Mark's Testicular Cancer Story
Written by Mark
In 2004, I was training at my best friend’s martial arts school. We were working on form, when I started feeling a dull ache in my left testis. In typical guy fashion, I ignored this for weeks until the pain subsided. A quick note to the lady caregivers: speaking for myself, I’m Old School. I can remember my dad telling me I needed to develop a tough shell. Guys can’t show weakness, or you’ll be eaten alive by this Old World. No one explained to me he didn’t mean ignoring physical pain. This kind of training started early, ladies, and is still sometimes tough to break. Just let us know we’re idiots in a loving manner and get us to the doctor. I now know better with my son. Back to the story: the pain didn’t go away. It got worse.
I did finally get to a doctor, and she diagnosed me with a bilateral hernia. She said it was pretty bad on the right side. I thought this was strange, since it only hurt on the left side. I was referred to a surgeon, who confirmed hernia. I went in for the hernia surgery and figured that was that. Except the pain didn’t subside. It kept getting worse. I went back to the surgeon several times over the course of three months before he ordered an ultrasound of my scrotum.
So here I am lying on my back with a full southern exposure, when a rather nice-looking lady technician walks in. So much for being bashful. She was very professional and got right to work. She was also very pleasant and kind, right up until she got to the left side. Conversation became very mechanical. OK, now I’m scared. A doctor came in and palpated both testes. His eyes got wide when he got to the left side. He wanted to know if I had a history of cancer in my family. OK, now I’m really, really scared. I took the films back to the surgeon, who had apparently missed that my left testis was a 4 cm tumor. He referred me to a urologist friend of his, who would do the inguinal orchiectomy (I/O) but needed to obliterate the hernia repair to do it. I immediately got out of Dodge to see another urologist. His bedside manner wasn’t much better, but he did say the other urologist was nuts (sorry) about having to destroy the hernia repair. He wouldn’t have to go anywhere near that. He did the I/O, and the results came back 100% seminoma, stage I. I opted for radiation, figuring I’d be done with this and wouldn’t have to see doctors so often. Starting to get the picture why I still have to be coaxed to see them? During this time, I found this site. Great information, great people, I wasn’t alone anymore.
So there you have it. I was cured! Only a 2-3% chance of having to deal with this again. I didn’t visit the site so much anymore. I was back to normal life. Only a quick surgery for a prosthetic because it felt uncomfortable having only one.
Fast forward to 2006.
I change jobs as a leap of faith after 15 years with the same company. It’s a longer commute and more responsibility, but the money is much better and so is the working environment. I start to develop some acid reflux at this time. OK, that’s understandable, I have more responsibility now. That’s bound to create a little stress. This goes on for weeks. There goes that stubborn guy thing again, and I don’t have the best history with doctors anyway. Except now I’m to a point where it hurts like hell to swallow food, I’m always tired, and I’m losing a lot of weight. OK, OK, I’ll go to the doctor. They decide I need an endoscopy to see if there’s esophagus damage. That went OK, but the next day the pain was through the roof. The gastroenterologist called me at home to let me know they found a constriction of my esophagus and to see how I felt. I told him I was having pain, but I’d be all right. His reply: “If you don’t get yourself to the ER with this pain, I’m sending an ambulance to your house right now.” Hey Dad, how come my tough shell ain’t working?
I’m in the ER. Someone has the presence of mind to review my history. They order a CT scan. I have a tumor the size of a tennis ball surrounding my trachea, esophagus, and aorta and pressing on my spinal column. I’m admitted to the hospital. I have another CT scan, which reveals mets to my liver. I have a biopsy done from my chest tumor and liver. I have 100% seminoma again, but not confined to my testis anymore, obviously.
I find this site again as I get ready for 4xEP chemotherapy. I now have a 70% chance of being cured. The information here is priceless. The people here are kind and endearing. I’m going to beat this thing again, just watch me. Everyone here helps me every step of the way during treatment. I’ve come to really like this group. I finish chemo. I responded well. They have to keep a closer eye on me, great, more doctor visits. They think they got it, I should be cured.
Fast forward about six months to the beginning of 2007.
I call out sick from work. I have some pretty intense stomach pain. I try to ride it out most of the day so I don’t have to see the damn doctor. I realize as the pain gets worse that I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed. I go see my oncologist, as he’s kind of become my GP as well now. Of course there’s concern, so lets do another CT scan. @#$&, the tennis ball is back, so are the mets on the liver, and just to add to the fun, now it’s on my pancreas too. I’m bounced from my primary oncologist to Fox Chase in Philly to Sloan Kettering in New York. It feels like I now have to see every doctor on the planet. It’s determined that I should go for the TIP chemo protocol. I now have a 50% chance of being cured. I’m classified as a High Risk Cancer patient. I had a tough shell lying around here somewhere, damned if I can find it now.
A member of this forum sends me a message to see how I’m doing right at this time. He starts by asking if I remember him. Of course I remember him, and how did you know I needed you guys right now? Man, I really, really like these people. I let him know I’m off to the Chemo Café again, and would he mind letting the gang know I may be a little under the weather next time I decide to post. The infamous thread begins and so does my chemo.
I wrestle the demons in my head 24/7 now. I desperately need help and someone to talk to who really gets it. Let me jump back on this site, but before I do, let me see if I can find that damn shell. Nope, not yet, but I did find a shield, humor. If I have to go through this, I can at least have a sense of humor about it, right? The responses and support are overwhelming. Can’t show your emotions son, this Old World will … OK, enough of that. This is different. This Old World isn’t out to get me, it’s the Devil himself. Cycles one and two aren’t one and two at all. They’re five and six. I’m sicker than I would have ever thought possible. Somehow, somewhere deep, I found something to replace the shell. Hell, it’s better than the shell. It’s a weapon. I’m mad now and getting madder by the second. I’m going to take this damn thing down once and for all. All of a sudden, this group of people start rallying beside me. They don’t really know me. Why are you doing this? They send me support. They send me powerful talismen. They send me Love. Who needs a stinking shell, I’ve got Family.
I’m nine months cancer free. I’ve met some of my cyber-family in person. I freely show my emotions. I’ve been known to give bone-crushing hugs, so be forewarned. I’ve participated in events to fight cancer with my son and my extended family. I’ve survived, despaired, grieved, and triumphed. And I’m most definitely living my life without excuses nor explanations and on my own terms.
Much love everybody,
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