2005 was an eye-opening year for me. Work was rewarding, I'd been in the
Andes and climbed above 14,000 feet for the first time, and life was rolling
Then, around July Fourth, I was landscaping my house when I noticed a severe
pain and swelling in my right testicle. I was no better a few days later; the
swelling and pain had increased and I figured I'd done something wrong -- maybe
hurt myself with some heavy hauling. Having no regular doctor, I finally
located one who could see me a week later. Meanwhile, I searched the Internet
and found I could have one of five possible things -- from an infected testicle
to testicular cancer.
Palliative care helps relieve symptoms that bother the patient and helps improve the patient's quality of life.
The goal of palliative care is to improve the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease. Palliative care is meant to prevent or treat symptoms, side effects, and psychological, social, and spiritual problems caused by a disease or its treatment.
Palliative care for patients with advanced cancer includes nutrition therapy (see the Treatment of Symptoms...
My appointment day arrived. My new doctor thought I had an infected testicle
but recommended a urologist, who did a battery of tests and an ultrasound. A
few days later, I returned to hear the results. Before he could say anything, I
said, "It's testicular cancer, right?" The doctor said, "I am 99%
sure but we need to run a few more test including X-rays and blood work." I
thought, here I am, in this doctor's room, by myself, finding out that my worst
fear had come true: a cancerous tumor was in my right testicle. I was only 34
I pushed to have the tumor removed right away and reported to the hospital
the next morning at 7 a.m. I recovered pretty well, and later in the year had
another surgery to remove several lymph nodes in the right side of my abdomen.
Of the 23 nodes removed, 22 were noncancerous and one node showed that previous
treatment had killed the cancer. Today, almost a year later, my cancer is in
But even more eye-opening for me than having cancer at such a young age was
the response I got from other people. They acted as if I had an infectious
disease when I said the word "cancer." I thought, "Why do people
see cancer as a death sentence?" Something in me clicked. I decided to
create a new cancer organization -- the National
Cancer Detection Foundation -- that focuses on early detection. In my case,
I figured that maybe if I'd had regular tests and visited a doctor more often,
my cancer could have been caught earlier.
I also decided to use a passion of mine, mountaineering, to become the first
cancer survivor to climb the seven highest mountain peaks on every continent:
Aconcagua, Denali, Kilimanjaro, Elbrus, Vinson, Kosciuszko, and Everest.
This January, I completed the first climb, Kilimanjaro. One summit down, six
more to go!
Originally published in the May/June 2006 edition of WebMD the