October 20, 2017No Comments

6th Annual TCF Open

[vc_row unlock_row_content="yes" row_height_percent="0" override_padding="yes" h_padding="3" top_padding="4" bottom_padding="4" back_color="color-dfgh" overlay_alpha="50" gutter_size="3" mobile_visibility="yes" shift_y="0"][vc_column column_width_percent="100" position_vertical="middle" align_horizontal="align_center" overlay_alpha="50" gutter_size="3" medium_width="0" shift_x="0" shift_y="0" z_index="0" width="1/1"][vc_custom_heading text_size="bigtext" text_color="color-jevc"]The 2017 TCF Open has been postponed until Spring 2018. Sign up below for updates![/vc_custom_heading][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row unlock_row_content="yes" row_height_percent="0" override_padding="yes" h_padding="3" top_padding="1" bottom_padding="1" back_color="color-zsdf" overlay_alpha="50" gutter_size="3" mobile_visibility="yes" shift_y="0"][vc_column column_width_percent="100" position_vertical="middle" align_horizontal="align_center" overlay_alpha="50" gutter_size="3" medium_width="0" shift_x="0" shift_y="0" z_index="0" width="1/2"][vc_custom_heading text_color="color-jevc"]Don't miss important event updates! Sign up today.[/vc_custom_heading][/vc_column][vc_column column_width_percent="100" position_vertical="middle" align_horizontal="align_center" overlay_alpha="50" gutter_size="3" medium_width="0" shift_x="0" shift_y="0" z_index="0" width="1/2"][vc_raw_html]JTNDc2NyaXB0JTIwYXN5bmMlMjBpZCUzRCUyMl9ja18xOTc4NjglMjIlMjBzcmMlM0QlMjJodHRwcyUzQSUyRiUyRmZvcm1zLmNvbnZlcnRraXQuY29tJTJGMTk3ODY4JTNGdiUzRDYlMjIlM0UlM0MlMkZzY3JpcHQlM0U=[/vc_raw_html][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner column_width_percent="100" align_horizontal="align_center" gutter_size="3" overlay_alpha="50" medium_width="0" shift_x="0" shift_y="0" z_index="0" width="1/1"][vc_column_text]Friday, October 20th, 2017 • Falconhead Golf Club • Austin, TX[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_single_image media="4553" media_width_percent="100"][vc_column_text]Join us for our 6th Annual TCF Open in Austin, Texas! Come early, socialize, hit balls at the driving range and enjoy lunch before hand. Registration begins at 11:30 p.m. with a shotgun start at 1:00 p.m. Stay tuned for prizes, auction and awards ceremony while enjoying dinner and drinks.[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner row_inner_height_percent="0" overlay_alpha="50" gutter_size="2" shift_y="0"][vc_column_inner column_width_percent="100" align_horizontal="align_center" gutter_size="3" overlay_alpha="50" medium_width="0" shift_x="0" shift_y="0" z_index="0" width="1/3"][vc_button button_color="color-prif" link="url:%23|title:Download%20Brochure||" icon="fa fa-map-o"]Download Flyer[/vc_button][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner column_width_percent="100" align_horizontal="align_center" gutter_size="3" overlay_alpha="50" medium_width="0" shift_x="0" shift_y="0" z_index="0" width="1/3"][vc_button button_color="color-prif" link="url:mailto%3Ainfo%40tcancer.org|title:Contact%20TCF||" icon="fa fa-bullhorn"]Contact TCF[/vc_button][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner column_width_percent="100" align_horizontal="align_center" gutter_size="3" overlay_alpha="50" medium_width="0" shift_x="0" shift_y="0" z_index="0" width="1/3"][vc_button button_color="color-prif" link="url:https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fevents%2F1701374459936589%2F|title:RSVP%20on%20Facebook|target:%20_blank|" icon="fa fa-facebook"]RSVP on Facebook[/vc_button][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_empty_space empty_h="2"][vc_single_image media="7256" media_width_percent="100"][/vc_column][vc_column column_width_percent="100" align_horizontal="align_center" expand_height="yes" back_color="color-lxmt" overlay_alpha="50" gutter_size="4" medium_width="0" shift_x="0" shift_y="0" z_index="0" width="1/3"][vc_custom_heading text_color="color-jevc"]Sponsors[/vc_custom_heading][vc_single_image media="4907" media_width_percent="100"][vc_single_image media="7242" media_width_percent="100"][vc_single_image media="5045" media_width_percent="100" media_link="url:https%3A%2F%2Fwww.tommyjohn.com%2F||target:%20_blank|"][vc_single_image media="7264" media_width_percent="100" media_link="|||"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row unlock_row_content="yes" row_height_percent="0" overlay_alpha="50" gutter_size="3" shift_y="0"][vc_column width="1/1"][vc_separator sep_color="color-uydo"][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="1/1"][vc_row_inner row_inner_height_percent="0" overlay_alpha="50" gutter_size="2" shift_y="0"][vc_column_inner column_width_percent="100" position_vertical="middle" align_horizontal="align_center" gutter_size="3" overlay_alpha="50" medium_width="0" shift_x="0" shift_y="0" z_index="0" width="1/3"][uncode_pricing title="Single" price="$150|per person" price_color="color-wvjs" col_elements="tb" body="Early Bird Pricing"][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner column_width_percent="100" position_vertical="middle" align_horizontal="align_center" gutter_size="3" overlay_alpha="50" medium_width="0" shift_x="0" shift_y="0" z_index="0" width="1/3"][vc_column_text]

