IN THEIR WORDS
Testicular Cancer At 18
It was the summer between freshman and sophomore year in college and the last thing I was expecting was a cancer diagnosis. I wasn’t someone who typically did self-exams, but I happened to check myself out one day in the shower because of a PSA I heard on the radio show “Weird Medicine” on Sirius XM and I actually felt something. Something that I swear hadn’t been there before.
I had to make a doctor’s appointment anyway for my sports physical so I went to get checked out without alarming anyone in my family about this new “finding.” I told the doctor what I had noticed. She did a physical exam and simply told me there was nothing there. This made me angry. I knew there was something there and my gut was telling me that something was wrong, so I asked what we could do to make sure that there was definitely nothing there.
She did a physical exam and simply told me there was nothing there. This made me angry. I knew there was something there and my gut was telling me that something was wrong…
After a short conversation she sent me down to the lab to have an ultrasound. The test revealed that I had a tumor on my right testicle. While scary news, I was happy I had fought for the ultrasound because otherwise that tumor would have gone undetected.
After that doctor’s appointment I went to go see a surgeon two days later, this time with my dad. After reviewing my charts, the doctor recommended I get surgery ASAP. Even though at this point we did not know that I had cancer, we knew that whatever was going on wasn’t good. By the end of the appointment I was scheduled for surgery for the following week.
The surgery confirmed that my tumor was indeed cancerous. More specifically: 95% embryonal carcinoma mixed germ cell tumor: a type of cancer that is treatable but is known for coming back once it is treated. A few days later after hearing the news I went to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and met with 9 different doctors to discuss my treatment.
The first thing my head oncologist said to me was “congratulations.” Initially, this took me by surprise, congratulations for what? I thought. I have just been told I have cancer.
The first thing my head oncologist said to me was “congratulations.” Initially, this took me by surprise, congratulations for what? I thought. I have just been told I have cancer. But he soon explained that if I had waited just six more months, due to the aggressive form of my testicular cancer, we could have been talking time, not treatment. My treatment was not pleasant—I ended up having 13 chemotherapy treatments in three weeks (11 of which were given in the first 5 days) and was extremely sick for the following weeks, but I am here and that is largely because I advocated for myself and trusted my instincts.
It has been a very interesting year, but I never missed a day of school and continue to lead a pretty normal life.