It’s 2011, I’m 19 and planning to head off to college in at the end of summer. Only thing standing in my way was my left testicle. Who would have thought?
At first sign of the lump I just brushed it off. Being a typical 19-year-old guy I didn’t think anything of it. Not like I’m going to bring it up to my parents, who wants to talk about their balls with their mom and dad right? Well I let the summer pass with increasing painfulness in the site. It got to a point where it constantly felt like I had just got hit in the groin a few minutes earlier, so the week before I move away to school I tell my mom about it and we go to an after hours clinic to get it checked out. The doctor there referred us to a urologist in town and we went the next day. After a quick feel, he brought my mom back into the room with us and delivered us the news. It was what we had feared but had been too afraid to mention it.
The earliest I could get in to get it removed was the weekend after I moved away to school. We had hoped all they would have to do was lop it off and I’d heal for a week or so and be back to normal. But of course it’s never that simple. After I woke up from the surgery, they informed me that it had spread and that I’d have to drop out of school and go through chemo. Not the news I wanted to hear.
They let me heal up for a few months and I started the 10 worst weeks of my life just after (Canadian) Thanksgiving. It was a cycle of 1 full week followed by 2 weeks of one treatment per week. There were 3 cycles (+1 week where my platelets were too low to treat me). The hospital was a 3 hour drive so my full weeks were spent at a family friend’s about a 50 minute drive away. I would wake up at 7am to make my appointment with my chair and chemical cocktail at 8. As a guy who likes his sleep, waking up at that time was painful enough.
It wasn’t until about the 6th or 7th week where my hair started to fall out. This was more so humorous than scary as we were expecting it. Instead of cutting it short and letting it fall out, my buddy and I though it would be a good idea to get rid of it all, razor and everything. Bad idea, that hair is still tough even when it’s falling out, and its damn cold in Canada in November. This began my months long stint of toque wearing. At this point of the treatment I was as out of it as I could get. I woke up feeling awful, spent the day feeling awful, and going to bed feeling awful, knowing it was only going to get worse the next day. I had hit a new low. It was all I could do to keep getting up to go get injected with chemicals. But I knew there was going to be an end to it, and that finally came.
That was it, chemo was done, the tumors were gone, I was cancer free. Or so we thought. A few weeks had passed, it was Christmas time, all my friends were back in town and I was starting to seem like my old self again. We took a trip down to the hospital to get the all clear when they told us that that particular type of cancer (Teratoma) hadn’t responded to the chemo. So basically those weeks of utter hell had been pointless. I was livid, I was scared, I was so dejected. That was it, I broke down. If I hadn’t been so damn stubborn at the start and had gotten it looked at earlier this all could have been avoided, I thought to myself. They described the next step to me…they were going to open up my stomach from the sternum to below the belly button and lift all my insides out of me and place them on my chest while they took out a whole bunch of lymph nodes in my back. As you could imagine, this was pretty extensive surgery. The recovery was the most painful thing I had experienced. I basically had a two-foot opening down my front that had to heal, as well as let all my insides recover from the shock of being removed from their host. (The intestines don’t like that). After over a week in the hospital, they finally sent me home to rest, and do nothing for 6 weeks, which turned into 8 weeks, which turned into who knows how many. I got so bored, I was just longing to go outside and do SOMETHING, ANYTHING without it hurting.
After all these weeks passed, I slowly recovered and got back to full health. I kept going for routine CAT scans and X-rays, and they kept coming back clean. Its been 3 years since the start, and I am happy to report that I am still clean and cancer free and will be graduating college in 4 months. It was an incredible experience, and I know that I have truly learned so much from it, about myself, my friends, my family and the compassion of others. I’m a stronger person for going through it and I wouldn’t be the same person I am today.