Green fees, cart fees, lunch and dinner included with registration

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[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row row_height_percent="0" back_color="color-lxmt" overlay_alpha="50" gutter_size="3" shift_y="0"][vc_column width="1/1"][vc_row_inner row_inner_height_percent="0" overlay_alpha="50" equal_height="yes" gutter_size="2" shift_y="0"][vc_column_inner column_width_percent="100" position_vertical="middle" align_horizontal="align_center" gutter_size="3" overlay_alpha="50" medium_width="0" shift_x="0" shift_y="0" z_index="0" width="1/3"][uncode_pricing title="Team of 4" price="$600|per team" price_color="color-wvjs" col_elements="tb" most="yes" body="Early Bird Pricing"][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner column_width_percent="100" position_vertical="middle" align_horizontal="align_center" gutter_size="3" overlay_alpha="50" medium_width="0" shift_x="0" shift_y="0" z_index="0" width="1/3"][vc_column_text]

Green fees, cart fees, lunch and dinner included with registration

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner column_width_percent="100" position_vertical="middle" align_horizontal="align_center" gutter_size="3" overlay_alpha="50" medium_width="0" shift_x="0" shift_y="0" z_index="0" width="1/3"][vc_column_text]
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="1/1"][vc_row_inner row_inner_height_percent="0" overlay_alpha="50" gutter_size="2" shift_y="0"][vc_column_inner column_width_percent="100" position_vertical="bottom" align_horizontal="align_center" gutter_size="3" overlay_alpha="50" medium_width="0" shift_x="0" shift_y="0" z_index="0" width="1/3"][uncode_pricing title="Corporate Team" price="$1,000|per team" price_color="color-wvjs" col_elements="tb" body="Early Bird Pricing"][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner column_width_percent="100" position_vertical="middle" align_horizontal="align_center" gutter_size="3" overlay_alpha="50" medium_width="0" shift_x="0" shift_y="0" z_index="0" width="1/3"][vc_column_text]

Green fees, cart fees, lunch and dinner included with registration

 Includes 1 foursome and name on golf cart

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner column_width_percent="100" position_vertical="middle" align_horizontal="align_center" gutter_size="3" overlay_alpha="50" medium_width="0" shift_x="0" shift_y="0" z_index="0" width="1/3"][vc_column_text]
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row row_height_percent="0" back_color="color-gyho" overlay_alpha="50" gutter_size="3" shift_y="0"][vc_column width="1/1"][vc_tabs vertical="yes"][vc_tab title="Title" tab_id="1472676983-1-25"][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width="1/2"][vc_custom_heading]Title Sponsor – $20,000[/vc_custom_heading][vc_column_text]• Enter four 4-person teams in the tournament with all registration fees waived.
• Verbal recognition during announcements, awards and after silent auction
• Leverage a speaking opportunity and advance your organization’s message in front of a large group of professionals.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width="1/2"][vc_column_text]Gain recognition for company’s contribution on:
• TCF’s website & social media
• event flyers
• print ads
• event banners
• beverage cart
• dinner signage
• all hole signs
• 40 Beverage cart tickets (alcoholic beverages)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_tab][vc_tab title="PGA Championship" tab_id="1472676983-2-29"][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width="1/1"][vc_custom_heading]PGA Championship Sponsor – $10,000[/vc_custom_heading][vc_column_text]• Enter two 4-person teams in the tournament with all registration fees waived.
• Gain recognition for company’s contribution on TCF’s website, event yer and banner.
• Enter two 4-person teams in the tournament with all registration fees waived.
• Gain recognition for your company’s contribution on TCF’s website, event yer and banner.
• Prominently display your company logo on your golf carts alongside the TCF and Title Sponsors’ logos.
• 20 Beverage cart tickets (alcoholic beverages) u.s. open sponsor $7,500
• Prominently display your company logo on your golf carts alongside the TCF and Title Sponsors’ logos.
• 8 Beverage cart tickets (alcoholic beverages)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_tab][vc_tab title="U.S. Open" tab_id="1472677817696-2-6"][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width="1/1"][vc_custom_heading]U.S. Open Sponsor – $7,500[/vc_custom_heading][vc_column_text]• Enter two 4-person teams in the tournament with all registration fees waived.
• Gain recognition for your company’s contribution on TCF’s website, event yer and banner.
• Prominently display your company logo on your golf carts alongside the TCF and Title Sponsors’ logos.
• 8 Beverage cart tickets (alcoholic beverages)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_tab][vc_tab title="Masters Tournament" tab_id="1472677948278-3-7"][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width="1/1"][vc_custom_heading]Masters Tournament Sponsor – $5,000[/vc_custom_heading][vc_column_text]• Enter one 4-person team in the tournament with all registration fees waived.
• Gain recognition for your company’s contribution on TCF’s website, event flyer and banner.
• 4 Beverage cart tickets (alcoholic beverages)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_tab][vc_tab title="Tour 18 Dinner" tab_id="1472678077136-4-8"][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width="1/1"][vc_custom_heading]Tour 18 Dinner Sponsor – $5,000[/vc_custom_heading][vc_column_text]

