Keith Terrill's TC Story

About 8 years ago in September while using the toilet I noticed that my right testicle was much larger then my left. I hefted it and felt it. It was hard, very solid, but did not hurt. I was puzzled -- it was about the size of a kiwi fruit.

That day and the next it nagged at me that something was wrong. So I asked my wife what she thought of it. She said I ought to call me doctor. I made an appointment and was in to see him the next day. Dr. Davis examined me, hemmed and hawed, then announced that he was concerned since he could determine that it was infected. He recommended me to a urologist in our town. The appointment was for the following Friday.

During the week wait I drove to Albany for a three day sales presentation that I was involved with. The long drive bothered me and my testicle. It didn't really hurt, but there wasn't much room for it in my pants and it became very uncomfortable driving such a long distance (about 9 hours one way.)

On Friday, Dr. Palma looked at the testicle. He tried to shine a light through it to see if there was fluid in it. Then he took out a pair of calipers and measured it. After that he checked my prostate (I swear that every doctor since then has had to check that!) I was 35.

Dr. Palma explained that he could not be sure that it was cancer. He said the only way to know was to remove it via an orchiectomy and I was scheduled for the following Tuesday.

On that Tuesday, I had it removed. On Wednesday morning Dr. Palma, with all of his wonderful bed side manners came in and said to me, "There is good cancer, and there is bad. You have bad. Tomorrow we open you from stem to stern and take every thing out." With that he walked out.

I panicked! I called my dad. I cried. I called my wife. I cried. When Dr. Palma came back, I made him write down the name of my cancer. (He is Korean and does not communicate well, as if you couldn't tell by the previous quote.) He wrote that it was Choriocarcinoma.

My father got me information from the American Cancer Institution. After reading on every facet of this cancer I could, I finally found a small statement about the one Dr. Palma said I had. It said less then 2% ever survived this form of TC.

Again I panicked. But this time I reasoned that if I was going to die, why should I have to go through all this torture. Besides, I cornered Dr. Palma a third time and got him to spell out what he was talking about. He wanted to pluck every lymph node out of my abdomen. He said it may stop the cancer, but he was not hopeful, and then he said I would be impotent.

I had two children. I had wanted more. I had wanted to see them grow up. I had wanted to get on with life. I believe and affirm that their is on God. I believe in life after death. I believe that to be absent from the body is to be with the Lord Jesus the Christ. But at that time I wasn't sure how much I really believed it, even if I was a street preacher, etc.

I told Dr. Palma that I wasn't going to let him do the operation. I wanted to seek other help. After all he was just a general urologist in a small rural town. I wanted to seek out someone who know more about this very disease. Dr. Palma told me that it was going to be him and only him, or that he would recommend me to Dr. Huben at Roswell Park in Buffalo (1 hour drive for me). He said no other options would he consider.

I was on the phone with Dr. Huben that day. The following week, I sent my scans, my biopsies, and reams of notes to Roswell Park. While there, they changed the diagnoses and said that I had Teratoma. It was recommended that based on my scans, my blood markers going back to normal, and that I had acted quickly upon discovery that we would just wait and see... no more treatments.

Five years later and two more children, I still had no sign of cancer. I got tired of going in every 4 months for a CT (cat scan). I felt that I was cured, so I skipped my next exam. I took my wife out for her birthday. We had a great steak and pasta dinner. The next night I wasn't feeling very well. As the night wore on my stomach began to turn into knots. Next I was laying on the floor, and then vomiting. I thought I had food poisoning, cause there was the steak and pasta...

By morning I was in such pain, I couldn't wait for my doctor's office any longer. I went into the emergency room. By then I was thinking I should of had that CT. I told the Doctor about my cancer and that I wanted him to run blood markers and a CT. This doctor was not very knowledgeable about TC, so I told him he was to call my local doctor 'cause he knew what tests were to be run. The ER doctor (after giving me some pain medicine) told me that Dr. Davis had told him what tests to run. They did, and my markers were normal.

Therefore, I was willing to believe that a) I did not have any tumors and b) I must have kidney stones or something. Five days later they ran out of tests. They did the CT. The urologist came in and told me they had found a tumor next to my right kidney and that it had strangled my small intestine. He told me that I could eat soft foods only until this was removed.

I went up to Roswell the following week. They scheduled me for the following month. I had the tumor removed. It was the size of a grapefruit and was of mixed cell type. The surgery left me with what is called reverse ejaculation, now no more children.

Then I talked with Dr. Ragahvan the chemotherapist there. We waited for four weeks for the scars to heal, then I went in for four, five day sets, of chemotherapy. I had bleomycin, cisplatin, and VP-16. My hair fell out just before Christmas. I got tired, and sick feeling, but never vomited. We had to wait 21 days between each set of chemo treatments. At one point I was rushed into my local hospital and put into isolation and on heavy drugs because I had cough a cold and my blood count went down to almost nothing and my temp went over 102...

When that was over and my CT showed everything was "OK". I felt like I was out of the wood. However, I never felt right. My bowels never got back to "normal". They checked me for this and checked me for that. They looked up my rectum, took pictures, etc. They finally said they thought that it was just the result of the scar tissue from the surgery and the chemo.

Then last year (1996) in Feb on a Friday night, I was on the floor again with severe cramps. I didn't wait. We were down to the ER as soon as possible. We called my doctor. The ER doctor on call was the same one I had the last time. He went over my records and ordered a CT. The next day I felt better and with a pocket full of pain killers I went home.

On Monday I had the CT. On Tuesday morning I was calling Roswell to talk with them. Dr. Ragahvan thought that there was a mistake in reading the CT and asked me to come up with the scans. He told me that he had got out his X-rays and scans on file up there and noticed that I had a spin problem that could account for the back pain, if it had gotten worse. I felt better, but not a lot. By now I was sure I knew what my body was saying.

Not more then 15 minutes after Dr. Ragahvan had the CT scans in hand he was talking to me about how some things just don't go by the books. I had a tumor again, in fact two of them. They were in the same location as the one before. I had to have the same operation again.

He postulated that maybe what had happened was that the benign part of the tumor was left behind by the surgeons (because they can't always get every single cell) and that it would not have been killed by the chemo. Therefore it would still be growing, though there would be no danger that it would spread to other areas. He said that the malignant part would have been killed by the chemo and that we would not need to worry about that.

So in April of 1996 I had the same operation. It went for 12 hours. As soon as I came to, I had the nurse get me up and walk me the length of the recovery hall. I had learned the last time, that the sooner and the more walking I do, the faster my bowels will work, and the sooner I can get out of there (let alone get that nose tube out)

The Doctors (more than one, and at different times) all took turns telling me that they did not find what they expected. It was malignant. They then sent me for more tests. Maybe my other testicle had cancer in it and it was spreading from there. Maybe, maybe... well they couldn't and still haven't been able to explain why it was there...

So June and July of 1996 saw radiation 5 days a week. In Feb of 1997 I had another CT. The scan showed nothing there. Good?

My back hurts!...

Keith L Terrill

You may publish all of this. It doesn't have to be kept private. They tell the world about breast cancer, why not TC?

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