Testicular cancer at age 30: My adventure
By Matthew Jones
Everyone knows you shouldn’t diagnose yourself online because you’ll convince yourself you have some rare disease. The irony is that when I found a lump on my testicle in July 2014, I didn’t think much of it, even though every search result for “found a lump on my testicle” included the word “cancer.”
I was 30 years old at the time — way too young to get cancer, right?
Later that month in the waiting room of MultiCare West Tacoma Family Medicine, I wrote “lump on my testicle” as the reason for my visit. I told my ARNP I had also noticed some pain while running.
He gave me a quick physical and said, “It might be nothing, but let’s schedule an ultrasound.”
I had the ultrasound at 8am the next day. Just a few hours later, a physician called with the results: I had testicular cancer and needed surgery.
I remember thinking, “This is real,” and realizing I’d have to tell people now. My wife already knew what was going on — but calling my parents and telling my friends was harder. I called my parents right away, but waited for a “good time” to tell my friends. I quickly realized there’s never a good time to bring up cancer. Regardless, I was lucky that everyone from family, friends, colleagues and classmates were there to help and be supportive.
The next few weeks were a bit of a blur. I saw the ARNP on Tuesday, had an ultrasound on Wednesday and met with a surgeon on Friday. The following Monday, I had my first of many CT scans. At the same time, I just happened to be wrapping up a summer term of graduate school and had to make special arrangements to take my final exams early. I took my last final the day before I had surgery.
If you think staying focused while studying human resource law or supply chain management during a beautiful Pacific Northwest summer is hard, try doing it while preparing to have a cancerous testicle removed the following day.
To remove a testicle (radical inguinal orchiectomy) surgeons create an incision at your waistline, cut through your abdominal wall and remove the entire testicle intact. Needless to say, I spent the next few days on the couch and the following couple weeks walking gingerly and wearing elastic waistbands.
Lab results showed the tumor had spread throughout the testicle but not beyond. I was referred to an oncologist for treatment options. Lucky for me, testicular cancer (seminoma) is fairly slow-growing and easy to treat.
My oncologist spelled out survival rates for different treatments, side effects and plans for the various treatment options. I basically had a choice of chemotherapy and blood tests for a couple of years or “observation” — no treatment, but with regular CT scans, blood tests and physical exams for five years.
I chose the latter.
Every few months I meet with my oncologist — Nehal Masood, MD — have a full pelvic and chest CT scan and have blood drawn to check for tumor markers. Dr. Masood is terrific — we talk about grad school (happily graduated with my MBA in 2015), work-life balance and my daughter, who was born last year.
I still get nervous every time I go in for an exam or scan or when my phone buzzes because MyChart has sent me an alert that test results are in. But two years in, I’m still healthy, I have an energetic one-year old and I enjoy making testicle jokes. (You know, just juggling life with one ball.)
If I have one piece of advice for young men, it’s to learn how to check for lumps and don’t be afraid to see the doctor. Until all of this, I had no idea testicular cancer is one of the more common types of cancer among men my age. It’s a fairly easy cancer to treat, but physicians worry about it because young men in particular tend to wait to see a doctor or skip follow-up appointments.
Also, be prepared to have people constantly confuse testicular cancer with prostate cancer.
Matthew Jones is the Director of Fundraising Operations for MultiCare. He’s passionate about philanthropy, his family and (depending on the weather) running. Matthew, his wife Mary, and their daughter Charlotte live in downtown Tacoma.
Learn more about testicular cancer symptoms and see your doctor if you notice any changes.