April is Testicular Cancer Month and we wanted to share with you a story from a wife reflecting back on her husband’s testicular cancer experience.

My husband and I were in our first year of marriage, adjusting to married life: who does the dishes, takes out the trash, walks the dog, how to blend families and share space, all were challenges married couples face. He was also in his last semester of law school in Houston getting ready to take the bar exam. We had a list of things to accomplish that year, finishing law school, moving back to Austin, taking the bar, passing the bar, and finding a job. The last thing on our mind was cancer. Cancer wasn’t on our list of things to do.

Shortly, after we were married, my husband started to notice a lump on his left testicle. He saw a family physician in Houston and it was dismissed as a cyst. A few months later he noticed it grew, but in the midst of studying for the bar and moving back to Austin, he put it off. Within 6 months it grew from the size of a small pea to a pecan. He saw another family physician in Austin and this time he was referred to see an urologist. The urologist recommended a scan of the testicle area. We received the results in a few days. I knew my husband had a follow up appointment with the urologist. This was a Monday, a beautiful, sunny Fall day.

He called me at work and asked me to come home – the tone in his voice was serious and he needed to speak to me. I couldn’t wait until I got home to hear what he had to say, of course, and I asked him to tell me immediately. He said the doctor thinks he has cancer; the scan showed a mass and he was scheduled for surgery to remove his left testicle the following Tuesday. I remember the worry in the way he told me; I told myself to be strong – it was one of the most surreal conversations I’ve ever had. I left work a mess and cried and cried on the car ride home, wanting to get it all out before I saw him. I felt guilty for not being there in person but who would’ve ever thought this would happen to him.

I arrived home and we hugged each other, cried, cursed and cursed some more. There wasn’t anything else we could do at that very moment, we didn’t know anything, there was only the waiting. Not to mention, how would his family and friends react? How would we tell everyone? It was met with confusion – cancer? They would say, ‘But he’s so young, he works out, he’s healthy’. My younger sister asked – Why? I wish I knew why. My husband is a former Marine, about to be an attorney, I knew he was going to fight this.

Tuesday arrived and my husband was prepped for surgery. This was the first surgery he’d ever had and he was nervous to be under anesthesia. It lasted less than 2 hours from the moment they wheeled him away and him waking up in recovery. I was surprised that they released him to go home as soon as he was able to wake up. He was happy to be able to recover in the comfort of his own bed. It wasn’t hard to keep him in bed since he didn’t have much energy to do anything else. The cut was made just under his waist line so sitting up was a chore. A week after the surgery I drove him to his post op appointment, this was the big one, the one they would tell us what type of cancer the tumor was. The doctor informed us it was Stage 1 and it had not spread to other areas of the body. The best news we could receive. It gave us the answer we were looking for and determined the next steps he could take. During his recovery time he also received word that he passed the state bar exam. It was the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. There was something more important to focus on.

The oncologist gave him a choice, he could do nothing but have the surgery. He could have chemotherapy or radiation and lower the risk of the cancer returning. He was a good candidate for radiation and he began his treatments about 6 weeks after having the surgery. My husband was lucky; he only needed 10 treatments (one every day for ten days). Of course, he was the youngest guy the oncologist was treating at the moment, mostly elderly men seeking treatment. That really put things into perspective for him. He could do this! The radiation left him fatigued and he experienced discomfort in his stomach. It was hard to watch someone you love and care about suffer each day but he was doing this so he had a fighting chance at life. By the end of the treatments he was literally sick of it. It took him a few weeks to feel more like himself and have the energy to be active again.

It was rough watching all of this unfold before me. It’s been a little over a year since my husband started radiation treatment and I look back to those weeks and think how on Earth did we do it? I couldn’t possibly tell you back then what I would learn from it all. We learned that sometimes my husband just needed the confidence to know that someone was there for him, that we wouldn’t treat him any differently, that he was still the person he is, and that patience whether in a lobby of doctor’s office or waiting for test results goes a long way. This was one of the hardest things I’m sure we’ll have to go through but we came out on the other side stronger because of it. Early detection saved my husband’s life and I hope my story can motivate someone to do the same, get them checked.

 

-Erica Bergman

Austin, Texas