Greg's TC Story

Here is my story, such as it is, 18 days after diagnosis...

I am a 37 year old Hispanic man. My TC story started in May of 1998. While in San Diego for a weekend fishing trip with my father-in-law, I noticed that my left testicle felt a bit tender. I took a closer look at it and noticed that it was definitely larger and firmer than my right testicle. I had heard of TC, but since I didn't feel a mass on the surface of the testicle, I wasn't too worried. I didn't say anything about it to anyone, but I did make an appointment to see my doctor the next week.

The doctor concluded that I probably had an infection and prescribed a course of antibiotics. I asked him about the possibility of TC, but he assured me that TC tumors usually occur on the surface of the testicle and are usually not painful, therefore it was unlikely that I had TC. Feeling relieved, I popped my pills for the ten day course and waited for the problem to go away.

Of course, the problem did not go away. I procrastinated for a week after I finished with the pills, but finally went back to see the doc and told him that things had not changed. He then suggested that I might have a cyst. He told me not to be worried about TC, but after some pointed questions on my part, he referred me for an ultrasound.

My ultrasound was on a Friday morning. By 1:30 that afternoon my doctor's office called and told me that I had an appointment with a Urologist at 4:30 and that it would be a very good idea for me to be there. It took the Urologist all of a minute of examining me to determine that the mass was probably malignant and to break the news that the only way to find out was to have the orchiectomy.

I had my surgery the following Wednesday at the University of Washington Medical Center. My wife and I showed up at the hospital at 7:00am. My anesthetist came by to explain my options (I chose general). I walked into the Operating Room at about 8:30 and awoke in the recovery room sometime before noon.

I saw my wife before I saw my surgeon. She told me that she was told that the mass was a cancer (type unknown), so my sacrifice had not been in vain. I wasn't really in much discomfort (pain 2 or 3 on a scale of 1-10), but had a very difficult time urinating. I knew that they were not going to let me out until I managed to do so and only did manage to do so with the threat of a catheter looming over me.

The first night wasn't very fun. I had Oxycodone for the pain, but it had two unpleasant side effects. First, it really upset my stomach, and second, it prevented me from sleeping for more than 15 or 20 minutes at a time. I decided to change from the Oxycodone to Advil on the second day and that was just fine for managing the pain.

The second day was frustrating. I had to go in for my chest x-rays and CT scans. Anticipating a rough morning, I took the industrial strength pain medicine for the last time at 7:00. At 9:00, I was back at the hospital with three big cups of Tang flavored barium for my CT. Half way through the first one, I thought I was going to vomit. I had to really take it slow to get the rest of the stuff down. Then the fun started. IV time for the contrasting dye. It took six attempts by three people to get the needle into a vein. The techs and nurses who were working on my were aghast, falling all over themselves to apologize and telling me that my veins were huge so they didn't understand why. Anyway, just as I was losing my patience in my new role as pin cushion, a nurse hit home and got the IV in place.

While I was waiting for my turn, I struck up a conversation with two other people. One was a TC survivor. He had a seminoma five years ago. He had an orchiectomy followed by a month of radiation. Since then, he has made all of his follow-up tests and appointments and has had no recurrence. The other person I spoke with was battling a different kind of cancer. She had had multiple surgeries and multiple rounds of chemo, but managed to maintain an amazingly positive attitude. She was certain she was going to beat cancer and cheerfully declared that she could take whatever treatment they could throw at her. It greatly buoyed my spirits to see someone who faced TC and has had no complications, and someone else who faced a much scarier cancer and didn't let it intimidate her.

My turn in the CT came about 45 minutes late. They asked me to drink some more barium which I did reluctantly. I spent 30 minutes on the table before they told me that there was something wrong with the machine. I had to go back and wait more than an hour to get onto the other machine. In the mean time I had to drink 2 more cups of the barium. Blech!

After that, the worst part was the wait. I managed to start walking each day and by day 6 I took my dog for a 3 mile walk. I was tired at the end of it, but I felt very content that I was able to do it less than a week after surgery.

I got results of the various tests on day 6. First thing I heard made me cringe. The doctor told me that it was not a seminoma. I was prepared for him to tell me that I would next need to have the RPLND. To my surprise, he told me that I am an excellent candidate for surveillance. My tumor was 5% embryonal cell carcinoma and 95% teratoma. The pathology indicated that the tumor did not spread to the spermatic cord, the epididymis or anywhere outside the immediate area of the tumor. CT shows normal lymph nodes and the chest x-ray shows mostly normal except for some collapsed alveoli from the previous days surgery.

It is now day 13 since surgery and I am back to work. Next I will have a consultation with an oncologist. We will see if he concurs with the recommendation to go with surveillance instead of RPLND. I am finding the TCRC to be a great source of information, and I know that I will have questions for the oncologist now that might not have otherwise have occurred to me.

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