September 19, 2016Comments are off for this post.

From Now On…

From now on we live in a world where man has walked on the moon. A simple yet profound quote by astronaut Jim Lovell after Neil Armstrong’s famed first steps on the lunar surface. Lovell understood the world had fundamentally changed, as had the path of humankind. I’d like to say I know the quote because I have extensive knowledge of the US space program but the fact is Tom Hanks repeated the line in Apollo 13; movie quotes are easier than real life.

I was in high school when that film came out, but the line stuck with me and I found it particularly appropriate after my February 2013 RPLND, though slightly paraphrased: From now on, I live in a world where I had cancer. This is what I was thinking when I returned home after 8 days in the hospital. My world had fundamentally changed, my path altered to a new paradigm I’m still trying to figure out.

See, this is what they don’t tell you. Doctors are great talking about statistics and treatment options and referrals. They will explain in detail how they are going to slice you open, move your organs, cut through layers of muscle and fascia tissue (while you’re in there, can you deflate some of those love handles? No? Seems like a reasonable request...), and cut out parts of your lymphatic system. They are great at telling you that you should consider freezing sperm and that you may be more susceptible to catching colds and you may have side effects like retrograde ejaculation and pain. Lots of pain. But they don’t tell you that your life will never be the same. In other words, “you’re not the same, you’ve changed” (am I the only one who saw Mallrats?)

I was so very naïve about the impact this disease would have on my world. I was an Air Force aircrew member when I was diagnosed; I figured 6-12 months and I’d be back flying missions. That’s one main reason I opted for surgery instead of chemotherapy: fewer barriers to getting back on flying status (something to do with potential pulmonary complications from the Bleomycin, I think). Because I never for a minute thought I was done flying. And it wasn’t as if the doctor was saying, “hey man, you should know you may never fly again, and you may have trouble sleeping for the next, well, lots of years...you know, life's going to change. A lot."  They don't tell you that. But of course, that’s what happens

Doctors are great about getting you through treatment, and your friends are great about bringing you fried ravioli and Golden Girls on DVD (the complete set!). But what about the rest?  Here is an abridged list of my experiences:

#1 - explaining this 18-inch skin zipper every time I take my shirt off (hot tubs, saunas, the DMV...). Being naturally hairless in the abdominal region ensures the scar remains conspicuous and glaring.

#2 - asking a bewildered hotel desk clerk if they have a sharps container because I'm about to make it rain syringes of testosterone!

#3 - inability to perfect a golf swing because my abdominal muscles have been severed three times. This is, perhaps, the hardest thing to deal with.

#4 - a conversation with a surgeon following a post-RPLND operation in which I was told, "it was harder than we expected because none of your organs are where they are supposed to be (RPLNDs displace your internal junk, to the apparent consternation of non-cancer surgeons).

#5 - assuring friends that one testicle does not make me more aerodynamic. It is, oddly, easier to accidentally sit on your junk when you're a single and not a duo, though.

#6 - a slight annoyance that breast cancer is talked about openly but some people think my testicles aren't appropriate for polite dinner conversation.

#7 - awkward exchanges with acquaintances. Them: "hey, I heard you had some health stuff..." Me: " I had a touch of the cancer in my right testicle. Want to see the ultrasound?"

The point is this: cancer changes your life. It can be hard to admit that. It was tough to admit my flying career was over, and it was tough to admit my body wasn't producing testosterone and I would have to get over my fear of needles because guess who gets to inject himself every week!?!?

But cancer did not stop me. Cancer took my career. I’ve accepted that fact and am moving on. I'm starting a new job soon that I'm pretty excited about. Cancer took my testosterone. Ok. But I have syringes and alcohol pads and every week it gets a little easier to shove a needle in my leg. Cancer took my sense of immortality. In return, I gained a stronger love of experiences and, ironically, a desire to live a fuller and sometimes riskier life. And cancer saddled me with a 36-golf handicap. At least, I tell my friends it's cancer's fault

Naïveté wasn’t my only sin. Hubris, ego, and an inflated sense of immortality (even at the ripe old age of 34) kept me from seeing the most basic truth: cancer is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. Rather than being a detour, cancer can be a "road closed" sign. That's the reality of it. The paths you are on personally, emotionally, financially, professionally...they are about to get very, very bumpy. And some may fall apart altogether. Do you try to recover a lost path? Or do you forge ahead and blaze a trail you hadn't seen before?

