Ben's TC story

My name is Ben and I am 28 years old. I've been married for eight years. It all started when one of my testicles seemed to be bigger than the other. I asked a couple of guys about this, and it seemed normal. It never hurt or felt uncomfortable, so I thought nothing of it. This went on for a year and a half. After reading an article about a self-exam, I thought I felt something hard. It was about a pea-sized growth. Again, it didn't hurt. I thought it might be the epididymis or "some other part" down there.

I told my wife about it who happened to be going to the doctor the next morning. I went with her, and talked to the doctor about it. He recommended seeing a urologist as soon as I could. I went to a local hospital and saw the first doctor. He examined me there in the office, and talked about a couple of things it could be. When he told me it could be a tumor, and I somehow knew that I had waited too long to have myself checked out. We scheduled an ultrasound a couple of days later on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 1996.

Normally, the radiologist gives his report to the doctor, and the doctor breaks the news, but I asked the radiologist about what he may have seen, and he was very honest with me. He told me there were two tumors on my right testicle, and it would probably have to be removed. Now this is 8:00 in the morning after working the night shift, so needless to say I didn't get any sleep that day.

I talked to the doctor and we set up for surgery the next Tuesday. He was very personable, and seemed very competent so I felt like I was in safe hands. My wife is a dental hygienist, so when I called her and broke the news to her she was seeing patients.

One of her patients that afternoon noticed that she was a little upset, and asked her about it. Well, this particular patient, Larry Scharff, was a testicular cancer survivor of twelve years. His situation was similar to mine. He waited a little over a year before getting checked out. In his case, it had spread to his lymph nodes and required extensive treatments. My wife got his number and wanted me to talk to him, but I knew what I was doing and didn't really want to discuss this with anyone else. I finally called him later that night and talked to him. He recommended I go to MD Anderson Cancer Center here in Houston. I told him I was comfortable with my doctor, but thankfully he was as hard headed as I was and talked me into it.

While trying to set up my appointment at MD Anderson, all my fears and pent up emotions came out. My insurance required that I get a referral from my primary care physician. I called Friday morning to get a referral, but the receptionist said he wouldn't be in until the afternoon and he could not be reached. I explained what was going on, and that I wanted to get this taken care of as soon as possible. I'm not sure if it was just me, but she didn't seem concerned at all. After trying to resolve this, I finally just gave up and broke down for a few minutes. I got myself together, and took care of the situation myself.

I called the Urology department at MD Anderson and was told there was a two week wait to get in. I talked to her, and she got me in that very next Monday. I was very thankful and very pleased with my first dealing with MD Anderson. Now, all I had to do was make it through the weekend and I would get a second opinion Monday, Feb. 12.

An external exam and blood work verified that something was amiss. An ultrasound and CAT scan the next day revealed the same tumors I had found out about a week earlier. Surgery was scheduled the next day, Valentine's Day. I never really realized how serious all this could be. I guess everything was moving so fast I didn't have time to register everything. I knew my right testicle was coming out, but beyond that I didn't have a clue. I had surgery that morning, and went home that afternoon. I gave my wife a Valentine card and wrote that "I would give my right nut for you." She was scared about everything, and this helped break the tension a little bit. I was due for some follow-up blood work the next day, and sure enough, my markers started coming down.

I was scheduled for weekly blood work for a month. The first two weeks, the markers kept coming down. The third week showed a slight increase. I had been reading up on some things by now, and started worrying. I worried for a week, until my next test. The next two weeks, the markers were back to normal. Before giving the all clear, the doctor set up a lymphangiogram for Thursday, March 28. (There is a good description of the test on the TCRC web page.) I think the worst pain through this whole ordeal was the few seconds it took to inject that blue dye between my toes to find the lymph vessels.

We waited all day for the results, and finally got them that evening. There was a "trouble" spot just to the left of my spine. The lymph nodes just didn't look right. The soonest they could get me in for a lymph node biopsy would be the next Monday, April 1. Another weekend of sleepless nights and endless worrying. The biopsy was not all that bad. Simply a needle in the back, pierce the lymph node, pull a sample out, test it right there, immediate results. After pulling four different samples, everything was okay. THE CANCER HAD NOT SPREAD!

I was given a clean bill of health that same day and told I would start a five year surveillance program. Eventually, I would get down to one visit a year for the rest of my life. I am glad to say that everything is ok. Before all this started, my wife of seven years (at the time) and I had finally decided to have children. Needless to say, we thought this would delay that a while. On April 2, 1996 (the day after the GOOD NEWS), we took a home pregnancy test and it showed positive. The next day we went to the doctor, and sure enough, we were pregnant. We traced the date of conception back, and it was just a couple of days after surgery. (Thank goodness for pain medicine.)

After seven months of worrying about our baby, a beautiful, healthy baby girl was born to us on Thanksgiving day 1996. Talk about something to be thankful for. I was never a big believer in God or the church, but there is definitely some higher power at work.

I'm currently going once a quarter for blood work, chest X-rays, and abdominal CAT scans. I still get a little tense a few days before the tests, but I know that someone is looking out for me and taking care of me. I'm not much of a writer, but I think I got everything in here. Thanks for sticking with this!

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