Testicular Cancer is known to many as “the young man’s cancer.” It can strike in the midst of some of the most carefree times of life. Take a minute and think about the day-to-day stressors you faced during your high school years. I’m willing to bet that cancer, or dying from an illness, was not likely on the top of the list.

For me, the stressors were girls, a rogue pimple, school dances, football games, friends, and excelling at my passion, cycling. Time flies at that age and the FOMO (fear of missing out) is more real than ever. Something like being grounded for getting a speeding ticket was just about as devastating as getting cancer – trust me I know; I have first hand experiences with both.

At the age of 19, testicular cancer was the last thing on my mind. When the doctor uttered those three words “You have cancer.,” my mind immediately started to race. The first question that should have raced through my teenage brain was “am I going to die?” but it wasn’t. It flashed from “Is my cycling career over?” to “Am I going to miss the USA National Championships next week?” I was more worried about what I was going to miss out on than dying and repercussions a cancer diagnosis could bring. I realize that is likely due to teenage naivety, not knowing the reality of the situation, but that was my thought process (and is likely the same for many diagnosed at a young age).

I quickly had surgery. With evidence of the cancer spreading, chemotherapy immediately followed. If you were wondering, the experience was a tad worse than that $700 speeding ticket and being grounded for the weekend. Chemo sucked. Having a bald head in the dead of winter really killed the chill. The nausea, loss of appetite, and bag of bones I became were also less than ideal. What really cut me to the core was watching all of my friends continue on with their lives, relationships, college, and cycling careers. It ate at me that if I would have caught it earlier, if I would have known to do a monthly self exam, a simply surgery could have been the only treatment needed.

My point is… that if the thought of getting sick, having radioactive poison coursing through your veins, being split open for sternum to belly button from an RPLND surgery, losing your hair, and any ounce of strength you once had cannot get you or a loved one to perform a monthly self exam, maybe the thought of losing your precious time, missing out on that football game, weekends with your friends, missing out on college, and putting your passions on hold, can.

I am extremely grateful to be healthy and living a full life post treatment. My cancer experience taught me more about myself, my capabilities, and what it means to suffer. Above all else, it has taught me how precious life truly is. I want young men to understand how simple a testicular cancer diagnosis can be. I can’t get that time back, but I have since dedicated my time to insure other young males know what I didn’t. Take 60 seconds and perform a monthly self exam.