IN THEIR WORDS

Rob Russo

Testicular Cancer at 23

At the prime age of 23 I was fresh out of my Master’s Degree program and beginning to teach at Nichols College as well as consult in a bicycle shop. I was more focused on lesson plans and bike shop policy than on my own health.  I had the world in my hands. It seemed like everything was going my way and nothing could slow me down.

One day though, I went on a mundane mountain bike ride with some friends and we didn’t do anything crazy or insane. Oddly, the next day I was barely able to get out of bed because of severe back pain. I couldn’t think of any reason my bike ride might have caused such pain so I wrote it off as sleeping wrong or being out of shape. At this same time though I began to notice a growth in my right testicle. It began to grow in size and became painful to touch and move during daily activity. I knew something was wrong, but figured I’d give it a couple weeks to go away and then a couple more, which then turned into six months.

I was worried about telling anyone as it’s a rather embarrassing subject to talk to anyone about. I finally confided in my best friend who encouraged me to get it checked out. My PCP (primary care physician) did the examination and insisted I see a specialist.

An ultrasound revealed that there were definite abnormalities.  At this point I could no longer keep it a secret and I had to tell my parents. As you might imagine, within 3 days I was sitting with the surgeon. I was diagnosed with Stage 2 testicular cancer. My delay had given it time to spread up the spermatic cord out of the testis.

Fast forward three months to my follow-up scans where I learned that I had relapsed. I completed aggressive chemotherapy and am now out of the woods. I realize now that I guessed something was wrong right from the start but resisted getting checked. Seriously – what was there to be embarrassed about? Since all this happened I’ve encouraged friends to do self-exams and get to know what’s going on down there – normally – so they don’t run the risk of dismissing away health changes that turn out to actually be symptoms of a big problem. My treatment would have been far less intense if I hadn’t waited to get checked.

Get to know your normal and don’t wait to get checked out if you KNOW something’s off.

"Seriously – what was there to be embarrassed about?"

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