Elliot's TC Story

Elliot I'm 31 now...in 1989, I noticed a sometimes painful lump (somewhat like blueballs) in my right testicle. It felt like it was half a testi encased in a hardened irregular shell--very strange! I let it go for a few weeks thinking it was some sort of infection that would go away, but it seemed to harden more on the inside, and become more painful, especially when sitting. I finally took myself to a general family practitioner for a look. I had not heard of TC, so I was thinking it was an infection or sexually transmitted disease. He took one feel, and set me up with the urologist. The urologist did the usual stuff and said he was sure I had a mass, and that was probably cancer, but he'd remove the testi and see if was benign or malignant.

Well after the ole ball removal, the craziness began. It was a nonseminoma embryonal carcinoma germ cell tumor type. In subsequent CT scans and chest X-rays, all was negative. Now the decision making! This is the part that drove me insane. The urologist absolutely recommended RPLND while the oncologist suggested surveillance. The problem was, there was bias depending on their research and on whether they were surgeons or oncologists. Whenever I pushed them for what they would do in my position, they gave their bias but admitted that it was 6 of one 1/2 a dozen of the other!

I agonized over this decision. I argued with my parents, as well as with myself. There just wasn't anything definitive in the research to give me a clear direction.

I chose surveillance, but 4 months later I relapsed in my retroperitoneum (lower abdomen) -- now there was no decision to make but to try the full chemo beating, and see if it gets it. I did four cycles of chemo, spending one week inpatient getting the full blast, then have a two week break. By the end of the second week during my break, I'd start to feel human only to have to pack up for my next glorious stay in toxic immersion. I'd have the taste in my mouth, and start getting sick as soon as I settled into the hospital room. It was the most miserable experience of my life, luckily the premeds often put me to sleep. If I was sleeping I wasn't feeling the pain and frustration of the nausea. Even now, eight years later, I remember it like it was yesterday.

I won the chemo battle, though at the end I had to have several transfusions. My red cell and platelet counts were decimated (the chemo will do that). Anyway, since then I have not relapsed and I went for follow ups for 5 years. They suggest 10, but I stopped, because the anguish of waiting for each follow up result was too much. I figure after five years, you're at about 95-98% chance of no recurrence, and that's good odds. Good enough to not continue the X-rays and subsequent worry.

I'm now healthy, and just as strong as ever. I have not tested to check on fertility, I'll look into that when the time comes. I won't lie to you though, even 7 years later, the memories of the chemo are strong. I can still smell the smells, taste the tastes, and feel how it felt whenever I visit the hospital, or talk in-depth about the experience. Consider it a challenge and perspective builder. I know this all sounds a bit cliche-ish, but I believe it to be true.

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