My name is Mark and you may know me. I'm the guy next door. I'm the guy you go to school or work with. I'm your father, son, husband or buddy. I'm the guy you see at the gym or jogging around your neighborhood. I'm also the guy that has Testicular Cancer.
It was Oct. 16, 1996 that I found out I had cancer. Who would have ever thought? Certainly not me. I'm healthy. I run 4 times a week, I go to the gym and watch what I eat for the most part. Cancer ? It was like a bad dream. I, like most other people hearing the words "You have cancer" at first thought, "I'm Going to die".
The condensed version of my story starts with a strange feeling I had. Nothing concrete but my body was telling me something was wrong. A dull aching in my groin area. I went to my Dr. and he found nothing up front. He luckily referred me to a Urologist who although couldn't feel or find anything up front, luckily for me, decided to get a Sonogram.There it was. A mass in my right testicle, dead center. Oh boy!
My Urologist explains what this means to me and the odds that it is indeed cancer and then informs me that we need to remove it. REMOVE IT! Not only that, remove it day after tomorrow. Now let me tell you, I have never been in the hospital before let alone have surgery. Man was I scared. Aside from taking my pre-op tests the next day I sat at the library and devoured everything there was regarding TC. I spent hours and hours there that day becoming a quick expert on TC. All of that information and more importantly, much more, resides here on this site.
I called my parents who live out of state and they hurried over on the next plane out to be with me. I think I was pretty strong for the most part about it, but clearly telling my Mom and dealing with her thoughts and feelings was one of the most difficult things about the entire ordeal.
I had surgery the next day. I went in at noon, surgery at 2 and left for home at 7 but not before the nurse gave me a boost of Demerol in the leg. All the same day. Boy, things were happening at such a fast pace my life was spinning.
I then entered a new phase what I now know to be the hardest part of the entire thing. Waiting. That's it. Waiting. Waiting for test results. 3 days later just coming down from my pain pills my Urologist calls with the path results. Non-seminoma. Embryonal carcinoma. It was now verified, I had cancer.
I then went through the myriad of testing, X-rays, blood and CT's the whole next week. Fortunately for me, there were no other detectable masses anywhere else. It appears it has not spread. I learn the word "detectable" and it's impact on the rest of my life remains to be seen yet. It has not spread. It looks like I caught it before it had a chance to do that nasty thing. I mentioned "luckily" earlier referring to my Dr. referring me to a Urologist and also referring to him opting for a sonogram because clearly if those two things did not happen, I may not be here today. This is a VERY important point. My mass was located right in the middle of my testicle and you could not "feel" it. You could barely tell that it was a little bigger then the other one. The Urologist referral and the Sonogram just to make sure everything was OK, most likely saved my life.
Digging out the materials I had gathered I went to work again figuring out where I was and where I was going. My urologist suggests RPLND as it is/was the next logical step. He refers me to an Oncologist and I meet with him the next week. He goes over all the latest data and testing being done regarding TC with me and offers another option. Chemotherapy. Scary word when you hear it for the first time in reference to yourself. So I was faced with three choices:
1. Do nothing, start surveillance. Not a choice for me.
2. More surgery, RPLND, chemo ?then what ?
3. Chemo and then surveillance
After weighing all my options I decided on the chemotherapy. I went through my first cycle in Nov. 1996. It consisted of 5 hours a day for my first 5 days (BEP) and let me tell you, by Friday, make that Thursday, I didn't feel too well. I lost my hair at Thanksgiving. I returned to work a bald man. J My subsequent cycles were much easier for me because I knew what to expect.
I started speaking at Cancer Survivor Groups and volunteering at Phoenix Children's Hospital with "cancer kids" who certainly helped me handle my situation better seeing how they handle theirs. It was two years after I started my original chemo, Dec. 1998, when "lefty", my remaining testicle, started speaking to me and I know this is not a good sign because it spoke to me a way that was all too familiar. I ask my oncologist for a sonogram after he examines me. My latest blood, X-ray and CT's are all negative so that is good.
As I await the results during Thanksgiving with my family, to which I have not told anything yet, I feel the constant dull ache coming from "lefty" and leaving me with a similar ache in the pit of my stomach. I am a very optimistic person but this feeling will not leave me no matter what I tell myself.
It's a mass, small at only 5mm X 5mm but nonetheless it doesn't belong there. I gather up my old sonograms but the addendum radiology report confirms it was NOT there a year ago. Oh shit! Here we go again. Still not wanting to upset my family before I really know anything, I keep this info to myself.
I then re-established my relationship with my urologist and after reviewing the films wants an MRI done to look at the "mass" that's potentially threatening me again, a little differently. The MRI confirms the size and location of the mass, and my oncologist, urologist and myself, sit down to talk options. They are both a little reluctant because it is my last "boy" we are talking about but I tell them that if I had two, what would they recommend? Surveillance is not an option for me because it was not there a year ago so why wait and HOPE it is not cancer and HOPE it is not spreading through me? No thanks, not for me. Other then removal, the only other option is the Surgical Testicular Sonography where they remove it from my body, still attached, do a sonography to exactly pinpoint it and then try to dissect and remove the mass.
They want me to get another opinion although I have read everything there is on this and I know where I stand. They refer me to the head of Urologic Oncology at the Regional Medical Cancer Center and after reviewing my situation with the associates they come to believe it is NOT a cyst and concur with my Dr.'s up in Phoenix.
Although, because of the location of the mass, on the rear inside of "lefty", I am not at good odds for this procedure but I tell my Urologist to schedule my OP. I have two weeks to ponder my fate and take all the usual pre-op tests.
Having understood my situation I read up on HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy). I decided, after talking to my friends here at TCRC, to get my first injection of Depo-Testosterone BEFORE my operation because I wanted to begin HRT right away but knew after my surgery I wasn't going to be in the mood for bending over and getting a syringe full in my biggest muscle.
Let me tell you, having been through it before, the second time was a breeze for me. No fear because of the unknown and just a little nervousness when the surgical nurses started rolling me into OR. I told them I had done part of their job today as I had shaved this morning and was as smooth as a baby.
Next, I'm waking up and the nurse gives me a shot of Demerol in my leg before getting dressed and going home to recuperate.
My urologist calls me on Saturday (what a guy!) with the path results that came in last night. "Mark, it's NOT Cancer". Thank you GOD! A heavy, heavy sigh escapes me as I listen to him tell me of the "Peritubular Fibrosis" they removed from the inside of "lefty."
I met with my Oncologist who I think feels a little bad, he's become a good friend, but I reassure him that I am more then OK and he should be the same. I was prepared for this finding and not having to go through any further treatment is the best news I could ever hope for.
I thank and have great respect for both my Urologist and Oncologist for helping me deal with this thing called Cancer. I'm on HRT now and able to walk without leaning over as it's been almost three weeks since my surgery. I am happy to be part of this resource and glad the people here at TCRC2 were there and continue to be, in answering the many questions I have had not only about procedures but about the many ways something like this affects your life. I am now a proud member of the "flat-baggers" club and here to answer any questions anyone may have of me. There are many "other" stories here having to do with relationships, feelings and emotions that I will gladly share with you.
I will close my story by quoting Cathy Hainer, who is a writer for USA Today, and who is a recent survivor of breast cancer. She put what I and I'm sure many others feel into words ? she said:
"I have never let cancer define me, but it never leaves my awareness. It hovers on the edge of my consciousness, reminding me that at any moment it may erupt again, in fact, may be spreading through my body even as I write this. I'm trying to find serenity within that uncertainty.
And like they say, the good thing about Testicular Cancer is, you can only get it twice. It's time to move on.