Before I was diagnosed with testicular cancer at age 21 last year, I only did self-checks in the shower when I remembered to. That translated to about once every two or three months. I knew that the disease usually occurred in younger men, but I also thought I’d felt a lump a few years earlier, and it turned out to be normal.
The lump I found on my right testicle in February 2017 seemed pretty big to me, so it must have formed fairly quickly. I went to my local urologist to get it checked out.
My doctor told me the testicle needed to be removed, whether the lump was cancerous or not. He’s a family friend and someone I trust, so I let him perform the surgery in Beaumont two days later. He referred me to MD Anderson afterwards for additional treatment.
At the time, I only lived about five miles away from the Texas Medical Center. And MD Anderson is the best cancer hospital in the world, so I knew that was where I wanted to be.
Why I chose to bank my sperm
At MD Anderson, I met with Dr. Amishi Shah. She confirmed that the lump had been cancerous and provided an official diagnosis: I’d had a non-seminomatous germ cell tumor. Those form in the cells that produce sperm and are pretty fast-growing, so she recommended one cycle of BEP (a combination of bleomycin, etoposide and cisplatin) chemotherapy.
Just one dose of that regimen can make a man infertile for up to two years, so before I started treatment, I visited a sperm bank. I’m not ready for children yet, but I do want my own someday, so banking my sperm seemed like a no-brainer decision. Better to be safe than sorry, right?
My only lingering chemotherapy side effect
My chemotherapy had to be administered through an IV, so I stayed at MD Anderson for a week. I also stayed at home for another week after that, due to my weakened immune system. I lost all my hair as a result of the chemo, but it’s since grown back. And I have a couple of chemo burns that look like bruises on my arms and upper legs. But other than that, my testicular cancer treatment didn’t really affect my day-to-day life.
I’ve shown no evidence of disease since March 2017, so the only lingering side effect I really have now is anxiety. I worry a little bit every day that the cancer might come back. And I check myself a lot more frequently now than I used to, at least once or twice a month. Because I realize how lucky I was to catch the cancer early, before it had spread.
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