Testicular Cancer Videos - James B



Testicular Cancer Survivor JamesB

Watch as James B takes us through his journey with testicular cancer.

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Video Transcription

American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society is a very important group. The amount of resources available through the American Cancer Society is just awesome, just an awesome collection of information. And not to mention all the various fundraisers they do, like the Relay For Life, which I recently became a part of. I'm looking forward to starting my own team this year with my daughter, Madison. Should be a lot of fun. I was able to walk as a survivor on a team here a few months ago, and I got to tell you it is such an awesome, rewarding experience, and I'll continue to participate in the relay for as long as I can.

Dealing with Anxiety

You know, the only real problem that I had with anxiety was shortly after I started the chemo. It started doing weird things to my body, and those things kind of scared me and freaked me out. I didn't know what was going on, and I think I started to have panic attacks. And after speaking with my oncologist about it he agreed that was probably what was going on. And of course once again he was real quick to make sure that was an issue that got corrected. As far as sleeplessness goes, that's one thing I didn't have any issues with. I was able to spend a good portion of my time sleeping, which made it a much easier process to deal with the side effects of the chemo.

Change in Appetite

Well, I would definitely say that my appetite changed during the course of chemo. There was very few things that I was able to eat. Your mouth kind of tasted like you were sucking on a mouthful of nickels and, I mean, everything just tasted horrible. And then whenever you throw in the nausea that you get from all the chemo you really don't want to eat. I received chemo over the course of 12 weeks, and in that 12 weeks I dropped around 45 pounds mainly just from not eating. I was, however, able to eat early in the mornings. I would have a really small bowl of Frosted Flakes, and I would have that again pretty late at night, but that was it. And then of course now I can't even look at a box of Frosted Flakes without getting nauseous.

Fear of Cancer

Cancer is a scary word. You hear horror stories about cancer, especially if you've never had it. You hear horror stories about the treatment. It's a scary experience, but it's perfectly normal to be scary. But I'll tell you what's amazing is how many cancers there are that are treatable, like my testicular cancer that has such a high cure rate. And I realize that there's a lot of cancers that don't have that high of a cure rate, but that's why it's so important to go in for your wellness exams and early detection is key. There are so many cancers that are so treatable if you could just catch it early.

Gifts for Cancer Patients

You know, some of the greatest gifts that you can give someone going through cancer treatment are things like blankets, warm blankets, a comfy pillow to put your head on, a comfy pair of shoes, comfy shirts, especially those shirts that are big and make it easy to access your port. That's something that's pretty important. You know, comfy pants, maybe a book with a word puzzle, hard candies, little snacks. Those are some of the best things that you could give a cancer patient. It really, really helps them.

Life before Condition

Before I experienced my first symptoms of testicular cancer life was pretty normal. You know, you get up, you go to work, you come home, have dinner, hang-out with the family, kind of work for the weekends so you can go out and do things, maybe go to a movie. I mean, life was just a normal life, not anything special, just normal, fun, having a good time, and then you find out that you have cancer.

Metastases

My cancer was metastic, but it only left its original spot of origin and traveled up through the lymph nodes, so I didn't have anything invade any other organs, like my lungs or liver or anything like that. It pretty much stayed in my lymphatic system. I think I had three tumors in total. One was a 10-centimeter tumor in my abdomen, and then a four-centimeter tumor in my chest. And I think they found another small one in there. That was my understanding.

Place of Care

I received all of my treatment through Texas Oncology here in Plano, and I think probably what I liked most about it was how they treated me. I didn't ever feel like I was a patient. They treated me as a person. Any time that I would make a phone call after hours, I mean, it was amazing. Within a few minutes I had a phone call back, and the doctor was addressing any concerns that I have. If I was having trouble with my nausea and the medicine I had wasn't working, it was amazing how quickly he could get a prescription called in for something else to try. My doctor had a nurse, and she was, I guess, my primary source of contact there at the office, but I also had an infusion nurse. And I don't know that I could've had a better infusion nurse. She knew exactly how I liked to receive my chemo. And if you've ever had a port in your chest you know that once you finish your treatment you've got to be flushed. And having my port flushed was something I just absolutely couldn't stand. I did not like the way it felt, and there was a particular way that I wanted it done. Well, she paid very close attention to that, and every day that she would flush my port it was exactly the way that I wanted it done. So they just took time out to listen to you, try to do everything they can to make it as easy of a process as possible. I'll tell you, I couldn't have had a better set of people to be treated by.

