A Young Man Faces Testicular Cancer
Why it's so serious.
Aug. 7, 2000 -- I was 23 years old and invincible. Or so I thought. Then one day, playing softball in a suburb of Chicago, where I live, I got kicked in the groin by the nice guy playing shortstop. When I checked myself out in the shower later, I found what felt like a ball bearing inside my right testicle, as if one end were hardened.
So I did what most guys would do: I put it out of my mind. Or tried to. I couldn't believe it was anything serious. My wife and I had just married. We were closing on our first house. I was in the third month of a new job. Everything was going great.
Then I noticed the testicle was getting larger. Finally I made an appointment with my primary care physician -- and started what turned into a five-month battle.
The visit with my doctor took exactly 20 minutes. He set up an appointment with a urologist the next day who examined me, looked me in the eye and said, "You're a smart kid. I'm glad you came to see me."
When results from a blood test and an ultrasound came back, the urologist sat down with my wife and me and gave us the news: There was a 95% chance I had cancer. Getting kicked in the groin during the softball game hadn't caused the disease, of course; it had just prompted me to check things out in time to catch the tumor, which was already there. The testicle had to be removed right away, the urologist said. I couldn't believe my ears.
Just like that, I had become part of a trend: I had likely been stricken with a form of cancer that has, over the past three decades, increased in frequency an astonishing 60% (according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), striking mostly young men like me. The doctor probably told me that it was a very curable cancer, but I was in such a state of shock, I could barely understand what he was saying.