more. I realized that there are many types of cancer and various signs and symptoms of any given cancer.

On a Monday in October, I finally went to the doctor. He said the size was normal, but agreed the hardness was noteworthy. Tuesday, I had an ultrasound on the scrotum/testicles. Wednesday, I was at the urologist, and he asked me, "Can you come in for surgery tomorrow?" By Thursday, I had surgery to remove one of my testicles. It was all happening so fast, it was crazy. Looking back, I am glad the process was very rapid.

After surgery, I stayed home from work for one week. The surgery went well and I had one of the best urologist surgeons. I didn't have any swelling. My scrotum didn't turn purple or anything wild. It was only painful to laugh, cough, sneeze, flex the abdominal muscles, and lift my legs. (This is because of the location of the incision in the abdominal muscles / inguinal canal just below the "bikini line.")

What kind of treatment did I have?
Pure seminoma only required radiation. I had 18 sessions. It made me very tired — exhausted. I had some vomiting about 1 hour after the first 3-4 sessions. After that it just made me really tired, and I lost hair in the field of radiation on my abdominal area (no navel hair), but it comes back just as fast as if you plucked the hair out. The urologist was confident that my cancer was gone simply by the removal of the cancerous testicle. There was no edivence of metastatis. I am so very thankful for this: remember I waited 8 months to go to the doctor! Maybe it was a small miracle…

How did cancer affect my life?
I was back in the gym working out only a couple months after surgery! I would like to share more than just the physical, medical side of the story. The story for me has a happy ending, and I believe that we don't simply need a doctor to heal us physically. The year that I had cancer was one of the worst times of my life. I had a horrible job, and I contracted mono only 6 months before I first noticed cancer. About a week before my diagnosis, I was depressed and wanted to give up on my dreams and my life. Something changed after I was treated and cured of cancer. I was so excited to pursue my dreams in life. I didn't think about whether I could or could not achieve them. I simply decided to go for it! I never went back to school either. Now I am a living a healthy life and working for myself full time as a portrait photographer.

About a year after my experience with TC, the idea came to me to create inspirational portraits of cancer survivors who are athletic. I wanted to show the antithesis of what cancer makes you think. The motive behind this project is to provide an inspirational tool to motivate people and inspire them to be stronger after cancer or whatever their adversity may be. Check out these illustrative portraits and survivor stories at www.therealsurvivors.org

I have a quote that inspired me, and this is what I want to convey with the portraits.

"Life is a grindstone, and whether it grinds a man down or polishes him up depends on the stuff he's made of." –- Josh Billings

Chris Watkins



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