• Enter one 4-person team in the tournament with all registration fees waived.
• Dinner for all golfers post-round.
• Gain recognition for your company’s contribution on TCF’s website, event flyer and banner.
• Signage throughout dinner area.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_tab][vc_tab title="19th Hole" tab_id="1472678203182-5-9"][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width="1/1"][vc_custom_heading]19th Hole Sponsor – $4,000[/vc_custom_heading][vc_column_text]• Enter two 4-person teams in the tournament with registration fees waived
• Prominent signage and verbal recognition during announcements, awards and after silent auction
• Custom sign package in bar area
• Provides beer for all golfers during tournament and dinner[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_tab][vc_tab title="Longest Drive" tab_id="1472678341748-6-10"][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width="1/1"][vc_custom_heading]Longest Drive Sponsor – $1,000[/vc_custom_heading][vc_column_text]• As the longest drive sponsor, you will have the opportunity to award the winners of the contest with cash prizes.
• Meet and greet golfers as they play these holes and compete for the cash prizes.
• Gain recognition for your company on TCF’s website, event yer, banner, and a special sign commemorating your contribution[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_tab][vc_tab title="Closest to the Pin" tab_id="1472678574501-7-0"][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width="1/1"][vc_custom_heading]Closest to the Pin Sponsor – $1,000[/vc_custom_heading][vc_column_text]• Have the opportunity to award the winners of the contest with the cash prizes.
• Meet and greet golfers as they play these holes and compete for the cash prizes.
• Gain recognition for your company on TCF’s website, event yer, banner, and a special sign commemorating your contribution[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_tab][vc_tab title="Arnold Palmer Beverage Cart" tab_id="1472678681512-8-2"][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width="1/1"][vc_custom_heading]Arnold Palmer Beverage Cart Sponsor – $1,000[/vc_custom_heading][vc_column_text]• Prominently display your company’s logo on every beverage cart.
• Gain recognition for your company on TCF’s website, event yer, banner, and a special sign commemorating your contribution[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_tab][/vc_tabs][/vc_column][/vc_row]

July 1, 2017No Comments

TCF Summit

June 2, 2017Comments are off for this post.

TCF Rocks – An Evening with Bill Kirchen

April 4, 20172 Comments

#KnowYourBalls Survivor Story – Brent Dirks

It's a weird way to think about it but I know my cancer was not about me. What does that even mean? It means that cancer helps me help others.

I've always been a helper. I'm the oldest son of 5 kids to a police officer and emergency room nurse. I had no chance. Public service is in my blood. I shot for the middle and became a firefighter/paramedic. I knew about the risks involved of running into burning buildings and crazy drivers on the highway while we tend to victims of car wrecks but never gave much thought to how the job could affect my health. All the old guys have bad backs so I've tried to stay healthy and active and "use good lifting form." Turns out, firefighters have a much higher risk than "the normal man" of developing testicular cancer. (Source)

I'd had a pretty hard couple days working out and noticed a little twinge in my groin but didn't think too much about it and it went away. I noticed it again after a good indoor rower workout and this time it hung around a little longer.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

I'm the father of two great, super fun, busy kids. We had all kinds of activities so I didn't put my health first and put off making a doctor's appointment. My right testicle felt like it was a river stone and somewhat painful. "I've got a pretty high tolerance of pain" says every tough guy ever. So when it got bad enough, I made a doctor's appointment and went to a urologist. The tests started! Blood work, ultrasounds, and ct scans. The diagnosis came in: stage 3 testicular cancer with involvement of numerous lymph nodes, 3 spots on my liver, and possibly my lungs. (Moral of the story and the key to awareness: early detection is critical in testicular cancer. When caught early, the involved testicle can be removed before the cancer is able to spread.)

Well, I wasn't expecting that. Through my faith in Jesus Christ, I knew He had me and my family in his hands and we were ready to tackle the unknown that laid ahead. All I knew was that I was going to meet a lot of new people that I never would have had the chance to without cancer. I was connected with a specialist surgeon who would take over the case from the urologist.

The first step was the orchiectomy, removing that river stone I had hanging. Of course all my firefighter brothers wanted to chime in about getting an implant. "You could get one that made noise or lit up or something." My son even thought that a steel implant would be awesome because every guy wants steel nuts! We found out that a real testicular implant is much like a breast implant and I decided that in my case, it wasn't needed. So the one nut and lefty jokes started. Firefighters and my immediate family are a different breed and love to joke around about the oddest things. It's how we cope and to me, it's fun.

The Treatment Process

Now that we stopped the source of the cancer, the next step was to stop the spread. I was referred to a great oncologist and we continued the treatment plan. The standard procedure was to do 4 rounds of BEP (bleomycin, etoposide, cisplatin) chemotherapy. In each round, I would go Monday through Friday the first week and then Monday only the next 2 weeks. We would reassess my blood work and lung function with each round. Remember that part where firefighters love to joke around; my chemo nurses had no idea what they were in for when I walked in. The first day I was giving them a hard time about how to start IVs and what quality patient care looks like. I never would tell them what I did and they would always give me weird looks. Pretty soon, my wife would be rolling her eyes and tell them I am a paramedic and not to worry about my criticism. I had a blast the first couple weeks. I still felt good and was making new friends everyday at chemo.