I have a scar. Admittedly it looks kind of cool. More importantly, it's a great segue to start a conversation about TC with someone and remind them to always check their junk.

September 19, 2016Comments are off for this post.

Zak Pendleton’s Story

There I was on May 10, 2016 in a routine physical exam. My real intention behind the appointment was just to get it out of the way so I could keep a discount on my monthly health insurance premium.

During the appointment, I wondered why we even had to go through the interrogation about my health. “I’m healthy” I thought to myself. I was preparing to do a 100-mile cycling ride in four days and for the most part felt ready to go. “Anyone who can ride 100 miles on their bike doesn’t have to worry about a medical exam.” I told myself.

Then, the physician assistant asked me if I did self-exams. “Um, well, yeah, I do. I mean I’ve looked at myself and felt down there.” I bumbled. No problems here, I reassured myself in my mind. Nonetheless, we proceeded to do an exam. For as long as I remember, I've had one testicle smaller than the other. The physician assistant mentioned there could be reasons for the size difference. They might have to do a minor surgery and the testicle may even grow back to the same size as the other one. So, we scheduled to have an ultrasound done to see what the issues could be.

Three days later, I had an ultrasound. Nearly an hour after, a call came. It was my physician assistant telling me that the ultrasound staff had called him quickly after I left. He explained they had noticed a mass. A mass? I thought. What kind of a mass? Then, he said that word. Cancer. “This could be cancer”. He scheduled an appointment with the urology clinic to confirm things.

The thoughts came racing in. Am I going to lose my hair? Will I have kids? What does testicular cancer even mean? And, what does it mean for me?

The urology appointment included a blood test for elevated tumor markers and a chest x-ray. Both came back negative. Surgery was the next step to remove the testicle.

On July 7, 2016 an inguinal orchiectomy was performed and that smaller traitor of a right testicle was removed. After a couple of weeks I was back doing things I enjoyed doing to stay fit.

I was and am lucky and blessed. The cancer does not appear to have spread to anywhere else in my body. I’m in Surveillance. This involves blood tests, chest x-rays, and CT scans on a prescribed schedule to monitor if any cancer shows up. A benefit for me was the support around me. Family, especially my Mom, friends, church leaders, and co-workers have all been supportive and have helped me. Having this support and the understanding that I’ve been blessed with catching things early, I’ve felt a need and desire to be an advocate for those with cancer and to be an advocate for awareness of about cancer, especially types of cancer that can affect males. I was fortunate to discover the issue before it became anything worse and that is why I will be supporting educational efforts to help others do the same. I plan to utilize the resources of the Testicular Cancer Foundation to educate others. My hope is to help others catch things early like I have.

June 19, 2016Comments are off for this post.

#MensHealthWeek Survivor Story – Scott Mitchell

Happy Father's Day

My name is Scott Mitchell and I'm currently 39, diagnosed at age 20. I don't remember the exact name of the cancer but it was a rare form of juvenile TC. The surgeon said that I was the third oldest person in the world to be diagnosed with that cancer.  He also told me that the removed testes had been sent to a government base for testing and he also asked my permission to write a medical journal entry about it as it was so rare. I don't know if that ever came to fruition or not.

