I like to consider myself a pretty health-conscious person. I’m active, have a healthy diet (for the most part), maintain a daily routine, and don’t let myself get too stressed out. I’m also the type of person that tries to ignore any signs or symptoms that something could be wrong, hoping that it will just go away. I definitely know now that that’s not really the best way to handle things.
On the first Friday of August, I was in the car with my girlfriend, Katie, driving from Madison, WI to my parents’ house in Brookfield. About 20 minutes into our drive, I started to notice a constant ache in my lower abdomen and left testicle. I tried shifting around to find a more comfortable position, but nothing was making it feel better. I told Katie about the pain, but we both didn’t really think anything of it because I had a hard work out and skate that morning and the day before.
I tried to just go on with my day and ignore the pain. That night, I was unable to sleep due to the pain and discomfort. The pain continued throughout the next day and that evening, I noticed that there was some severe swelling in my left testicle. I told my parents what was going on and after doing a little bit of research, they told me that I should probably go to the emergency room just to be safe.
At the emergency room, I had an ultrasound done and was diagnosed with testicular torsion, or twisting of the testicle, most likely from working out. The twisting blocks blood flow to the testicle, which was causing the swelling and pain I was experiencing. The doctors told me that I had to get the testicle removed as the tissue had died from lack of blood flow and could cause an infection or other issues. The following Monday, we met with the doctor that would be performing the surgery and confirmed that the testicle was going to be removed the next day.
When I woke up from the procedure, the doctor told me that no surgery had been performed and nothing had been removed. There was no torsion and there was clearly blood flow to the testicle. I was so relieved to find out that the diagnosis was incorrect and that they didn’t have to remove the testicle.
Then came the bad news.
The doctor found an unusual “mass” on the testicle and was concerned that it might be a tumor. He explained that he had never seen anything quite like it before and it didn’t look or feel like a normal testicular tumor. That made me think that it had to be something other than a tumor – that’s what I kept telling myself. I knew that all I could do at that point was to be optimistic and hope for the best. I was scheduled for a blood test to check for tumor markers and another ultrasound to see if anything had changed.
When I got the results back, I was shocked - it was a tumor.
I truly did not think that the tests would come back abnormal. But here we were. The next step was a biopsy to figure out if the tumor was cancerous. This meant having another, much more invasive surgery within a week with a longer recovery process.
The tumor was removed and biopsy results came in about a week later - it was cancer. There is really no feeling like being told you have cancer. It is such a prominent disease and you hear about it all the time, but you never actually think that it will be you.
I had a CT scan done a few days later to make sure the cancer had not spread to other parts of my body – luckily it had not. Another round of blood tests showed that my tumor marker levels had returned to normal. I was cancer-free.
It’s crazy to think that this all happened within a month and that I had never noticed any signs of it until the day I had pain and swelling. This situation really made me realize that cancer knows no boundaries. You can eat right, exercise, and be doing all the right things, but it can still happen to anyone.
Fortunately, I am able to return to my “normal” life. I missed training camp but was able to join my teammates in mid-October and keep playing the sport I love. Going forward, I will need to have regular blood tests and check-ups, but have gone back to my usual day to day routine. Although this experience was scary and difficult, I will strive to always maintain a positive attitude and appreciation for life.