A lump in my testicle

Thursday 11 March, 2010 by Mark

In June 2009 I found a lump in my testicle. I knew it was something to be concerned about but I didn't have a doctor as I hadn't been to the doctor since 1990 when I lived in another place.

I looked up the Yellow Pages for a doctor and found one that bulk billed in my area and made an appointment. When I was in the surgery and my doctor was examining me it felt nauseating, not because of pain or even worry, just because I was standing there and another man was examining me.

I knew my doctor was worried but he kept on saying it was unlikely to be cancer but the more he assured me it was unlikely to be cancer and of the survival rates of testicular cancer patients the surer I was that I had it.

After what seemed like 10 minutes of him examining me I told him he had to stop as I was feeling like I was going to throw up. My doctor then referred me for an ultrasound the next day. Fortunuately it was a woman who was doing the examination this time (and I am aware of how silly that sounds but that is how I felt).

She put some goo on my testicles and repeatedly examined me with the cold unltrasound thing. I knew she wasn't going to answer my question but I had to ask - 'Do I have cancer?'

'I cannot discuss this.'

I immediately thought of George Costanza from Seinfeld when he was worried about having cancer and was expecting the doctor to say, 'Get out of here! Cancer! Are you kidding!?'

Anyway the results came through the next day and I saw my doctor and he said cancer could not be ruled out and referred me to a urologist. I saw the urologist the next day and he repeated that cancer couldn't be ruled out and wanted to remove my right testicle.

'Hold on a second, you want to remove my testicle in case it's cancer!? Can't you just do I biopsy?'

He replied 'We can't do a biopsy because if it's cancer there's a danger of this spreading the cancer.'

He then went on to explain that there's a 90% chance of it being cancer and the only way to be sure is to remove the testicle and generally removing the testicle is curative and the survival rate is about 90%

'What happens if we do nothing?'

'You will die.'

That settles that then doesn't it! We chatted some more and my urologist explained that testicular cancer is quite rare but generally it affects younger men; 20 to 35-year-olds, and I was 39. He said I was only his 3rd patient this year so that supported the rarity of it.

I had the operation 2 days later but unfortunately the cancer had spread and I was told I had to have chemo but it was still very curable, about 85% cure rate.

Still looking good for me. I started chemotherapy 3 weeks later. This was where I found it to be a very beautiful experience. Again I know that doesn't sound like it should - having cancer is not a good thing but being part of the cancer community is a beautiful experience.

Every person I came in to contact with at the Oncology Department was a beautiful person. It's hard to capture in words how much respect I have for these people.

It's now about 6 months since I've been a chemo patient but I look back on the experience with one of joy or gratititude. I had a lot of time to think when I was sitting in the chemo chair, which is a bit like a dentist's chair with buttons and gadgets that make it move, and I concluded that these beautiful people that were caring for me and treating me were happy because they saved lives and helped people get back to all they can be.

Thank you for that and thank you for caring and thank you for being so special and thank you for giving me life and thank you for giving me something to aspire to be and that is as good a person as you all are.

I'm nowhere near as good a person as all of you are but I'm a better person than I was and I'm going to be a better person than I am. I wrote a daily journal of 3 months as a chemo patient. Remember if you're just starting on your treatment to listen to your doctors and respect your cancer; don't fear it as fear is counter productive and use your energy for getting well.

Most people have horror stories to tell you but the anti nausea drugs make it tolerable. You sort of feel like you are having a mild hangover a couple of times a week and the rest is pretty easy. Be strong, stay cool, life is beautiful, smile and be happy as you will likely be back to normal soon.

Editor's note: See our living with cancer section for more on the challenges involved with managing a cancer diagnosis. Call our Cancer Helpline to speak with a cancer nurse.
Updated: 11 Mar, 2010