My story begins with feeling a lump in my right testes when I was showering one day in college.  After a week or so, I could feel it getting larger.  I went to a doctor who sent me for tests and it came back negative.  I was only semi-relieved as I knew something wasn't right.  I waited for another month out of pure denial as it grew bigger. Finally, once it got to almost the size of a half baseball I sought out a specialist that was recommended to me.  I will never forget that appointment, the doctor had me lay on the table pantless with my legs up and spread in a type of stirrups. He examined me,  said "I'll be right back." He left and returned with 6 doctors,  male and female to look at me. I remember hearing "wow" and " oh my" by a few of them. I had never felt so humiliated in my life.  They left and my original doctor told me that I was going to have surgery in two days to remove it. I was scared to death,  I was an athlete in high school and besides a few injuries I had been completely healthy my entire life. How could this be happening to me is all I can remember feeling.  Then came all the emotions; fear, anger, denial, confusion, guilt, embarrassment, worry, despair,  did I do something to deserve this? How am I going to tell my parents? My brother? My friends? I was in a fraternity,  how would they handle it? How am i going to do this?  So many questions and no answers.

The surgery went well, no real issues. I recovered in my apartment and my family and my brothers took such great care of me. They responded so much better than I thought they would, that made everything a little better.

At the point where people were finding out, I was getting mixed reactions,  people were helpful, sad, encouraging,  but the worst was the pity. That was the moment when I decided that cancer wasn't going to beat me.  Screw your pity.

After healing from that surgery,  I was sent to Albany, NY, which was 4 hours away from home, for a lymph node dissection to ensure it hadn't spread. I was in the hospital for 8 days recovering and left with 85 staples down my stomach. To this day,  I've never been in that much pain.

After healing from that surgery and all the testing I had to have another surgery to remove a lump that was found just below my larynx.  It ended up being an enlarged gland but it was yet another surgery to endure.

After healing from that,  my port catheter was put in and I started chemo.  By the end, I completed 27, full 40 hour weeks of chemo.

My oncologist and all of my nurses were amazing to me and everyone else in the unit.  I still think of the older woman that was in the chair next to me for months, Shirley.  She taught me the most important lesson of all,  to stay positive no matter what the circumstances.  Despite the awfulness of what we were going through,  she was always joking and making everyone laugh. She almost made it enjoyable to be there, almost.

During that year, I insisted that cancer wasnt going to hold me back so I stayed busy.  I worked full time when I wasn't on the unit as a conference services manager for a local college,  I was a substitute teacher in the high school and coached modified football and girls softball.

Once I finished my last round of chemo,  I had my port removed and 10 days later I was back in college to finish my degree.  Still bald and bloated from the chemo it was quite a transition.

During college,  I met the love of my life and my future wife, Jamie. The only doubt I had remaining was my ability to have my own children.

My wife and I tried for almost two years to become pregnant, which made my doubts that much worse.  Fortunately,  we were able to conceive naturally and now we have our 15 month old son Parker Scott.

What I really want people to know about TC is don't be embarrassed if you think something isn't right, get checked out asap. There's nothing to be embarrassed by or ashamed of. It's your body and your life, not anyone else's.

For everyone going through treatment,  a positive mindset is the only way to survive.  We can't let cancer win,  physically or mentally. For all of the hurt, pain and suffering,  cancer has made me a better person and I appreciate life a lot more and don't worry about the petty things.

June 18, 2016Comments are off for this post.

#MensHealthWeek Survivor Story – Gabe Barcenas

A Message From One of Our Speakers Bureau Members

My whole saga started innocently enough. I had back pain. I like to think of  myself as a macho guy, and therefore i contributed the pain to my manly workouts. Yep, that was it, I must have torn/pulled a muscle while lifting weights.  

Well, the pain never subsided, so i took the next step and went to see a Dr. The Dr. at the point agreed, it must have been a pull/tear. I was given some pain medicine (not the good euphoric kind unfortunately) and was sent on my way. Unfortunately, that was not the end of it. For three weeks I struggled through significant pain. I was taking the useless pills, I was ice packing it nearly 24/7, I was see a chiropractor 2/3 times a day, and I was still waking up each night.....crying and in the fetal position.  

After 3 weeks of this, I went back in. At this point, I noticed that of my balls was swollen, again...naturally I thought this must be a hernia, at least that's what I told myself. 

Needless to say, it wasn't a pulled muscle, it wasn't torn tissue, and it wasn't a hernia. The Doc sent me down to get an ultrasound, he had thought that I had 'twisted' something down there. About 3 mins into the ultrasound, and I was sure something wasn't right. The length of time it was taking as well as the look on the technicians face gave away that something wasn't right. He asked if he could go get the doctor, and the fear of the unknown became a crippling feeling. A few mins after the doc came in and started his own examination he stated that i should follow up with my primary care Dr in the AM.....no way was that gonna fly with me. I demanded to know what was wrong.......that's where it all went wrong, those words hung out like it was going in slow motion on a bad, old, scary movie - 'YOU HAVE CANCER'.  

What came next was a flurry of new Dr's, test, appt's, and surgeries. I went from diagnosis to ball removal, to 9 weeks of chemo in the blink of an eye. A horribly painful, mind screwing, scary, evil eye. It was and remains the worst stretch of my life to date.  

The worst part? The worst part is hindsight. All of this could have/should have/would have been avoided if I had any clue it could affect me. Why didn't someone tell me about the most common cancer in males between 15-34? How wasn't I warned? There were symptoms - if I knew that i should be looking for them this all could have been avoided.

I can only hope that my experience and my story can help someone out there avoid the pain and agony of what I went through. 

You have them, check them - if you feel something, say something.......you are not manlier than Testicular Cancer and neither was I.

June 17, 2016Comments are off for this post.

#MensHealthWeek Survivor Story – Mark R. Zeiler

1984 - Removal of right testicle and lymph nodes on both sides from bottom of ribs to hips

1986 - Removal of left testicle

Only treatment has been hormone replacement therapy. When test from all the lymph nodes came back negative I had no further treatment. Was monitored very closely over the next 3 years. Now just yearly check ups.

TC can be one of the most curable cancers if we can overcome the stigma that surrounds the subject of personal inspection of ones testicles. And if a lump is detected to get immediate tests done.

June 16, 2016Comments are off for this post.

#MensHealthWeek Survivor Story – Ronald Bye

Diagnosed August 8, 1975

We all have a story to tell.  A good story has a beginning, middle and an ending.  My story has many beginnings and thankfully no ending as yet.  My story is of survival, rebirth, finding my voice and finally healing.

Just a few years after Richard Nixon declared war on cancer, I heard those fateful words, “you have cancer”.  I was 20 years old and had been married 11 months, 3 weeks and 2 days.  I was trying to find my way in the world and looking to start a life with my young bride.

It was June 1975 and I had some nagging groin pain which I attributed to working in construction and a probable hernia.  I went to the emergency room to get checked out but they could not find anything and recommended I see an urologist.  I for the most part ignored the suggestion as I really did not want to see a doctor but my wife kept pushing me to go.  Finally, in early August, she made an appointment for me and simply told me to go.  That was August 6th 1975 at 3:30 pm.  After the usual 20 questions and extremely awkward “drop your pants and let’s have a look”, the doctor looked me in the eye and said “you definitely have a problem Ron”.  My heart stopped beating as panic spread through my every fiber.

I was admitted to the hospital the following day and had surgery the next day.  A right radical inguinal orchiectomy was performed and later that day I was given the grim news.  The diagnosis was “pure embryonal carcinoma with vascular invasion”.  I had testicular cancer, a virtual death sentence in those days.

I had not been sick since I was a child and had no idea how to react or deal with the news.  The hospital stay was a nightmare as I felt my life slipping away and so totally out of control.  I felt like a cornered wild animal scratching and snarling in feeble attempts to regain some level of control of my life and dignity.

I went home after a few days and spent the rest of the week regaining my strength.  That week was our first wedding anniversary and for a surprise anniversary gift my wife gave me an 8 track player (yes definitely dating us) and a John Denver tape.  I excitedly set up the system and plugged in the tape.  The very first song to play on that system was “Lady”.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with the song, it says “did you think our time together was all gone” and goes on to say “our time has just begun”.  How prophetic that truly was!

After a week, the doctor’s office called and said I needed to come back in and discuss my prognosis and future treatments.  I agreed rather expecting it would be “take two of these and call me in the morning”.  Apparently my urologist didn’t quite see it the same way.  He sat me down and proceeded to tell me I had a 50% chance of living 2 years and a less than 10% chance of seeing my 25th birthday.  He told me he knew of ONE patient with my pathology that lived!

Needless to say my head was spinning, I could hardly breath and my short life passed before my eyes.  I went home to my wife having no idea what the future would hold or even if there was a future.  I don’t think I even told my wife the specifics the doctor had conveyed to me, just that the prognosis was not good and that he wanted me to go to a major cancer center at either Dartmouth or the Mayo Clinic.

Somehow that evening I became a survivor determined to beat the odds.  In fact I became so focused on surviving and having a future I never again even considered I would not live!  Perhaps it was inner strength or denial or naïve or a combination of all of it, but I somehow found the strength to deal with the coming months of surgery, chemo, poking and prodding and maintain some level of sanity and will to live!

The same focus, determination and denial caused me to shut my story inside.  I told no one.  I had a dear friend of more than 20 years that did not know my cancer story.   Cancer was not something anyone talked about then and especially a young man with a sexual component or connotation!  It wasn’t until I faced the 30th anniversary of my diagnosis and my 50th birthday that I finally began to think back about what I had been through all those years ago.  I contacted the doctors, oncologist and hospitals and asked for copies of my medical records and proceeded to sit down and read them.  It brought back so many emotions I had locked away deep inside.  For the first time I really saw the fear, panic, shame, heartache and the pain I locked away.  The scars both physical and emotional.

I decided to write my story as a way of working through the emotions, a catharsis of sorts.  As I did this I began to realize I had not only locked away the specific emotions related to my illness, I had locked away most of my emotions in total.  For so many years I had feared that allowing myself to feel any kind of emotion would open Pandora’s box and allow all the pain and hurt and fear to escape.  I had in essence lost myself.

Through this process I began researching all I had endured, the surgeries, the chemo, the statistics and slowly became more aware of the greater cancer community of which I had hidden myself away from.  I read about so many other survivors including Lance Armstrong and learned of the first LiveStrong Summit is 2006.  I had never interacted with another cancer survivor in the 30+ years since my diagnosis.  There were no support groups then.  The internet was in its infancy and available only to academia and so I was learning for the first time I was not alone.

I applied to the LAF Summit fully expecting to be declined but low and behold I was accepted.  My wife (of over 30 years at that point) told me I needed to go there alone.  I needed to face my fears and to once and for all learn I was never alone.  Not then, not now.

To say that that experience changed my life is one of those huge understatements in life!

I had been miraculously cured 30+ years before, but it was not until I began to interact with other survivors and to share my story that I finally began to heal………….

Survivorship is not about living or dying.  It is not about the physical being.  It is a state of mind.  An acceptance of one’s situation and a determination to live each day to the fullest extent possible no matter how many or few we have ahead.

Survivorship starts the day of diagnosis and evolves and adapts as our situations change.  It may mean one thing the day after diagnosis and yet something else 39+ years later.

It took me over 30 years to heal and make peace with my cancer and that only came when I began share my story.

People have told me I have an inspirational story but honestly I only did what I had to do and what allowed me to get through some of the most horrible days.  I believe we all have our crosses to bear and that although my experience was no fun, I also know so many suffer so much more than I ever did!

I also know we have no idea how much we can truly handle until we are forced to do so!  The strength of the human spirit is truly remarkable and resilient.  I said in the beginning my story had many beginnings as I feel I have been granted so many rebirths in my life.  I was reborn when I came out the other side of cancer and yet again when I found my voice and finally began to heal through getting involved with other survivors and advocacy.

I did in fact write my survival story which started strictly as a cathartic process intended only for me to help me finally heal.   But at the urging of those few individuals I shared it with, it has now been published as a book, “Memoirs of a 30 Year Cancer Survivor”.

I can honestly say that the “fear of recurrence” never really goes completely away, but we do learn to deal with and manage it.  I also know today, that if I ever have to face it again, I know I can endure and have found inner peace.

I can only hope and pray that my sharing my voice helps someone to know there is indeed life after cancer.  There is hope.  You are not alone!!

June 15, 2016Comments are off for this post.

#MensHealthWeek Survivor Story – Jason Greenspan

My name is Jason Greenspan, and I am a Testicular Cancer survivor.

In May 2012, I was 18 and in my senior year of high school. I already applied to colleges and got accepted to many of them. The one I chose was Shippensburg University. I had just finished planning for my prom. In my friend group, I am usually the one who plans everything! Planning for this was enjoyable, but also a challenge. I already had the limo reserved, made the schedule, and was ready to have the time of my life; but little did I know that my life was going to change in an instant.

Testicular Cancer is one of the most common cancers in men between the ages of 15 to 34, yet there is almost no awareness of it.

About a week before my prom, I was at home, watching television and had a simple itch. That itch ended up being the most important itch of my entire life. I noticed something hard—something I did not remember feeling before. Clearly, something was not right. It is difficult to describe, but I had this gut feeling that it was something horrible. I went upstairs to my mom and told her. She said to try not to worry too much about it, but she would make a doctor’s appointment. Within a day or so, my mom and I went in for my doctor’s appointment. He checked me. Then, he said the words that I never thought I would hear: “YOU HAVE CANCER.” There was so much running through my head. I tried my best, but a couple of tears ran down my face anyway. Without knowing about this type of cancer, the first question I remember asking the doctor was, “How long do I have?” I started to remember random events in my life, from when I was a child, up until that moment. I wanted to cherish those memories because I feared there would not be many more.

After reading more information about Testicular Cancer, I quickly realized that it is a very curable cancer if detected early. I later found out the type of Testicular Cancer I had: Stage IIA Non-Seminoma, which was detected early.

Immediately, I had to start thinking about my treatment. After having an ultrasound and taking several blood tests, I met with my urologist, and he informed me that I needed to have surgery. I never had surgery before. I was terrified. I remember dreading that day!

The morning of my surgery, I went to the hospital, got checked in, and sat in the waiting room. My family was with me as well: my grandparents, mom, uncle, stepdad, and step-brother. It was amazing to have all the support that I had! Fortunately, the surgery did not take long, and I was able to come home later that same day.

After having my surgery, I thought that everything was okay, and my nightmare was finally over! It turned out that the worst had not even started. After taking various tests such as X-rays, CT scans, and more blood work, I found out that the cancer had spread. At this point, I had to think of further treatment.

I had to meet with many oncologists until I found the one that would be the best fit for me. The one I chose is phenomenal. He told my mom and me what would be happening and how to move further with my treatment. I needed to have nine weeks of chemotherapy. I could not believe it!

The first thing that I always think of when I hear the word “chemo” is hair loss. I could not imagine losing my hair. It is something that has always been very important to me, and everyone who knows me knows that. That was my biggest fear of the entire experience; well, in the beginning at least.

My first day of chemo was okay. I remember walking in, sitting in the chair, getting hooked up, and asking my mom, “This is it? Chemo won’t be hard!” I later found out that this statement would be far from the truth. Yeah, the first day was not terrible, but that was only the first day.

The entire chemo experience is something that will haunt me forever. I would go into chemo each day during the first week, one day the second week, and one day the third week. That was considered one cycle. My treatment consisted of three cycles.

On the first Friday of each cycle, I would throw up. This was now my biggest fear.

Towards the end of my chemo treatment, I needed to have an enormous amount of pricks from the IV needle each and every day I was there. I could be pricked up to 6 times on a bad day, but still usually around 2 or 3 times even on a good day. Unfortunately, this happened because after having chemo for so long, the nurses were not able to get a straight path with the needle, compared to before, for me to receive my treatment. I remember one day when I was sitting in the chair, the nurses were trying to get the needle in my arm for me to receive my treatment, and it was so bad that it must have been at least eight times! All I kept thinking to myself was, “Why me?” That day was the only day during the entire nine weeks that I cried, at my treatment facility at least. The only thing on my mind was going home and hoping to end this terrible nightmare.

All of the nurses at my treatment facility were wonderful; however, they actually could not see me most of the time. Whenever I went into the chemo room, I would always put my hood from my sweatshirt over my head—far enough so that my entire head would not be visible. By doing this, it helped me so I would not be able to look around, which got me sick. Every time I would see an IV bag or a person in one of the chemo chairs, my stomach would start to hurt. I joked later, that if I went to visit the nurses after I had completed my treatment and was feeling better, they probably would not even remember me because they were never able to see my face!

The entire cancer experience has allowed me to meet many amazing and inspiring people. I was able to meet other cancer survivors, caregivers, and other people who were affected by cancer in some way.

June 14, 2016Comments are off for this post.

#MensHealthWeek Survivor Story – Mike Stapleton

I am an Advanced EMT for Beaufort County EMS. I am a husband and Father of three ages 6,4,and 2. I had just accepted the job and preparing to move my family from Augusta, GA to Beaufort, SC. I started noticing some pain while I began the new job. I figured since I'm constantly bending, pulling, lifting, I just pulled something. Moving day came and we loaded the truck and unloaded it without any problems. The next day, I could barely walk. "Righty" was so swollen and painful that I had to sit in the bathtub with ice. A couple of days went by and I just couldn't take it anymore. I went to see a doctor.

During the exam he stated that I need to go in to the hospital for an emergency ultrasound, labs, and CT. By this point I knew what it was. I had to make an appointment with a urologist and surprisingly they wanted to see me the next day. Two days after that appointment, I was going into surgery for a right radical Orchiectomy. My CT came back clear and we thought that it was over. I was healing from surgery and had made a follow up with an oncologist. At that appointment he decided for a baseline PET scan. I went in for the scan a few days later. The second round of bad news came shortly after that. The PET scan showed a cancerous lymph node in my abdomen resting near my aorta. I went into surgery to remove that lymph node after a failed needle guided CT biopsy. After surgery, I went in for another surgery to place my port. I can remember the first few days of having the port in place. My daughter was sitting with me and accidentally hit it. It hurt so bad I saw stars. I went in for a pre chemo evaluation and eventually started EPx4.

My first round started as planned. I had severe ringing in my ears from day one of treatment. I felt sick, weak, and tired. It was close to my daughters 1st birthday and we had a lot of family and friends down. That's when the fever hit. It was a weekend and my oncologist was not in office. I ended up going to the ER. The doctors told me that I was critically neutropenic and had sepsis. My WBC was so low that I needed constant IV antibiotics. I spent 5 nights in PCU (one step below ICU). After being discharged I continued to fight through my chemo regiment.

The fight was difficult and I wanted to stop every day. My wife and kids stood by my side and made me fight even harder. I have never felt that bad in my life. After finishing chemo, I started back a month later working on the ambulance and saving lives. A month after that I was told that there is no evidence of disease and that I'm in remission. This month marks my 1 year mark. I go in for a PET, CT, and labs July 6th. I continue to try and spread the word of early detection and TC throughout our EMS/Fire and police community. I am also active in groups such as TCC.

June 13, 2016Comments are off for this post.

#MensHealthWeek Survivor Story – Larry Hughson

My story is not about sports or weight loss, but it is about a fight. Recently I learned that I was in for the fight of my life. In my corner I already had my beautiful wife (Tammy), my family and a few close friends.

Once Pete Brown who trains at Adrenaline Training Center and a member of Team Tompkins heard about my fight he offered to train with me at the gym. I accepted his offer knowing I could use all the help available as my opponent had defeated many people before. With the love and support of my wife, friends, family and the new friendships I made at Adrenaline I knew losing was not an option. 

On July 19th, 2011 the official announcement was made that I would compete in a 5 round title fight, my opponent for this epic bout, Stage 3 Testicular Cancer.

After surgery and 3 intense Chemo treatments my doctor tells me that the cancer is almost gone. As I write this it is 4 minutes into round 5. I am in the hospital having one last round of Chemo and with that my opponent is falling to the mat in what might just be the knock out of the night.

In between my treatments when I was able to, Pete would meet me at the gym to train. Some days I would get tired fairly easy due to the Chemo and our workouts would not be as long as other days. He always offered a positive attitude and support; he didn’t care if I was training for 5 minutes or an hour.

Even though I was at the gym to train with Pete the rest of the guys there were very supportive. I feel that I have made a lot of friendships from my time at the gym. 

I honestly believe that, other than the love and support of my wife, who fought this fight with me, the team at Adrenaline was in my corner helping me get through this fight with a win. What I gained at Adrenaline may not have cured my cancer, but it made the fight a little easier.

I would like to thank my wife (Tammy), Pete Brown, Chris Horodecki, Mark Hominick, Alex Gasson and all of the other members of Adrenaline/ Team Tompkins for helping me get through this and making my story a success!

March 23 2016 will be my 4th year in remission. I am so proud to be a part of this gym/ family! Thanks again to everyone who helped me kick cancers butt!

April 27, 2016Comments are off for this post.

#KnowYourBalls Survivor Story – Connor O’Leary

A Different Kind of Challenge

If you watch the CBS TV show The Amazing Race, you may recognize me as the winner of Season 24. But before I even began that incredible challenge, I had already endured another challenge—testicular cancer.

At the age of 19, I was living and racing in Europe with the USA National Cycling Team. Everything was great. The team was doing well and I was enjoying traveling and living abroad. But as time progressed, my performance started to decline. I started to get fatigued and I had some discomfort. I was frustrated and couldn’t understand what was happening.

Nonetheless I continued training and racing, sure that whatever was going on would resolve itself. But the discomfort turned into pain. I ultimately decided to return to the States and see a doctor. The last thing on earth I expected to hear was: You. Have. Cancer.

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It totally caught me off guard and didn’t feel real at first. In an instant I went from this bulletproof 19-year-old kid to meeting with doctors, scheduling surgery, and figuring out treatment options. I was absolutely shocked. I had no idea I was even susceptible to this disease at such a young age.

I quickly had surgery, and with elevated tumor markers and signs of the disease spreading, I started three rounds of chemotherapy shorty thereafter.

The infusion room at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) became my new best friend. For seven hours a day, five days a week, I would watch the chemo drip into my port.

It wasn’t until the second week of chemo that it really sunk in that I was sick. I woke up one morning, looked into the mirror, scratched my head, and watched as a clump of hair fell into the sink. My mom, who was standing in the doorway, broke down and cried. It was real. I was sick. I was a cancer patient.

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It was an incredibly hard few months, but those months taught me a lot about myself. As cliché as it sounds, it really put my life into perspective. It wasn’t easy, but through hard work, determination, and a new outlook on life, I eventually got back to the top of professional cycling, as well as other endeavors like the The Amazing Race. I am now living a full and healthy life. I feel extremely blessed to have had the support system of friends and family, world-class nurses, and an incredible facility like HCI to help me endure my cancer experience.

My story is all too common. We have young men diagnosed daily that are oblivious to the disease. To see that men are dying every single day from a disease that is highly curable is frustrating and heartbreaking. I very well could have been one of those statistics and I feel lucky I went to the doctor when I did.

I am grateful to be on the other side of the disease working hard as an advocate with the Testicular Cancer Foundation. Having the opportunity to work every day with survivors, patients, caregivers, and the public is humbling and incredibly rewarding. We need to increase awareness. We need to let young men know that they should know their own bodies and be aware of testicular cancer symptoms. We need to tell them how important it is to see a doctor every year for a routine physical exam or to make an appointment right away if they are concerned about something. It could just save their life.

To learn more about testicular cancer, visit HCI’s website or contact the Cancer Learning Center. You can read more about Connor’s adventures on his website, The O’Leary Theory.

 

Connor O'Leary

connor@tcancer.org

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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