Like many young men, my testicular cancer diagnosis came out of thin air. I had no symptoms and thought I was a healthy, twenty-six-year old, juggling a job and working on my MBA when I suddenly had a pain in my left testicle that made me drop to my knees. It felt as if someone taken a dagger and shish kebabed me.
At first, my doctor misdiagnosed it as an infection. But after a couple weeks of minimal improvement I sought a second opinion. Following a physical exam, blood tests and an ultrasound, my new doctor confirmed that I had testicular cancer. Surgery—just two days later—revealed that the cancer had spread outside the testicle. Testicular cancer has a fairly predictable path of travel when it metastasizes: lymph nodes, then the pelvis, then the abdomen, next behind the kidneys, then the lungs and finally the brain. Mine had already spread to my lymph nodes, pelvis and lower abdomen.
Five months of intense chemotherapy followed. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of my journey.
One year after chemotherapy a routine CT scan revealed four tumors along my spine. A four hour surgery was required, during which my internal organs were literally pulled out of my abdomen—leaving me temporarily like a turkey carcass—in order for the surgeon to remove the four tumors.
It was a long couple of years. And I’m grateful to have survived.
Testicular cancer is the number one cancer in guys ages 15 – 35 in our country—impacting about 8,500 young men every year. It’s nearly 100% curable if you detect it early.
Here are two things every guy should do:
1. Have a physical regularly. That means every one or two years. Talking about doing it doesn’t count. Schedule an appointment.
2. Know your “boys.” Testicular cancer usually doesn’t cause a noticeable pain. However, it often is initially detected by a change in your testicle. So, every month, in the shower, check yourself. Put one ball in the palm of each hand. Is one bigger? Do you feel a lump? Hardness? Heaviness? If you notice anything, go to a doc. And, by the way, Lance Armstrong waited until his testicle was the size of an orange before he saw a doctor. By that point, his cancer had spread to his lungs and brain. Waiting has a price.
Share this information with every guy in your life, won’t you? You never know whose life you might be saving.
Editor’s Note: Guest blogger Jonny Imerman is founder of Imerman Angels 1-on-1 Cancer Support which provides free, individual support to anyone touched by cancer (both cancer fighters and caregivers). www.imermanangels.org