One of the many questions I've asked myself during this trying time was "Why did this happen?"
Of course the simple answer would be "Why not?"
But to put things a little more in perspective. Testicular cancer is considered to be a very rare form of cancer. Only 1% of cancers in males. Even more rare for Asian-americans. Overall 1 in 270 males have a chance to acquire the disease and almost half of all cases happen to men between the ages of 20 and 34.
After being diagnosed, my thoughts and memories often turned to all the loved ones that passed away from cancer. I mourned their loss again. I longed for their counsel. I shared in their fear. I'm sure there were moments in their diagnosis where they felt similar to me.
Feelings of fear, turning to sheer terror, alternating with hope, then eventual acceptance.
How did they feel and what did they think as they reached the finish line of life?
I admit I still have fears and worries, but I'm finding them increasingly manageable as the days go by.
I guess if people were on the outside looking in at my situation, if there is a kind of cancer to get, the preferable one would be the one with an over 90% survival rate.
I'm still a bit worried that because of the kind of insurance coverage that I have. I won't have access to premium services. Short cuts might be made in my case when in other situations they wouldn't. Just getting my tumor removed required a bit of jerry rigging of the system. The specifics I rather not disclose. But I have to trust my doctors. They have covered for me this far.
At this point. I'm feeling positive about my prognosis. My tests all came back clean. CT scan showed no abnormalities. X-rays were clear. Blood tests were negative. The mass is now removed and no longer in my body. I'm hoping that it stayed isolated. I have a follow up with my urologist in a couple of weeks to discuss my treatment options.
My next step is possibly one dose of chemotherapy and or a radiation treatment, then I will have to observe and have periodic checkups every three months.
The drawback is that this will be for the next 5 to 10 years.
The most prominent issue I'm dealing with now is dealing with the loss of a testicle. Some occasional nausea. I spent so much time focusing on survival, I didn't really stop to consider the idea of losing a physical part of me. An important part of me.
Men spend their lives protecting that area. It's ingrained in us since we are little. Even wearing a cup in little league and a jock strap in sports to support that area. It's comical to think about the idea but it's true.
That area represents a man's virility, health and sexuality.
Does losing a testicle make me less of a man? Will my testosterone be too low? Will my sexual performance suffer? Will my peers view me differently knowing that I only have one testicle?
It's funny when you consider these things out loud. Of course the answer to all these concerns are probably no.
At least I hope they are.
But these are my honest fleeting thoughts. They were especially prominent before my surgery.
Post surgery, physically I feel fine. I admit that there exists a strange feeling now. To have an empty space where there used to be something. Nerve endings that weren't previously exposed are now touching each other. I find myself adjusting often. Hopefully I won't do this too much unconsciously in public.
It's also clear I'm also gonna have to transition from boxers to boxer briefs. I'm acutely more conscious about what is going on down there now. I'm promising myself to not procrastinate about physical ailments.
Which brings us back to HOW did I get this disease? The traditional causes of cancer are not part of my lifestyle. Cancer is not in my immediate family. I don't smoke. I rarely drink alcohol anymore. Don't experiment with drugs. It's been years since I've even had a hit of Marijuana. I like to think I live a relatively stress free lifestyle, although the idea of having four kids under the age of 7 may seem stressful to others.
I was able to come up with three possibilities. As far fetched as it sounds.
My first theory is my fondness for junk food. Erin is a supporter of this theory. And she is using this as an opportunity to change my diet and lifestyle. She's been after me for years to be more conscious of my diet and often has encouraged me to exercise more.
It's time to take up her flag. I can't fight her on this anymore. The truth is getting cancer has given her all the ammunition she needs.
Theory 2: Radiation from Japan's Nuclear disaster.
Yeah... I know it's absurd. But I'm clutching at straws here.
And my final theory... radiation from my cellphone.
I keep my cellphone in my right front pocket. I've been doing it for years. I've observed my phone overheating in the past while in my pocket and I've often wondered what harmful effects that the overheating and low level radiation may cause. Maybe whatever causes cancer was in me already and the overheating and radiation just triggered it?
I know it sounds ridiculous. As I said, it's a theory.
Whatever the cause of my my testicular mass. The truth is it doesn't matter.
I have had it in me, it's been removed and I will continue to fight the effects from it. My life will never be the same again.
And that's not necessarily a bad thing.
If there is a positive to take away from all this it's that this has made me more conscious of how precious life is.
It's made me see the finish line.
At the risk of sounding overly sentimental. It's made me appreciate my life more. My friendships. My family. I hug my kids a little tighter now. Made me more appreciative of Erin and our relationship. I'm trying to not sweat the little things as much. I'd like to think that it's given me a sharper perspective on what's important.
I know that this is just the beginning of this cancer challenge. But I can see the finish of this chapter. I'm confident I will beat this.
I'm also hoping it makes me a better person at the end. And lead to an overall better life for me and my family
I admit... I'm still scared. But I can see the finish line.
Not the scary kind of finish line though. The kind that features a victory celebration at the finish with all my friends and family.
Here are a couple of Testicular cancer facts I want to share. Hopefully it will inspire someone to take action. Maybe save someone some anxiety.
Most lumps or bumps down there are relatively harmless and tend not to be cancer. Some of the more common causes for testicular pain or swelling are infections, hernias, hydroceles and varicoceles.
The symptoms for testicular cancer also don't appear to be alarming at first. Many times there is no pain. The most common symptom is a painless lump. Sometimes it can be accompanied by a heavy or aching feeling in the lower belly or scrotum.
I can confirm that the feeling that I experienced was not alarming. In fact if it wasn't for straining my back moving a kiddie pool of water, I probably wouldn't have suspected anything. I actually thought that my symptoms pointed to my condition being a hernia.
Some of the risk factors which contribute to testicular cancer are an undescended testicle, family history of testicular cancer, HIV infection and carcinoma in situ. But since testicular cancer is so rare there isn't really an effective study which reveals notable risk factors.
Remember according to citations from Wikipedia:
Testicular cancer has one of the highest cure rates of all cancers: in excess of 90 percent overall; almost 100 percent if it has not spread (metastasized). Even for the relatively few cases in which malignant cancer has spread widely, modern chemotherapy offers a cure rate of at least 80%.
Don't wait! The sooner you deal with it the better!