April 12, 2000

Sharon shares Steve's TC Story

Steve and I met in January '94 and were married nine months later. A few days shy of our first anniversary we had our first child, Joshua. We had everything to look forward to and did not imagine that either one us would ever become ill with cancer.

Steve had his usual physical for work in the summer, but the doctor did not check for TC. Steve would perform a self exam occasionally since he had a friend that died at the age of 20 from TC. Steve noticed a very small lump and made an appointment with our family doctor. He told me the day before he had his appointment since he did not want me to worry. I told him it was most probably just a small infection and there was nothing to worry about.

Steve went to the doctor who did not notice anything significant upon exam, but he sent Steve to a specialist. The specialist did not notice anything significant either, but he ordered an ultrasound to be on the safe side. When Steve had the ultrasound the radiologist came in during the ultrasound. When he told me this, we both knew it was something serious.

I went with Steve to the doctor the next day to hear the report. I was not prepared to hear what I heard. The doctor told us that it was ninety-nine percent chance of cancer and one percent not. Steve was very upset and I was just scared. I had worked at an hospital in medical records and knew what cancer patients went through. I just thought my husband is going to die. Everything else the doctor said was a blur. They wanted to do surgery the next day. We wanted to get a second opinion elsewhere.

I called a doctor's office in Houston, TX that I saw on a television program that came on weekly to get an appointment. They told me they could not fit Steve in for a month and that he needed to take care of this situation sooner and gave me the name of another doctor. I called that doctor and made an appointment. I also called another doctor that did alternative methods of treatment for cancer patients but they told me the success rate for treatment for testicular cancer was very high and that he did not treat CT. So off to Houston we went.

It was a very long drive and emotional for both of us. We arrived at the doctors office and waited and waited. We were told the exact same thing so we made arrangements with the local doctor to schedule surgery the following week. We learned that with radiation there was a ninety-nine percent cure rate.

This is a very emotional situation to walk through. Steve was very upset and I would find him just sitting up at night very anxious and upset. I had to reassure him that I loved him and would not leave him over this. That was one of his fears. (If you have someone close to you with testicular cancer they will probably need a lot of reassurance and support) Different people handled the news differently. There were two men at church that helped Steve tremendously. One had a different type of cancer and the other had had a surgery.

However, believe it or not, one so called friend that he called to talk with was very crude to him. We were not prepared for people like this. Several people came up to him and told him this was no big deal. They had had vasectomies and there was nothing to it. We did not know how to deal with people like this. Also, a lot of my friends avoided me. They did not know how to deal with the situation we were going through. I did not have anyone really to talk to.

Steve was very emotional and dealing with a lot of different emotions and would get very upset sometimes. He could not eat and lost a lot of weight. I can remember him telling me that he was mad at God. I did not know how to handle this. Then I remembered something a speaker talked about at a MOPs group that I went to. She said, "That feelings are neither right nor wrong." So I decided that I would listen as much as I could and take that attitude. A person cannot help the way that they feel. As a person goes through this whole ordeal, they go through many emotions and sometimes they hurt the person closest to them. Just realize this and don't try to make an issue out of everything. Sometimes it is best just to listen.

Steve had the surgery. My mother kept our 15 month old and brought him up to the hospital during surgery. Steve parents were there. His brother and sister-in-law and their children were there and there were others from church. Steve was very nervous and had a little book of scriptures that he wanted me to read to him. In fact through this whole ordeal sometimes he just wanted me to read to him since he was tired from treatments.

He did not handle everyone coming in the room before surgery very well. I finally had to ask the nurse to ask the people to leave. It really was not the time or place for a group of people and children to be in the room. Steve was then given some medicine in his I.V. that made him very relaxed and then off to surgery he went.

This was very hard for me. I did not realize how hard that it would be have to watch him wheeled off while I could not go with him. After surgery the doctor told me that it was cancer, but very treatable and also caught very early. So Steve was admitted for further tests. I asked the nurses if I could go in recovery to see him but they said no. Steve was very upset in recovery and I was upset that no one came and got me. Sometimes the anesthesia makes you even more emotional.

