Last Updated June 1, 2001
It seems to me after reading most stories from the TCRC that I was not alone on that grim yet realistic November morning when I was told that I have CANCER...
I had first discovered the lump about a month and half prior to going to the doctors office. I found it when my groin area was real sensitive to the point I could not sit down. Could there be something wrong with my testicles? Maybe, but I had a boil on my left leg near my foot from an in-grown hair, and I thought maybe my lymph nodes in the back of my groin area were attacking the infection.
However, I was not convinced of that since I diagnosed myself, and I am certainly no Doctor. So, I decided maybe I should give myself an exam of the testicles to make sure the pain was not coming from there. Despite the tenderness I seemed to feel a lump on my left testicle. Felt hard and tender to the touch.
So, I did what I felt was best was to wait until the boil on my leg goes away and see if the tenderness in that area disappears. A week later, the boil went away and, ironically, so did the tenderness. But, the painless lump on my testicle about the size of a peanut M&M was still there. It must have always been there I said to myself. How many times do you exam your testicles? I will wait and see what happens.
In the mean time Karen and I are buying our first house. We close on September 29, 2000, and as you can imagine, the lump was put on the back burner. After settling in the house about three weeks later the tenderness came back again. This time I happen to mention to Karen, "there is a lump on my testicle". Concerned and having no children she wants to protect the family jewels too. "Let me feel" she says. You are right. Off to the internet she goes. That is where it all started. She found 95% of all lumps on the testicles are malignant.
The next day I have an appt. to see my internist. After culture checks come back negative for infection he said something I would hear quite often through this whole mess. "Drop your pants". After feeling the lump, he arranged for me to a urologist the next day. As you can imagine after a couple of minutes of small talk guess what, "drop your pants". Does not look good he says. We need to send you for an ultrasound. What do you mean this does not look good? It looks like it could be CANCER. I am 30 years of age. I can't have CANCER.
Still in denial the next day, I go for a STAT ultrasound. By the end of the day my nightmare had come true. A 1.5cm x 1.0 mass on my left testicle. After a brief discussion with my urologist we scheduled the operation three days later for my Inguinal Orchiectomy. We were still hanging to the hope that it could be a cyst. I would either come out of surgery with one or two. It was in the doctors hands at this point.
Three days past and I am wearing this sexy little gown from the hospital. I kiss Karen bye and off I go. Next thing I remember....is recovery. First thing I did....was check for two. It was quite obvious. There was only one. Must have been CANCER. The doctor told me they did a frozen section biopsy, and it was some type of mixed germ cell tumor. He told me to go home to recuperate and we would have the pathology report back in a coupe of days.
When I got the pathology report back it was inconclusive. There was just a mixed germ cell tumor that was well encapsulated with no invasion of the spermatic cord or epididymis. Not good enough for me. So I had the hospital cut slides and I sent one to the AFIP (Armed Forces institute of Pathology) and the other to Dr. Ulbright at Indiana University. The report back from both were good, but Indiana's was much better. They both concurred that it was Embryonal 90%, 5% Yolk Sac, and 5% Synctiotrophoblastic cells. Indiana's went much further and said they saw lymphatic invasion.
After my path report was sent to my three doctor's: urologist, internist, and oncologist. They all told me to get an RPLND. Well, after reading on the internet that only 30% of people relapse after having the orchiectomy. I decided before I go through this major operation I would do my homework.
I was trying to convince myself this was the right thing to do. Six weeks later I had still not convinced myself to go through the surgery. My tumor markers were never elevated. My CT scans of almost my entire body were negative. I knew that I was in a good prognosis category and they give you almost nearly the same cure rate whether or not you have an RPLND or just go through primary chemotherapy upon relapse. Not to mention if you do go through with the RPLND and they find micrometastases in your lymph nodes upon removal you still have to go through adjuvant chemo. [Editor's note: This is not true. You do not HAVE to go through chemo if they only find small amounts of cancer during the RPLND. Also, while Eric was in a good prognosis category for an ultimate cure, his odds of a recurrence were pretty high....] Great, a surgery then chemo. I basically talked myself out of the RPLND and chose to wait and see.
It was now Jan. 06 2001 and I had standing orders to get my tumor markers checked every month. Decembers markers were normal. So I figured these would be too. Wrong! On Jan. 08 I get a call from my oncologist at 9:00am in the morning. I answer and he says, "How are you feeling". I know this is not good. My tumor markers are elevated he said. I knew what this meant. IT WAS BACK! He said I would need to get the RPLND. But, I also knew he was not familiar with dealing with this type of cancer that often.
So I picked up the phone and I called who I felt was the best expert in this category. By the way I got the name from the expert list that the TCRC lists on their website. I called Dr. Einhorn from Indiana University. I trusted him more than my oncologist. I mean, after all, he was the doctor who discovered that Cisplatin worked so well on germ cell tumors. He told me that now that it is back, I need to go through chemo. He said to me that to cure this type of cancer you need a chemotherapeutic cure, not a surgical cure. Enough said.
My oncologist set me up for Monday to start three cycles of BEP. But, before my chemo, he wanted me to get a CT scan to see what we were up against. It had spread to my lymph nodes as expected. Two were enlarged at 1.5 and 1.0. Not bad they tell me.
Monday arrives and the chemo starts. I had a new full time job, and it was getting chemo for 40 hours a week. The chemo is not exactly what I have in mind as fun. But, I kept thinking through all the sickness and stays in the hospital that it is going to cure me. As much as you hated the chemo it was your friend. After a week of chemo my HCG was down from 150 to less than 5. It took my AFP the normal 25-35 days to come back down to normal range which for me is 3.8. My CT scans showed that the lymph nodes are back to normal. Good, no residual mass.
I had my last treatment for Bleomycin on March 16, 2001. I do not expect from here on out to find any more bad news. Although, I still go for follow up visits routinely. The cure rate for this CANCER, they tell us, is over 95%. DON'T FALL IN THAT 5% JUST BECAUSE YOU DON'T GO TO THE DOCTOR FOR YOUR CHECKUPS!
I really appreciate the TCRC website and the information it provides. It has been a useful source of information to us throughout this whole ordeal. I have read every single personal story on this website and they have helped me through the hardest time in my life. So I felt it necessary to post my story in hope that it will help somebody else in a similar situation.