A Young Man Faces Testicular Cancer
Why it's so serious.
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.
In an odd way, I feel lucky. Testicular cancer is among the most treatable ones around. But even though 95% of patients with the condition beat it and survive at least five years, according to the American Cancer Society, that still leaves 5% who don't. Men do die of this disease. And most of them are young and in the prime of their lives.
If I had waited much longer, my story might have ended differently. One key to beating this disease is detecting it early. That's why I tell everyone: If you think something is wrong, don't wait. Go to your doctor. Another key is following up to make sure it doesn't come back.