Side Effects

The side effects that I experienced were pretty standard for chemotherapy. Quite a bit of nausea, vomiting. I also developed neuropathy pretty bad in both my hands and my feet, and once I completed chemo I couldn't feel the bottoms of both feet. I get tingly sensations in my arms and my hands. Even to this day, I'm still having to take medication for the neuropathy. The nausea and vomiting, you know, it seems as though they only really want to control the vomiting, because the nausea is going to kind of be there. And they give you some pretty good medication to help control that stuff, so the vomiting wasn't as bad as it could've been, but it was still an issue. Those were probably the most common side effects I had. Also, hair loss. I'm already bald, so that wasn't too awful shocking for me. I did have some emotional thoughts once the hair started falling out from my chin, from my face, but other than that it's pretty standard textbook side effects I'd say for the chemo that I received.

State of Condition

As of today I'm officially in remission. I'm required to go in for follow-ups. I actually was just going in every two months. They just moved it up to every three months, where I'll have blood work and a chest X-ray. And I won't have another CT scan unless something looks kind of fishy with my blood work or he sees something on the chest X-ray that he doesn't like. But, yeah, right now I'm officially in remission.

Symptoms

You know, as far as symptoms of testicular cancer, I don't know that I really had any. I went to the doctor one day because I had this pain, well, not really pain. It was more like pressure in my side. And they suspected that it might be my gallbladder, so they sent me over to this imaging place, and they did an ultrasound, and the tech saw something that they thought could either be an aneurysm or a significant amount of fluid on my kidney and said, either way, she wasn't going to let me leave until I had a CT scan done. So we started the process of drinking the contrast and an hour later went in and had the CT scan done. And they said, "Well, the doctor will call you." And so we went from "Well, you might have an aneurysm about to explode in your stomach because of the size of it" to "Well, the doctor will call you." That wasn't really good enough, so we went up to my doctor's office, who already had the results of the CT scan, and he told us that my gallbladder was fine, but they found a 10-centimeter mass in my abdomen and a four centimeter mass in my chest. And of course that was on a Friday night, so we went the entire weekend not really knowing what to think. All I knew at that point was that I had cancer. So my doctor promised me that over the weekend it would become his mission to make sure that I had an appointment at Texas Oncology the first thing Monday morning. And sure enough, first thing Monday morning my phone rings, and they want to see me immediately. But once we talked to the oncologist, of course, he couldn't tell us anything, and he ran the standard blood tests and decided that the best thing to do was going to be to have a biopsy done of the mass in my abdomen. So a couple of weeks later after we finally did the whole "Go to this doctor, then get scheduled for the biopsy, have the biopsy," that's when we found out that I had what was called extragonadal pure seminoma, which happens, from what I understand, maybe one to four percent of the time. It's a pretty rare type of testicular cancer because of the way it forms outside of the testicles.

Treatment Decisions

Normally with pure seminoma, radiation is sufficient enough to eliminate the cancer. The problem that I had was that the size of the tumor in my abdomen and then having another one or two in my chest he would have to irradiate too large of an area, in which case that would be pretty toxic to my system. So the only option was chemotherapy. He did the PET scan that you do to see if it had invaded any other organs, especially the lungs, and once he determined that there was no disease in the lungs then we went with etoposide and cisplatin. Had there been evidence of disease in my lungs, then we would've had to use bleomycin as well, but luckily we were able to at least eliminate one chemo from my cocktail.

WhatNext

WhatNext is a great place to be. I mean, if you're a family member of someone that's going through cancer it's a great place to go to get first-hand information from people that have been there. They really take you in under their wing and make you feel like you're part of the family. There's tons of resources available that they set-up that is unique to your cancer type. And it's amazing how all this information is available in one place and easily accessible. And then if you do have any problems trying to find out some information, then there's always someone there to step up and say "Hey, what can I help you with?"

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