The first week of chemo started soon after my surgery so all the medications were administered by IV. My veins were quick to figure out that they didn't like how things were going and made it harder and harder for the nurses to obtain. We decided to get a port placed and I went in for the quick day surgery procedure. They keep you awake and chat with you while a plastic hub is placed under the skin of your R upper chest and a catheter is ran into your heart. No big deal. I didn't do all the research I should have and turns out your not supposed to do certain exercises with the port in. I found out later that some of the overhead lifts should be avoided with the port. I never had any real issues with it other than it clotting up a couple times. I guess they put mine in well.

Support from my Family and Friends

My firefighter and church families really stepped up! We set up a ride schedule where different people could drive me down to chemo and my wife could get the kids off to school and then come and meet us to bring me home afterwards. Firefighters can kill some time while waiting for the next emergency so the wait during chemo was no big deal. We would sit and chat and laugh. Pretty soon, all the nurse were eager to see which new cute firefighter was going to bring me in. Yup, all firefighters are good looking.

Support is a huge part of the process. When you are used to being the one who helps others, it's hard to sit back and let others help you. But that's what I did and it was amazing to see how people responded. Rides were covered, meals were prepared and brought to the house, the kids were taken care of. Even bracelets and shirts were made in my support. I'm kind of a big deal. I totally felt like a pro wrestler with my own t-shirt! Things were cruising along, we were getting into a routine and I was feeling good.

Effects of Treatment

The chemo was doing it's job. My hair started falling out a little bit. Then one day in the shower, 10 days in, most of it came out. I kind of had a mad scientist look going that I wasn't too fond of so I trimmed it super short with the clippers. My bare head was pretty tender and I wore hats most days. I was pretty proud of my hair before the cancer and not a huge fan of the bald head but at least I didn't have to shave. That's right, all the hair falls out. You don't really think about that until you pull back the covers on the bed and see that all your leg hair has come out in the night and was trapped in the bottom of the bed. Gross.

I want to take a second and tell you about how much of a rockstar my wife is! From the moment of the diagnosis and on, she was my rock. We were lying in bed the night after the diagnosis and she turned to me and said, as nonchalant as possible, "Well babe, you've got cancer." We both just laughed and laughed. We talked of what the future held and that we would keep a positive attitude, no matter what. She literally took care of everything. She was my crutch on the days I wasn't feeling strong or in too much pain to get off the couch on my own. She's the best wife ever!

The chemo was really doing it's job. My tumor markers were slowly lowering on the blood work. So was my blood count numbers and I could tell. Standing up became a chore without getting too dizzy. Taking a shower was work. And I was tired of everyone telling me how pale I was. I didn't have much of a tan from the start but now I was almost see through. I went in for a chemo treatment in the third month and could tell the nurses were looking at me differently. They asked, "Are you feeling okay?" I wasn't feeling too bad, fatigued and a little dizzy from time to time. We started discussing a blood transfusion and a couple days later I was hooked up with 2 units of blood.

A couple days later the fever and cough started. My wife was getting a little worried so we headed into the hospital. Little did I know that would start an 11 day stay in isolation. My white blood cell count was so low that the doctors worried I would get too sick in the real world. Masked up, bald and pale; I didn't feel too studly but still had faith that we were on the right track. God's plan was still on our minds. We were able to chat with and meet many new people. I was half the age of most of the people on the floor and loved messing with the nurses. Why would they put so many buttons on a hospital bed if they didn't want you to see how high it would go up in the air? An ambulance came through and I asked for help escaping but they did not oblige. After some medication to get my bones producing blood again, I was released back in the real world!

I received my last chemo treatment while admitted so I didn't get to ring the bell showing everyone you've completed chemo. I loved visiting the chemo nurses and crew when I went back for follow up appointments and they let me ring it then. Those nurses had a huge impact on my cancer journey and I will be forever grateful for their care and comfort.

The chemo did a good job. The cancer had stopped spreading and some of the tumors shrunk. That was not the outcome we were looking for. We were looking to be cured from cancer and the oncologist and surgeons felt they could go in with another surgery and get all the cancer out. We scheduled a lymphadenectomy and liver resection. One surgeon cut open my abdomen from the bottom of my sternum to my waistline. He went in and cut out the 3 spots off the liver. The other surgeon went in and took out 30 plus lymph nodes and other tubes and parts that were affected. They stapled me back up and sent me on my way.

I always said that I would never tell the nurses I was a 10 on the pain scale but the second day after the surgery they decided I should stand up and move around a little. It took 2 nurses to get me up from the hospital bed and to sit in the chair. I knew by the look on my wife's face that I was not doing good. The nurse asked about my pain and I said "10" before she was done with the question. They reminded me that I could hit the button on my pain med pump and I quickly hit it.

Recovery and Life After TC

The rest of the recovery seemed to go by quickly and I was back to light duty work and going to physical therapy in no time. Everyone told me to take it slow but I knew my body and what it was wanting to do. I was ready to get back to fighting fires and saving lives. 4 months after my surgery I was back on shift at the fire station and happy to be back. My fire department family pulled together like never before and it was great to be back with them, sharing stories and doing life together.

