By the ripe age of 29, I had suffered every hit to the groin imaginable. Fists, feet, randomly thrown objects, baseballs, tennis balls, soccer balls. I had fallen on my man parts, hit them on corners at work, and yes, even zipped them up once. Come on dudes, everyone can admit to this a least once, right? I had also had my two wild berries subjected to x-rays, lead, and numerous cleaning chemicals used in the food-service business, that are known to affect the reproductive organs. By the age of 29, it was amazing that I wasn’t already sterile.
September 11, 2012
As if the date wasn’t haunting enough as it is, this day would come to be doubly infamous to myself and my family. Back up about 4 months prior to this date when I first noticed swelling in my left testicle. Google the symptoms and possible outcomes for swollen testicle and you’ll find a plethora of causes. At the time, I just thought it was something random as I was in no pain, and figured it would eventually go away on its own. To some degree, the swelling would go down, then come back. During that time I was checked out in the ER for chest pain. Both times, I was told that the x-rays found infiltrates, suggesting I was developing the early stages of emphysema. At this point in my life, I was smoking almost 2 packs a day. Four months later, I would start having pain in my back on that same side. I also started noticing a dull pain in that testicle. Putting together the rising symptoms, including massive weight loss over those few months, the time came to finally go see a doctor.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I hate doctors. I try my best to avoid them at all cost. So for me to make the decision to see one, something had to really be bothering me. On the way to the ER that morning I started having a very unsettling feeling come over me. I told my wife on the drive over that I was pretty scared and there was a chance I might be leaving that hospital with one less testicle. Little did I know how right I would be.
Immediately after the physical examination of the affected man bits, I was sent for an ultrasound. I knew by the faces of the technicians that things were starting to go very sour for me that day. Stone faced and silent as they snapped picture after picture, and even gasped at times. Right after the ultrasound, I was sent for a CT scan. I wasn’t explained why, but at that point, they didn’t have to. I knew something was seriously wrong. My wife had left to go pick the kids up from school so I returned from the CT to an empty ER holding room. Ten minutes later, I would receive the hardest kick in the balls I had ever had in my life.
“Mr. Taylor, is your wife here?” the doctor asked. After explaining she was away to pick the kids up, the doctor continued. “I wish she was here, but I can’t wait a single moment to tell you. The ultrasound found a large mass in the left testicle. The CT confirmed that you also have numerous masses in your abdomen, the lymph nodes in the left leg and groin, and covering your lungs. Mr. Taylor, I cannot give you a specific diagnosis or prognosis, but in my professional opinion, you need to notify your family as soon as possible, and be prepared for the worst. Hope for the best, fight for the best, but be prepared.” I sat there in a stunned silence, unable to cry, unable to blink. I asked in a hushed voice, “You’re telling me it’s cancer?” The doctor choked up a bit, wiped a tear from her eye, and said “I can’t tell you what kind, but yes, it’s cancer.”
At 29 years old, I had seen, heard, and done a lot of things. Some of which rocked me to my core, some of which may have helped me prepare for rough roads I would face in the future. But nothing, nothing I had ever experienced in my life before, could have prepared me for this. As Herbie Mann once said: “When you get cancer, it’s like really time to look at what your life was and is, and I decided that everything I have done so far is not as important as what I’m going to do now.” How true that is. Everything I had faced in my past was nothing compared to this. The official diagnosis I received: Stage IIIb testicular cancer.
What would follow would be the most trying 4 months of my life. Three surgeries, 52 bags of chemotherapy medicine, too many medicines to count, a fight against nearly fatal blood clots, and over a year of recovery. Today, I proudly stand 9 months in remission. The only thing that cancer managed to steal from me was my left testicle, and the awesome beard I had at the time. The hardest kick in the balls I ever received is now an experience that will last a lifetime. It is one that has changed my life and the life of my family forever. But from the hurt we rose. We fought together, we won together. And we stand stronger together now.
**For more information about testicular cancer, including signs, symptoms, and how to self-exam, please visit the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation**