Three years ago, just before Thanksgiving, I went in for a relatively routine (if rather uncomfortable) surgery.
While I was under anaesthesia, the doctor found, and excised a “stage I seminoma”. For those of you unfamiliar with Lance Armstrong, that’s early testicular cancer.
Since that time, I’ve had radiation therapy (curiously, at the same time that the movie of “The Incredible Hulk” was being advertised on TV), a couple more surgeries, and several more doctor visits, blood-draws, and CT-Scans. The end result is very much worth it – I’m cancer-free, and have been for three years.
The peculiar aspect is the most frequent response I get from others:
“You don’t look old enough for cancer.”
That’s flattering, to be sure, but testicular cancer is usually found in men between the ages of 25 to 35. As such, I was on the upper end of the age range, and I was lucky that my tumour was found before it had spread. Testicular cancer is particularly fast-spreading, but if caught early, can be treated with a minimum of radiation. In the vast majority of cases, this (and monitoring) kills the cancer with no remission.
During my radiation treatment, I initially lost weight, then gained it (and a little more) as I kept snacking to fend off the mild nausea. I lost hair from the affected area – a rectangle roughly from my belly-button up to the base of my rib cage (and a matching rectangle on the back – X-rays go right through you!) And… that’s it.
Yes, that’s the limit of the uncomfortable aspect of the treatment.
For those of you worried about asking the awkward and embarrassing question, let me assure you that you can “fly with one engine” just as well as with two. [Testicular cancer travels “up” rather than “across”.]
I like to tell people you can check as often as you like, and as fast as you like, but you need to make sure you check yourself.
Sure, the treatment may be embarrassing, and I know there are parts of it that still irritate me. But nobody ever died of embarrassment.