Steve was brought up to a room, and I did not feel he was quite ready for any visitors yet. Steve's parents wanted to see him. How do you tell someone you cannot see your child right now? I could not do this. If someone you know has a surgery like this give, them some time before they see any visitors. It will benefit the patient very much.

Steve's parents came and brought a minister from there church who needs some lessons on dealing with people. He refused to leave until Steve talked and Steve had never met this man before. I wanted to physically remove him. He finally left but not without telling the hospital chaplain that he thought Steve needed some serious help. This whole situation upset his parents especially his mother.

After the effects of the anesthesia wore off my mother and her friend brought our little boy to visit. Steve was doing much better emotionally now. The hospital chaplain came by and wondered why he needed to visit Steve stat. He said he was fine. Steve underwent more tests that evening.

There was another man across the hall who had the same surgery that we never were able to meet, and he was very mad. He was cussing every one and throwing up from anesthesia and throwing things. His wife had to take his keys from him so he wouldn't leave. Everyone handles everything differently. A note before staying in the hospital all night. A nurse told me that some people bring an air mattress to sleep on top of the rollaway. It was a very sleepless night between taking care of Steve and the very old chair I had to sleep on. We went home the next day. Steve's mom was very nice and cooked us a meal. My mother had to go to some church function and brought Joshua home ASAP and left. We could have used a little extra time to deal with our emotions and rest.

Steve decided to go through with the radiation after talking with the doctor. It was just horrible for me and him. He had to have these marks on him the whole time during radiation treatments. He was so happy when he could wash them off. Radiation made him nauseated and very tired.

He was able to work until the time of the treatments. The doctor gave him something for nausea. I would call him every day from work to see what he thought he could eat then I would cook it. If he did not eat before six he could not eat. Also he ate and sat in the recliner and then went to bed.

I tried to find something for him to do so he would feel useful. All of this happened during Christmas time, so I was making all of the Christmas presents since we did not know how much the medical bills were going to be. He helped make a few presents. If you have someone going through this try to find something they can do sitting down. Maybe a puzzle, cross-stitch, or crossword. Something productive. I had to do pretty much everything on my own. Try to enlist people to help you. We sure could have used more help. The holidays are very busy and people were busy doing what they do during the holidays. I made a big plate of cookies for the patients and employees of where Steve had his treatments. This was very important to him and everyone enjoyed it.

When Steve was going through radiation I had to remind him to take one day at a time. He got a calendar and marked off the days. When your in the middle of this it seems like it will last the rest of your life. I just would remind him it would be over with soon.

After everything was over Steve and I decided we needed to get away for a few days. We got some baby-sitters for our little boy. We went to a Marriage Encounter Weekend. This was very beneficial for both of us. There I realized I still had a lot of fear I had not dealt with and someone counseled with us. If you are a couple try to get away for a couple of days to spend together and regroup.

As we have went through this we have had to deal with emotions. Going through yearly checkups can be stressful. You have to also hear what other people have to say. I have had people tell me be strong for him, we are watching to see how you handle this in case something ever happens to my husband. Some people are supportive but a lot of people can say some really stupid things. One of the things that bothered me most was people asking me when we were going to have more children when Joshua was around age two. Even parents seemed to have input on this. One lady continued with this even after I explained the situation to her (almost every time I saw her. In fact it made me very upset). This was very painful to me. I finally started telling her only God knows. I did not know what else to say. I was just glad that my husband was alive, well and full of life to share with me and Joshua. Life is back to normal as it can be with two lively children in our home.

Steve has been cancer free for four years now. In addition, we now have a beautiful baby girl. (The radiologist had talked with us about freezing a specimen since the radiation could make Steve sterile. We did not feel comfortable with this and chose not to. We just felt like if God wanted to us to have more children we would. We waited the recommended year and was blessed with a beautiful baby girl)

Editor's note: To read Steve's take on things, click HERE.

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