I've been cancer-free for a little over a year! Since the surgery, the blood work, x-rays and ct scans have all come back normal. There will always be reminders of my cancer journey. The big scar down my abdomen (second surgery), one just below my waist line (first surgery) and 2 on my upper right chest (from the port). The tingling/numbness in my right upper leg and right index finger. It took a while for my lungs to get back to normal but I'm pushing it in workouts with the guys again and holding my own. Oh yeah, and I only have 1 testicle. All these issues are a small price to pay to be cancer-free and still alive and kicking.

I hope my story sheds a little light on what the testicular cancer journey is like. I hope it helps others going through it or those who have a loved one fighting cancer. Guys: check yourselves, know your balls and tell someone if you find something new or different. Don't be shy, we all have balls and want to keep them. Thanks for taking the time to read this. Love y'all.

April 3, 2017No Comments

Owning my Balltrasound

When I was younger, I was terrified to put myself out into the world. The few times when I did, I had a tendency to feel uncomfortable, abdicating the narrative of my own life to people who really had no business being the storytellers.

It took time, heartbreak, healing, and a healthy dose of self-confidence (both earned and given) to finally own who I was, good and bad, warts and all.

Not that I had warts, mind you… at least not the physical ones. But I digress…

This is never more apparent to me than in March, the anniversary of my stage-three testicular cancer diagnosis. Each year during the first week of the third month of the Julian calendar, I get my reminder phone call from my oncologist’s office.

Blood work. Chest X-ray. Testicular ultrasound.

I will never forget my first one. I had just had my port inserted for my impending chemo. As I came to, I was told that I was about to have my bed wheeled into the ultrasound lab to check the lads.

“Ultrasound?” I asked. “Like as in pregnancy ultrasound?”

Indeed.

In my anesthesia-induced haze, I can’t say I remember the physical experience too much. It was basically a red-haired beehive hairdo’d nurse working the wand like a Corvette stick shift through my Netherlands. I also remember the diagnosis: a core on the left side, calcium deposits on the right.

They caught my cancer kinda late, so they’d have to treat it in a different way. I’d have enough chemo to treat Rhode Island, followed by the eviction of Lefty. Hey, sometimes a guy just doesn’t want a roommate.

They would then monitor Righty annually for the rest of my life to make sure he wouldn’t try to kill me like his evil twin.

I get to have this happy little indignity every year? Super!

It’s amazing what cancer treatment does to you, the most astounding to me being its utter ability to give you perspective. When first diagnosed, I simply told people I had cancer. Sadly for me, that answer was never good enough.

“What kind?” they would ask.

“Uh, testicular.”

Guys would either snicker or wince, usually the latter. Girls would say, “Oh.”

At first, I totally understood both reactions. But as time went on, I realized that not only was I consumed by my embarrassment, but I was also embarrassing others by my blatantly obvious discomfort discussing the matter.

So on the day of my third or fourth diagnosis anniversary, while in the shower as I extra-scrubbed the hinterland in preparation for my impending blitzkrieg of shame, I simply said out loud, “I’m going to own this. I’m not going to be embarrassed anymore.”

It did not help my cause that the entire Visiting Nurses Association was doing a rotation, and were morbidly curious to see something that they hadn’t seen before. There’s nothing quite so vulnerability-inducing as eleven insanely attractive young women staring at you when the only thing staring back at them is your face, your socks, and your sack.

‘You’re doing this in the name of science,’ I kept telling myself…silently.

And do you know what happened? Not one of them laughed. One even said that I had a lot of guts agreeing to let them be present in the room. And then she asked for my number.

Okay, kidding about that last part.

But I came to the realization that it was me that was in control of my embarrassment, and by using that control to quash it, not only was I helping myself, but possibly others who are not yet comfortable about owning one of the most sensitive of maladies a young man can endure, the age this disease seems to target more than most.

Do I still feel a twinge of I really don’t feel like being here each year? Absolutely. I’m human. But the feeling that I get when I hear, “There is no noticeable change, Mr. Duffy” is worth it beyond measure.

And by owning my balltrasound, and in reality, my testicular cancer in general, I’ve figured out a way to help others in the same boat.

I’m just going to lay it all out there and hope the response is as warm as the jelly I have to mop up from down under each year.

G’day, y’all.

March 29, 20173 Comments

A Shout Out to the Caregivers: You Are Doing a Good Freaking Job

Sadly, there is no manual or guidebook for when your husband receives a testicular cancer diagnosis.  Did you even know what testicular cancer was? Did you know that it preys on men ages 15-34 years old?  Your world is suddenly flipped upside down and there is not a darn thing you can do about it.  You feel completely and utterly helpless.  Maybe you cry yourself to sleep, maybe you are in shock, or maybe you keep everything to yourself. You never imagined yourself in this role - you were just married and enjoying life as a newlywed, but now he has cancer and everything is different.   The days to come are filled with uncertainties.  But, you are absolutely certain of one thing: you will do everything in your power to provide unrelenting love, support, and grace to ensure that your partner, a newly deemed cancer patient, is comfortable and taken care of.

In your new role as caregiver, you schedule appointments, provide transportation, pick up prescriptions, feel helpless as he wakes up from surgery in searing pain, watch in horror as he retches for hours after chemo, you shed tears behind closed doors. And you worry.  You worry about everything.  Are you doing enough to support him? Has the cancer spread? Is the treatment working? Can we have children? Will he live?

