December 11, 1997
My story actually began a few years ago, before I was diagnosed with cancer. My brother-in-law's younger brother, Jerry Beck, was diagnosed with testicular cancer, but his cancer had spread too far by the time it was discovered, and he died of the disease.
When Jerry died, my family made sure I learned a valuable lesson: if I were to ever notice swelling in that area, I was to go to the doctor immediately.
At the end of February 1997, I noticed something was wrong. My left testicle had swollen to twice the size of the right side, and because of Jerry, I immediately feared it was cancer. On Spring Break I decided to go to the family doctor to get it checked out. All Dr. Gingerich could tell was that there was a solid mass in the testicle, so he sent me to a urologist, Dr. Thomas Koerner, the next day. Two days later, on Friday, March 21, 1997, I had my left testicle removed at Parkview Hospital in Ft. Wayne, IN. A post-surgery biopsy revealed that the tumor was malignant.
Unfortunately, recovering from surgery prevented me from returning to Bloomington to finish my semester at Indiana University. Eventually, I dropped out for the spring semester.
The lab report I got in the mail the week after my surgery was excellent news. There was no evidence the cancer had spread, and tissue samples had revealed a pure seminoma tumor, which is easier to treat.
Unfortunately, something was missed in the lab. I had set up a schedule to begin precautionary radiation treatments at Lutheran Hospital in Ft. Wayne to wipe out any cancer cells that might be present. The day I was to go down to begin preparation for the radiation, I got a call from Dr. Koerner's office: don't go to Ft. Wayne, I need to talk to you.
Needless to day, this was a bit unnerving, since no explanation was given. I learned my alpha-fetoprotein levels were abnormally high the day of the surgery, a sign of non-seminoma cancer. Another blood test was ordered, which revealed normal AFP levels. So it really was a seminoma, right?
Not quite. At this point, Dr. Koerner referred me to Dr. Foster at IU Medical Center in Indianapolis. How was I to be treated? While the first blood test had abnormally high AFP, the second was normal. However, the second was several half-lives later, so even assuming the first blood test was accurate, the second one didn't prove anything either way. It was inconclusive!
So what do we do now? Another tissue sample had already been done at Parkview, again revealing a pure seminoma. A third slide sample was done, this time at IU Medical center, revealing a pure seminoma again. However, since the AFP levels were so high, we couldn't ignore the possibility that there were non-seminoma cells present even if none could be found in tissue samples. We couldn't prove non-seminoma cells were present, but we couldn't be sure they were not present either. So, radiation treatments were not advisable since radiation is not effective against non-seminomas. A team of doctors thought an RPLND was not advisable either, since that surgery is mainly for non-seminoma patients, and we didn't know if that is what I had.
Basically, we have this: We know there were seminoma cells present, but we couldn't be sure whether or not non-seminoma cells were present as well. So, I was advised to go into surveillance for the next five years, as that is the course of action which is most likely to offer the correct treatment if the cancer were to return.
So, to make a long story short, I am in surveillance because somebody didn't catch the blood test that revealed high AFP levels in time.
However, my chances of survival are well over 90%, although I will be dealing with trips to IU Medical Center through 2002. As of the date this was written, December 11, 1997, the cancer has not returned.
I have also had excellent opportunities present themselves my last year here at IU. I am continuing my post as Publications Director of the IU College Republicans, and our Internet publication, Hoosier Review, is stronger than ever. I was appointed Treasurer of Indiana University Students for Life in September, and I was hired as an opinion columnist for the Indiana Daily Student for the fall semester as well. I have recently been re-hired for Spring '98, my last semester here at IU. In addition, I have completed an internship in U.S. Representative John N. Hostettler's office here in Bloomington, which will open up opportunities with the skills I have learned there. Finally, I have become more involved with a new political group here in Bloomington, Grassroots United, and I write for their monthly newsletter, Root Awakening.
Hopefully, all this political/journalism experience will land me a good job after graduation, either here in Bloomington or somewhere else. Until then I will continue to thank God for the Blessings He has given me.