How a testicular cancer diagnosis changed my life

Before I had testicular cancer, I was a really cynical
person. I looked at the glass as half-empty. And I saw everything in
life as just a struggle to get through.

I’m not going to say that everything has a purpose now, but even the
terrible things in our lives can be used for good. And looking back, I
can see that a lot of good things did come out of having testicular cancer.

After I was diagnosed, I learned how to be grateful: for the small
things and the big things, the bad things and the good things. And I
think I am a more positive person now because of what I went through.

Choosing to live after my testicular cancer diagnosis

My testicular cancer journey started in late 2013, when I was 23. I
had just come back from an extended trip to Taiwan. The plan was to
finish my last semester at the University of Houston, where I was
studying business.

But a few months after I arrived home, I noticed a lump on my left
testicle. I had a fever, too. Immediately, my mind jumped to cancer,
but I dismissed it as paranoia. Then I wondered, could this be the
mumps? So, I went to my doctor. He didn’t think the lump was related
to the fever. And he wanted me to have an ultrasound.

The test was kind of awkward, but it didn’t last very long. I got a
call early the next morning. I needed to follow up with a urologist. I
tried not to worry.

I met with that doctor a few days later and learned that I had
testicular cancer. Time kind of froze when I heard the news. It just
felt unreal. But the moment went on. And I realized I had a decision
to make. I could either really freak out, or I could get this taken
care of. I decided I wanted to live.

Why I chose MD Anderson for my
testicular cancer treatment

There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to go to MD Anderson for my testicular cancer
treatment. While my particular type of testicular cancer is very
treatable, it’s also very aggressive. So I needed to take it
seriously, and MD Anderson is a top-ranked
cancer center with doctors who specialize in my exact type of cancer.

At MD Anderson, I met with Shi-Ming Tu, M.D. He performed a bunch of tests
and gave me a formal diagnosis: I had a stage IIB metastatic mixed
nonseminomatous germ cell tumor, a type of testicular cancer.

As a part of my treatment, I had two surgeries: one to remove the
tumor and my left testicle on June 3, 2013, and the other to remove my
left spermatic cord and some lymph nodes on Nov. 13, 2013. In between,
I had three rounds of chemotherapy, using a combination of bleomycin,
etoposide and cisplatin.

Facing my fears

Coming to MD Anderson for chemotherapy
was a really big feat for me. Up until then, I’d had a great phobia of hospitals.

But chemotherapy wasn’t as bad as I had feared. Don’t get me wrong.
It was still terrible. But it wasn’t the monster I had created it to
be in my head.

Each time I received chemotherapy, I was in the hospital for five
days. I experienced nausea and total hair loss. But I had many people there to
support me. I also had hope. And hope’s contagious, I think.

Focusing on survivorship

Today, I am three years out from my testicular cancer diagnosis. I
show no evidence of disease. So now, my focus is on survivorship.

It’s not that my fear of recurrence is completely gone. But I’m
choosing to plan as if I’m going to live a long time. I’m
transitioning to a new career and going back to the gym. I’m doing all
of these things not to get back to where I was, but to live the best
life I can now.

If I had to go back and do it all over again, I would choose not to
have cancer. But life doesn’t work that way. The reality is that I had
cancer and went through treatment. And I’m grateful that I went
through those things because I’m now a more compassionate person with
a greater ability to love.

I guess sometimes you have to be dying to realize how to live.

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