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A Young Man Faces Testicular Cancer

Why it's so serious.

Surfing for Survival

I got on the Internet, looking for help and information. I found plenty of it, along with moral support. I also found out about Indiana University, known for its expertise in treating testicular cancer. I made an appointment, and a week later my wife and I hit the road.

I've since learned that testicular cancer is often misdiagnosed. The problem -- as I was about to learn firsthand -- is that because it's so rare, most doctors don't see it all that often. The ones back home had told me the cancer hadn't spread. But when the same slides were reviewed at Indiana University, the report indicated that, in fact, it had. I had learned one important lesson: Always get a second opinion. Always.

With this latest round of bad news, I decided to have the dreaded RPLND. I wanted to kill this beast while I had the upper hand.

At the age of 23, I never thought I'd have to make my peace with God. But on the morning of the surgery, I did. Saying goodbye to my wife before entering the operating room was hard enough. But one of the most difficult moments was when I saw my dad for the first time after surgery. He looked shaken, and as he took my hand, he asked in a low voice how I was doing. I gripped his hand as hard as I could and told him not to worry.

Feeling Like Burnt Toast

The six days I spent in the hospital were pretty tough. At first I needed help getting out of bed. By the third day, I was just beginning to feel better when my primary care doctor came to see how I was doing. He happened to mention in passing that my urologist had found one node that was positive for cancer. And then he left.

There I was, in the middle of a visit with my wife, when this guy walks in, drops a bomb, and then walks out. I was devastated.

My urologist laid out the situation the next day. There was a 70% to 80% chance that I was cured already. Two rounds of chemotherapy would raise those odds to 95%. I wanted the best odds I could get, but I'll admit it: I was really afraid of chemotherapy. Fear of the unknown, I guess.

The first couple of days on chemo were pretty easy. But by the end of the first week I felt horrible -- like burnt toast. The drugs had affected my hearing and made me feel like I was in a tunnel. The knuckles on my hands turned dark. My skin felt thickened. And I felt as if I had just smoked 100 cigars in a row -- my lungs hurt that badly. Then my hair started falling out.

In all, I did two rounds of chemotherapy, three weeks each. On Oct. 21, 1997, the treatments ended. I couldn't have been happier. Now it was time to get back to my life.

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