After two months of uncertainty, three ultrasounds, multiple blood tests, a CT scan and a traumatic surgery, it has finally been confirmed.
I have testicular cancer.
Obviously this diagnosis triggers a sea of conflicting emotions but, as odd as it may seem, what I feel most is a sense of relief.
In 2013 I participated in the Ride to Conquer Cancer. I rode my bicycle 260km from Vancouver to Seattle with hundreds of really wonderful people to raise money for the BC Cancer Foundation. I rode in support of my many family members who had battled, or were battling cancer. Cancer had touched my family many times over, but I never imagined that barely more than a year later I would have it myself.
I first noticed something was off about two months ago. I woke up on a Friday morning and noticed that my left testicle was much larger and firmer than normal. The change was enough that it was quite alarming. It had also been, apparently, quite rapid as I had not noticed it before then. I convinced myself that it was probably nothing to worry about, that it would be better by the next day, and I went to work. But in my gut I knew that something was seriously wrong.
When it had not improved on Saturday morning, I made a trip to the nearest walk-in clinic. The doctor examined me and told me I probably had orchitis, but that maybe it was torsion. I knew instinctively that he was wrong, as both of these conditions cause pain, and I had none. He wrote me a note and told to go to the emergency room and get an ultrasound and soon as possible. I spent the entire day at the hospital waiting for the ultrasound, and then waiting for a urologist to see me. The ultrasound was inconclusive, and in the end they told me it was very unlikely I had cancer. They scheduled a follow-up ultrasound for two weeks later as well an office appointment with a urologist, and prescribed two different antibiotics that are usually used to treat bacterial STIs. They did this despite me having no secondary symptoms and having made it very clear to them that I had been in a monogamous relationship for four years. I left the hospital feeling very frustrated.
A week went by and we were preparing to leave for a long weekend camping trip. Having experienced no improvement in my condition, and without a diagnosis, I became very nervous about being a long distance away from a hospital or services. I went back to the hospital at around midnight and was admitted. The ER doctor who saw me was absolutely excellent and I wish I could remember her name so that I could thank her. While she initially wanted me to wait in the hospital until 7am the next morning for an ultrasound, she sensed my distress and arranged for a sonographer to come in immediately. Unfortunately it was yet again inconclusive and I was sent home, very tired, with a new prescription for a different antibiotic, this one typically used to treat UTIs. We left for our trip (better late than never), luckily I was able to sleep in the car, and I had a great weekend, all things considered.
Life went on as normally as possible while dealing with such uncertainty and an increasingly large and uncomfortable testicle in my pants. I saw the urologist at his office a short time later and he was unable to tell me anything new. We then went a road-trip to Oregon and had a very enjoyable time.
When I returned, I had the previously scheduled ultrasound which the sonographer told me “didn’t show anything new”. I had a follow-up appointment with my urologist to discuss the third ultrasound and because of the stress of the situation accidentally showed up a week early. Having taken an unnecessary day off work and frustrated that I wasn’t getting any answers, I panicked and cancelled the appointment.
I ended up seeing my family doctor that day. Having received my latest test results he told me I absolutely should not have cancelled my appointment because cancer was a real possibility. Not only that, he had already booked me an appointment with another specialist for a second opinion. That day was the first and only time I cried.