Updated August 9, 2003
Hello, my name is Jerry. I am 35 years old. I am not very skilled at writing stories, but I will do my best to share my TC Experience with you.
November of 2000 was the start of some very trying times for me. I had just separated from my wife Michelle of 8 years. I was taking some pretty difficult engineering classes for my degree. I was also working a lot of hours at my job where things were hectic as well. In any event I just kept plugging away. I decided to add some more exercises to my workout to hopefully relieve some of the stress I was undergoing. I had always watched what I ate (I had and still do believe in eating to live and not living to eat), so adding some more weight/exercise to my routine would be just the thing for me.
About a week or so later I felt this little discomfort down there. Well, actually a bit above that area. At first I didn't pay much attention to it. But as time went on, it got worse. Nothing like having something else to worry about. I thought no, not a hernia. I was devastated at the thought! After all, I didn't just start a rigorous exercising routine after being a couch potato for the past 20 years. Oh well, time to set up an appointment with my doctor.
I ended up putting off the appointment with my doctor for a few weeks because I couldn't get an appointment that fit my already hectic schedule. About this time the pain had gotten much worse. I was actually starting to develop excruciating pain in my lower back as well! At that point I decided to take whatever appointment I could get.
At the doctors office the nurse that took the typical vital sign stuff said that I had "very" high blood pressure! I thought wait, there must be some mistake. Neither my immediate family members nor I had ever had high blood pressure. Then the doctor did an examination on me. I explained to him that I thought I had a hernia. But I also told him about all the research I did on the Internet about all types of hernias, none of which I had. He told me that he couldn't Find any signs of a hernia. Part of me was relieved, but then another part of me was not. He thought it would be a good idea to schedule me for an ultra sound just to be on the safe side.
A few days later I found myself in the hospital getting some of that jelly stuff applied on my body. It almost reminded me of the same procedure that pregnant women get. In fact it was almost in the same area. So the lady (a younger woman) proceeded and as she went along, I began to watch the expression on her face. She already had some what of a frown on her face to begin with (you know, one of those real "nice" hospitable type of folks), but then the frown seem to worsen. So I dreadfully asked is there a problem Ms, did you find something wrong? She said, "I can't tell you what I see. You have to wait for your doctor to tell you".
A couple of days later (a couple of long days) I received a call at work from my doctor. He said that the ultra sound showed a large mass (about the size of a softball) just below my Pancreas. At that point, time sort of stopped for me. I asked "Is it cancer?" He said he did not know. They would have to perform a biopsy to find out.
After I hung up the phone nothing seem to bother me. I don't know if I went instantly into some sort of denial or something? After all they didn't know at that point if it was cancer or not. And people that exercise, watch what they eat, don't get cancer anyway, right? Wrong!
A few days later I found myself in the hospital for overnight observation. The pain was getting much worse. I couldn't sleep. I started to lose my appetite. That evening at the hospital the doctor called and said he as well as 2 other doctors would be in the next morning to see me (an Oncologist and a Urologist) . I had no idea what an Oncologist or Urologist was.
So the next morning the BOMB had dropped on me. After a full day of more ultrasounds, and a CT Scan, I found out that I had Testicular Cancer. Talk about denial. I guess I wasn't really in denial. I guess I went through a lot of the other thoughts though. You know, why me, it's not fair, and a few others. But I guess mostly I was in shock. I never cried although I thought I was supposed to. A few days later my left testicle was removed. Usually that was the end of it. But since my cancer had spread (remember the big softball that was still under my Pancreas), I was considered stage III. This meant that the cancer had spread considerably to other regions of my body.
So that meant for the next several months I would undergo "aggressive" chemotherapy. Or as I called it, having nail polish remover pumped through your veins. Cisplatin, VP-16, and Bleomycin would be a major part of my diet for the next several months. One week with all three beverages, two weeks off with just Bleomycin, and do this for four cycles.
The oncologist decided to get started right away. So approximately the second week of December 2000, I would receive my first week of treatments in the hospital. The nurse at the hospital showed me a couple of videos on chemo, which didn't tell me anything more (Or as much) than this site already had. Shortly after the video, my fist treatment would begin.
For the next several months I would be poked with more needles than many in their lifetime (times 2!). The first few hours didn't seem so bad if I remember correctly. The pain I was experiencing in my lower extremities was beginning to diminish. Then the next day I began to get that "taste" in my mouth. The urine that I expelled, which seemed like every 10min (because they had to keep my kidneys flushed) smelled awful. A horrible smell I can't even begin to describe. Then the nausea began to set in along with ringing in my ears, which to this day I haven't been able to get rid of. (If anyone out there is having the same ringing in their ears because of chemo or has had it, I would be grateful if you'd share your experience with me.)
By the 4th day I felt awful. I believe I thought at the time that I wanted to trade the pain back for this other shit. My oncologist came to see me that morning, and I begged him to release me from the hospital. He agreed and instructed me to take the remaining 2-day treatments at one of his 2 facilities. (Even though my wife and I were separated at this point and discussing a divorce, she put all that aside to be there for me every step of the way. Michelle, I can't thank you enough for that).
So I called Michelle and asked her if there was anyway she could come and get me out of here. Even though she was about to leave for her new job, she came to get me instead without hesitation. Within a couple of hours I was on my way back to my apartment. I felt awful. I wanted to throw up, but couldn't. I could barely walk. I just wanted to be unconscious or something not to feel this way.
