This post is based on a collection of emails I sent to my friends while this whole thing went down. Please feel free to share this with anyone you want to to and who you think would like to know. I’m happy for anyone to know, I’ve just chosen to be intentional in the way I have shared the news.
The latest update (at the bottom) is from the 27 March.
Here’s to beating cancer.
Tuesday – 22 February
I’m not really sure on the protocol here in terms of letting friends know about this type of thing (it hasn’t happened to me before), but I’ve always tended to prefer communication over not. So here goes: After noticing some changes over the past fortnight, I saw my doctor last week and had an ultrasound on Friday. It would seem that I have testicular cancer. Yeah, the news was a bit of a surprise to me too.
It went a little bit like this: Two weeks ago, I noticed that one of my testicles was feeling noticeably swollen, and I went to see the doctor about it on Thursday just gone. This resulted in an ultrasound Friday midday before receiving one of those phone calls from the doctor’s receptionist where you are told that the doctor would like to see you today, and when you ask what time she might be available you are told that she will see you as soon as you can get there, the sooner the better. As you have probably figured out, her urgency had something to do with the results of the ultrasound.
I had a comprehensive set of CT scans Monday morning (yesterday) before an appointment with my new (!) specialist in the afternoon. It was a big day but the news was not all bad. A quick summary: The cancer markers in my blood are definitive – my “beta-HCG” level is off the chart – it should read under 2 normally and I read 1,134 at the moment – the good side of this is that they can monitor this level over the coming weeks and it will be good news as it comes down. The CT scans show no definitive evidence of metastatic disease – that is, it does not look like the cancer has spread beyond my testis yet – this does not mean that there is no spread at all but does mean that it has not spread a lot (yet). There are some items which the radiologist was not sure about and might indicate problem areas. The upshot is that I go into Hollywood shortly to have my right testicle removed later today. The pathologist will examine the cancer cells in detail once it has been removed and I will likely need some form of chemotherapy depending on the pathology and ongoing blood test results.
Just like that.
On a personal level, many of you will know of my strong Christian faith and the way that this shapes much of how I think and (attempt to) behave. I’ve only had several days so far to let this sink in (and I don’t know how it will play out yet), but despite the “c” word being extremely confronting I feel a measure of what I describe as peace in the how this episode of my life will play out. Having said that, one of my first responses was to catch up with my closest church friends and have them pray for me – I do believe in a healing God. Anyway, in the midst of something quite confronting at a personal level, and whatever your personal convictions on life the universe and everything, I welcome your thoughts and prayers.
For those of you who I ride with, this morning was my last ride for a while (hopefully, just a few weeks). Looking forward to seeing you out there soon.
Quite a week
Saturday – 27 February
It’s been quite a week, if I can put i that way. Thank you everyone for your prayers, cares and concerns. It has meant a huge amount to me to have so many friends who care.
I spoken to many of you but here is the latest full update: I had surgery late Tuesday to remove my right testicle, which was significantly enlarged and basically all tumour. The surgery went well from a cancer perspective and the doctor was happy with the result.
Except for one thing. When he was closing me up the doctor noticed some internal bleeding which he thought he then stopped. However, it turns out I had a reasonable sized internal bleed which resulting in a big haematoma. It turns out these can be quite painful. The good news is that this should recover fine, it has just added to the pain during recovery 🙁
I received back the pathology results on the tumour yesterday and the news is good. The specialist originally suspected that the tumour was a choriocarcinoma (which is a worse and more aggressive type of cancer) based upon the indicators in my blood. However, the pathology results show the cancer was a pure seminoma, which is a better outcome. The pathology results also confirm that the original site was contained and had not spread up the cord. This is all good news and means that I should only need a smaller set of chemotherapy treatment in about a months time when I’ve recovered from the surgery and haematoma. I still don’t know much about what the chemotherapy will be like, but I understand it will be nowhere near as harsh as some of my good friends have been going through in recent times.
I came home from hospital last night, which has actually made my life a bit harder in the short term – the hospital bed was pretty darn excellent and moving around is just painful and difficult at the moment. Oh well. Anyway, it looks like I’ll need to take it very easy for a little while as my body heals.
Here’s to beating cancer.
Sunday – 27 March
In starting to write this email, I started by looking at my last update email and realised that it was sent on 27/Feb – that makes it exactly a month ago. Sorry! I had not realised it was quite so long. Upon reflection, it does fit with how I have been feeling over the past several weeks – that is, a little overwhelmed. I have not felt overwhelmed in the sense of feeling everything crashing on top of me, but I have felt like I have not been able to get through all of the tasks and goals I have set myself. Perhaps it is not a bad thing that in this midst of recovering from my surgery, I have found that my body does not have the capacity that I have grown accustomed to expecting of it.
In particular, I have had some specific work-related things that I have been trying to accomplish before my chemotherapy this week, trying to prepare for the possibility that I may be seriously incapacitated for a period of time.
So the update is this: I’m doing better as I recover from the surgery but I am still in a fair amount of pain and still taking strong painkillers. The pain lasting this long is a bit of a surprise to me, but I understand that it is mainly related to the haematoma (results of internal bleeding after the surgery). I had an ultrasound on Thursday which showed that the haematoma is still quite large, measuring around 11 x 10cm. I see the surgeon on Tuesday, so will see what he thinks then.
After having met with my oncologist, the general cancer news is quite good. The doctors are reasonably confident that they have got all the cancer in my body, although some of the doubtful points in my scans mean they will keep a close eye on things and repeat the scans sooner than they might have otherwise. In terms of my chemotherapy, what I am having is referred to as “adjuvant chemotherapy”, which means that it is mainly targeted at preventing recurrence of the disease rather than treating any actual known cancer in my body at the present. I am told that statistically it reduces the chance of recurrence from 15% down to 3-4%, which sounds worthwhile to me – I may tell you otherwise in several weeks time 😉
Anyway, on Wednesday I go in to Hollywood for the day (not exactly sure how long) for my round of chemotherapy. I really don’t have much idea of what to expect in terms of how this will affect me, except that with only one round I am better off than many. My oncologist tells that I need to avoid lots of people as my risk of infection will be high, although I am allow to exercise with restriction (yeah!). We will see.
Thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers. I’ve said it before and will say it again – it has meant so much to me to have friends who care.
And thank you all so much for your messages and emails, I have appreciated every single one. I know there are some personal messages I have not responded to personally – yet.
Here’s to beating cancer.