You feel completely alone.  Your peers are having babies and buying homes because that is just what you do when you are in your mid-twenties.  Getting through the day and making sure your husband is okay is the priority now.  All other normal life events are put on hold.  Your new reality includes things like researching fertility options, figuring out how to pay for the mounting medical bills, waiting for this nightmare to be over while just trying so desperately to hold it all together for the two of you.

Caregiving is a double edged sword.  Sometimes the grief and pain of watching your spouse suffer is almost insurmountable, but then again, you would never trade a minute of holding his hand during a scary doctor’s appointment, standing vigil by his bedside on a rough night, fetching ice cream because his appetite is back after losing so much weight.   There are moments of beauty in the chaos.

And with the bad days, there are good days, there are the milestones: the joy in his face after receiving news that the latest scan indicated no more cancer, when you learn that cancer did not rob him of his chance to be a father and you are expecting, when the scans continue to come back cancer free year after year.

And then all of the sudden the storm is over, and he is healthy.  He is okay.  But you, how are you? Did you get the chance to process everything and handle it, or are you a holy mess? It is okay to not be okay.  Maybe it has been days, months, or even years since the diagnosis and you are still trying to figure out how to adjust to this post-cancer life – there is no timeline for coping.  Cut yourself some slack.

And while every cancer experience is different, take comfort in that fact that there are more resources out there than you can imagine for patients, survivors and caregivers. You are not alone – there are other people out there that just get it.  Reach out, seek help, and talk to someone.  In the trenches of caregiving, do not forget to take care of yourself.  Get a pedicure, drink wine on a Tuesday, go for a hike - do you. You cannot pour from an empty cup.  When doubt creeps in on the bad days and you question if you are doing enough to support and comfort him, just remember one thing, there is no manual to caregiving and you are doing a good freaking job.

March 27, 2017Comments are off for this post.

What is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month?

What is the official Testicular Cancer Awareness Month?

The Men’s health arena has seen great strides in the last few years.  With the prominence of Movember in November, Men’s health month in June, and a handful of specialty cancer weeks throughout the year it can be hard to keep them all straight.   While all of this is extremely important, Testicular Cancer Awareness Month can get lost in the shuffle. Although there are a handful of different references and sources for Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, we recognize April as the official Testicular Cancer Awareness Month.

Why Does Testicular Cancer need an entire month to raise awareness?

By having an entire month to bring awareness and education to the masses we are able to greatly increase the likelihood of men performing testicular self exams.  Originally the first week of April (1-7) was recognized as Testicular Cancer Awareness Week.  Although the week is still recognized by many, the entire month of April has since been deemed as Testicular Cancer Awareness Month.  Receiving an entire month was an enormous victory for the testicular cancer community and those trying to bring light to the disease.  It has enabled the awareness and education of TC to reach the masses.

Why is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month so important?

Testicular Cancer is the most common cancer in males ages 15-34.  We all have loved ones that are susceptible to this disease.  By having a dedicated month for Testicular Cancer, a spotlight has been placed on the disease about the importance of understanding the risks and warning signs to look. Through dedicating an entire month, it empowers individuals, survivors, organizations, and the media to get involved in the life saving mission of insuring men know the importance of being advocates for their own health, and particularly the importance of a monthly testicular self exam.

Is there one specific organization behind Testicular Cancer Awareness Month?

The short answer is no.  Testicular Cancer Awareness Month is recognized and promoted by a host of credible well meaning organizations all working to help raise awareness, educate the public, and save lives.

What are the official Testicular Cancer Color(s)?

As you look from organization to organization, you will notice that the colors and representation of the disease differ.  There has been some debate over the years on the correct color for testicular cancer awareness and coinciding ribbons.  While we feel that TCF Blue appropriately represents the disease and our organization, below are a few other colors that have been seen over the years.

One of the original testicular cancer colors has been widely recognized as purple/violet. This color and representation of testicular cancer stems from the Orchid flower that shares the same color, and is a derivative of Orchis, the ancient Greek word for testicle.

With Lance Armstrong and the LIVESTRONG foundation there has been reference to the color yellow. However LIVESTRONG represents an array of cancers, not just testicular cancer.

There are also numerous organizations that use various shades of blue to represent their brand and personal testicular cancer efforts.

What can you do to get involved and help in the efforts for April?

There are opportunities for every type of person and organization to aide in the efforts of the testicular cancer foundation and to raise much needed awareness for the disease. April is a great time to start, but don’t let April 30th stop your advocating efforts. We need help year round. Here are a few ways to get involved:

-       Host an event: Hosting an event is a great way to help raise awareness and get the community involved. Download the fundraising toolkit here.

-       Order Self Exams Shower Cards: Ordering shower cards for yourself, loved ones, friends, family, religious group, or business is a great way to help insure the men in your life know the importance of a self exam.

-       Buy TCF merchandise: By wearing Testicular Cancer Foundation t-shirts and wristbands you not only look great, but you open up conversation about the disease which can create a dialogue on the importance of understanding the risks and warning signs of the disease.

-       Set up a fundraising page: Setting up a fundraising page is easy, takes only a few minutes and is a great way to help the organization. By raising funds, you are able to help fund our crucial programs. The Testicular Cancer Foundation operates on a 100% model meaning overhead expenses are covered by “Angel Donors” so you can fundraise in peace knowing 100% of the funds raised are going directly to saving lives.

Where can I get a free shower card for myself, friend or loved one?

We at the Testicular Cancer Foundation have an initiative to provide a free shower card to every household in America.  Click Here to order your free shower card today.

February 7, 2017No Comments

Love Yourself, Check Yourself This Valentine’s Day

Love is in the air.

With Valentine's Day just a week away, love is in the air. Valentine's is a day to celebrate loving and being loved. Here at TCF, we couldn’t agree more, and that is why we hope this Valentine's Day you won't forget to Love Yourself, Check Yourself (or your partner).

A simple Testicular Self Exam could save your life or the one you love. Testicular Cancer is the most common cancer in males ages 15-34. One male is diagnosed every hour and one male dies every single day. When caught early, Testicular Cancer is 99% curable and easily treated. Don’t let yourself, or your loved one, go un-checked this Valentines Day.

Click here to send us a Valentine's Day gift and spread the love!

xoxo – The TCF Team

December 22, 2016No Comments

TBT04: The Urologist

Editors Note: This post originally appeared on A Ballsy Sense of Tumor Blog

I had starting vlogging my cancer story from this point. My face wasn't sure how to comprehend what I had been told.

All things really came to a head that day. My urologist appointment was scheduled for October 26 with Dr. Dumont. In the waiting room, I was easily the youngest person by a long shot. I peed in a cup (to this day, I’m still not sure why) and waited to see the doctor.

Wow. Even though I had been believing this since I first called, it was still vastly different to hear it from a doctor. Furthermore, I had only called for an initial visit eight days prior. I went from having an area of concern to being a cancer patient in just over a week.After the customary “drop your pants and let me examine you,” the doctor looked me in the eye and said, “So I am going to be straight with you. You have cancer.”

I did appreciate how straightforward and frank he was being with me. He said based on his brief examination and the ultrasound, he was 99% certain that it was cancer.

“Is this something I get a second opinion on?” I asked.

“In most cases, I tell my patients to get a second opinion. In your case, we don’t have time,” he replied.

The good news about testicular cancer is that it is very treatable. While 1 in 250 men will develop it, only 1 in 5,000 of them will die from it - roughly 1 in 300,00 of all men. On the whole, it has a 95% five-year survival rate. The bad news is that it is very aggressive. It can quickly spread to other parts of the body and become more complicated. Dr. Dumont said I had been smart and caught it early. Thank goodness I did catch it fast and called immediately. I had experienced no pain in my testicles, unlike Lance Armstrong who had felt pain and still put off getting it checked.

“So what’s next?” I inquired.

“Surgery. We need to remove the mass immediately. We can probably get you in tomorrow.”

source unknown

I went home and talked to Mallory. Up until this point, I had tried to minimize what was going on because I didn’t want to worry Mallory. As I have said, I didn’t want to burden people and generally hold my emotions in. This is fine for when I am frustrated at work or something minor is bothering me, but not so much in this situation. The weekend before, Mallory knew all of the unanswered questions were bothering me, but I refused to open up because I am a man and society says men can’t feel things. On the Sunday morning before my diagnosis, while I was waiting to hear back from the doctor’s office, she had said some minor comment and I exploded. It wasn’t the comment, but the culmination of everything to this point. Once I had calmed down enough, she admitted that she provoked me a bit to get me to open up. Sneaky, but effective. Moving forward, I knew I needed to be open with her, and as I told her about the surgery, I was, even though it was hard for both of us. Being open with others? That would have to wait.Double wow. Not only had I upgraded to cancer patient, I was also further promoted to surgery patient. Honestly, it was a lot to process. I told him I couldn’t commit to surgery tomorrow and needed some time to think. I also wanted to talk to Mallory because I had stupidly told her not to come with me to the appointment. He totally understood, but reiterated I had to move fast.

At this point, I knew surgery was inevitable and necessary but it was still a lot to process. I cried during this time. I don’t cry often. I can count on one hand the amount of times I’ve cried since I’ve lived in Virginia. It was a lot to handle quickly and it kind of build up.

After talking with Mallory (having decided to go forward with the surgery), I called back and the office was already closed because of course it was. The following morning, they called back and the surgery was scheduled. I would be going under to have the mass removed on Friday, October 28th.

Now that I had more concrete information, it was time to let more people in.

On Thursdays, I am chronicling my journey from discovery to the beginning of chemotherapy. To read through my story up until this point, please click here.

December 15, 2016No Comments

TBT03: The First Visit and Ultrasound

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Editors Note: This post originally appeared on A Ballsy Sense of Tumor Blog

On Thursday of my first appointment, I had to leave school early. I hadn’t indicated to anyone, aside from Brian, about the urgency of this appointment so no one thought any of it at the time. I told my students that I just needed to leave a little early for a doctor’s visit and they seemed ok with that explanation.

I got to the doctor’s office and had to fill out a ton of paperwork. Once in the the exam room, I summarized the first two parts of this blog to the nurse practitioner. In retrospect, I should have written this sooner and just printed her a copy. Like I’ve said, up until this point in my life, I had the world’s most boring medical history - scoliosis when I was younger, wisdom teeth out at 17, slightly above average height and weight, and no family history of testicular cancer (although other forms of cancer have appeared in my family’s history). After discussing with her the reason for my visit and my enthralling medical history, she told me to drop my pants so she could examine me.

To be completely straightforward, this was the part that I was most nervous about. There is usually a pretty involuntary reaction when someone touches me in that region, and I didn’t want to make it awkward. Obviously, she is a professional and I pretend I am a professional, so a situation like that may have been expected, but luckily nothing happened.

Initially, she had an issue with finding the lump. In my mind, I knew exactly where it was, and I was flabbergasted that it was hard to find, but I also know my body best. I kind of rearranged myself to find and isolate the lump. She did then find it and confirmed yes, there was a lump. She said that the next step was to get an ultrasound. Before going into the appointment, I knew that I wouldn’t have answers immediately that day, but it was frustrating that I had to wait even longer for a more defined picture of what I would be facing.

“It could be any number of things. A cyst, an infection, or it could be a cancerous mass.” Click To Tweet

I asked her what she thought it could be. She said, “It could be any number of things. A cyst, an infection, or it could be a cancerous mass.” Now, I obviously now know it was cancer, and I even had assumed it was cancer at that point, but it always kind of amazed me through this process that cancer was treated as an afterthought versus a definite possibility. I understand that, as a medical field, it is probably better to undersell issues like these rather than get people worked up only to find out it is not cancer. Ironically, this is kind of what I was doing with my friends by being dismissive about the situation, even though internally, I had already more or less accepted that I had cancer.

The doctor referred me for an ultrasound. I probably should have been more pushy in getting this scheduled, but I also do not deal with doctors often. She said the imaging office would call to get me scheduled the following day, and I assumed that was how things worked.

The next day, I had not received any calls by lunch time, so I called them. They said they were still processing orders and had not gotten any with my name on it yet. If I had not heard back from them by the end of school, I could call back to see if they had processed it yet. The school day ended. They hadn’t called, so I called back looking for answers. The person I spoke to said they had processed all of the orders for the day, and mine was not in there. This was my health issue and things didn’t seem to be moving as fast as I wanted. Exasperated, I sent a message to my doctor and asked if they could send another fax over. However, the office was closed by then, and they could not send one until Monday morning.

In my classroom, I have very little cell reception. To actually receive calls, you have to go outside, which does not make for easy scheduling in cases of emergencies. During morning meeting on Monday, I saw I had a missed call from what I assumed was the medical imaging office. In a totally calm and rational way, I excused myself, arranged for someone to watch my class, and politely stepped out to take the call.

Except not really. My anxiety was a little high at that moment and I was having difficulty formulating action steps. I asked the art teacher to watch them as I sprinted down the hall to make the call. I saw she was about to have a class come in, but one of my teammates offered to watch both classes. I got the ultrasound scheduled and arranged for coverage during the ultrasound time.

This was the first time I indicated to others in my school that something was wrong. I probably looked like I was running around like a chicken with his head cut off. I had been playing things pretty close to the chest up until that point, but this sort of let the cat out of the bag.

Roughly two hours after the call, I went for the ultrasound. I had not had one in recent memory so I didn’t really know what to expect. The nurse said she would step out to give me some privacy to change. I found this humorous because she was just going to come back in and see everything anyway, but professionals will be professionals.

During the ultrasound, she turned on this microphone feature to listen to the blood flow of each testicle. The right one (the unafflicted one) sounded like calming ocean waves. His brother, the concerning one, sounded like a pack of angry wolves chasing Liam Neeson. I took this as an indication that something was wrong, but the nurse said it wasn’t super alarming. “Easy for you to say,” I thought to myself.

After the ultrasound was done, she said she had to go consult with the radiologist to see if he was going to come talk to me or if she would share preliminary results. She came back saying that she was the one to share the news. There was indeed a solid mass in there, and that meant either inflammation or cancer. Again, to bring up my earlier point, I think they were grasping at straws for something other than cancer. She urged me to call my doctor to discuss results and said they would have analysis of the CT scan by the end of the school day.
More and more, I was gaining confirmation of the theory I had already begun to embrace: that I had cancer.I never got a chance to call my doctor because, around lunch time, she called me. Obviously, getting a call that quickly after the scan did not bode well in my mind. She again reiterated what the radiologist report said. She said it might be inflammation, but I had no other symptoms so it seemed unlikely to both of us. I was prescribed an antibiotic to rule out the slim chances of it being an infection, but I still didn’t put much leverage into that theory. She gave me statistics on incidence rates of testicular cancer in men of my age range. About half of testicular cancers occur in men between the ages of 20 and 34. She also added that the risk of testicular cancer among white men is about 4 to 5 times that of African-American men and that of Asian-American men. These numbers were significantly higher and more serious than I expected. I was told to call a local urologist to schedule an appointment for further consultation.

On Thursdays, I am chronicling my journey from discovery to the beginning of chemotherapy. To read through my story up until this point, please click here.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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12600 Hill Country Blvd, Suite R-270 Austin, TX 78738 • info@tcancer.org • 855-390-8231

© 2017 Testicular Cancer Foundation, a 501(c)(3) registered nonprofit | Privacy Policy