For a short time I thought I wasn't going to go through with this whole thing. But Michelle and later my oncologist talked me back into it. He said you have 2 choices, Chemo or die from Cancer. I thought about my 5-year-old daughter Sarah. I figured she probably would like to have me around a bit longer. So off to the clinic we went (Michelle driving of course). When we got there, the place was packed. There was one chair left at the sign in window. I proceeded to slowly walk over and fall into it. Slouched over like a wino in a back ally, we waited and waited and waited. I whispered to Michelle, "if they don't call us in shortly, let's get the hell out of here". Eventually we where called in.
There I met my administering nurse, Cathy, for the first time. She was this vibrant, persevering, type of person. She asked me one or two questions I think, but I was too out of it to remember what they where. Before I knew it the needle was in me, and I soon passed out for several hours I believe. When I awoke I didn't seem to feel as bad as I thought I might. I was convinced that Cathy had the magic touch.
Over the next few months/chemo cycles we experienced a very cold winter (even for Pittsburgh, Pa). I did not take to well to the winter with an already weakened immune system. Not to mention I had to go to work on a part time basis throughout this whole ordeal. I would have nights (especially right after the Bleomycin treatments) where I would get a high fever and chills. Chills so bad that I wore a coat, hat, covered myself with a sleeping bag, turned the furnace all the way up, and still kept shivering. Then Mr. Pneumonia decides to pay me a visit for a month or so. I had a cough that was so bad that I couldn't complete a sentence without coughing. That went on for over a month as well. Oh yes, I couldn't taste anything either for about a month (it was probably best that I didn't, because at that time I hated the way things tasted anyway).
But no matter how bad it got, I still kept eating only good foods (that is, when I would/could eat). I drank as much water as I could too. I believe that is all that I drank. I think over all, I lost about 25 pounds, which is a lot for my small frame. The ringing in Both of my ears was, and to this day is, driving me crazy. Having a tremendous love for music that I have, and being a part time musician, it makes the ringing in the ear thing hard to take. I forgot to mention that by the second treatment Michelle gave me a crew cut. It felt like I was in the Army again. After I got the hair cut, I thought maybe I was a bit premature in getting it cut. Maybe the hair wouldn't fall out, wrong again! A short time later I began to notice all these little red hairs on my pillow when I woke up in the morning. Oh well, I never liked red hair anyway.
The second week of March was the last cycle. And a few days later I would have a CT Scan performed again. I barely got through this time though with out throwing up. You know, that stuff you have to drink and pump in you to get the image. All that and still feeling the effects of the chemo, but I wouldn't miss this for the world.
After the test I wanted to know the results right then and there. So I talked an intern into going over the results with me on the spot. We both looked at the images on the illuminating wall. She said that she saw something near my pancreas but wasn't sure what to make of it. She said that the other doctors would have to compare these scans with the earlier ones.
I thought to myself, it's still there. The cancer is still there. So I proceeded to thank her for going out of her way to show me the images. That night I called Michelle and told her the news. We were both devastated. I told her that we would have to keep calm and wait until at least tomorrow to talk to the oncologist who would be able to give us all of the details. The next day I called the doctors office as soon as it opened. I wanted to tell Cathy what the intern had told me. And she told me basically the same thing I told Michelle, that we would have to wait for the doctors to review both the pre-chemo scans and the post. Late that afternoon she called me back and told me that the scans were clear. So to get to the point, that remaining mass that exists is believed to be scar tissue or a "dead tumor". That was in late March of 2001.
And now mid to late July, my second post-chemo scan showed the same results. Is this the end of cancer for me? I certainly don't know, the doctors don't know, I don't think anyone on this earth knows. Since that time I put some weight back on, I am starting to Exercise once again, and I am starting to grow some hair back (the people I work with like to call my new hair color a shit brown with a touch of gray mixed in)
Except for the 3 inch scar, one less testicle, and the horrible ringing in my ears (which by the way no one can seem to tell me if the ringing will go away or not), I am pretty much back to normal. And again, if anyone out there can shed some light on the ear ringing thing one way or another, I would be forever grateful.
I wanted to thank Michelle, my daughter Sarah, Brian, Cathy, and the guy (at this moment I forget his name) who invented the technology that kept me from dying.
Well, it has been years since my last chemo treatment and I am still here! Had a CT scan performed about a month or so ago and all seems normal. Occasionally I do get "phantom" pains in that area but I believe mostly it is due to the stress I place on myself. I wish I could say that the tinitus has subsided, but unfortunately it is as strong as ever. Though I am not currently involved in a relationship, I do wonder if I will be able to ever have children again besides my daughter with my former wife. Don't get me wrong, I cherish the relationship that I have with her and feel fortunate that I have this, but at 37 I do think about it. I think about you somewhat younger guys out there who may have had this cancer and don't have any children at all at the moment. I truly hope that someday, after this is all behind you that you will father a child.
I have pretty much stuck to a very healthy diet (as well as exercise) before, during, and now even more so after my treatments. I believe that this has helped me. Although I wish I could some how control the stress. If you read my first "story", I was currently in one of the most stressful times of my life when I was diagnosed with TC. Though my doctors will deny this, I truly believe this contributed at least a small part to my illness in some way shape or form.
What lies in my future regarding my TC experience, I don't know. I realize that some have experienced their cancer ordeal much worse than I and some not as bad. All I can do is keep getting the checkups, taking care of myself (at least what I have control of), and living my life the best I can. Some day I hope to fall in love again, get married, and who knows, maybe have a "miracle" child.
Whoever out there is currently going through this, my thoughts and hopes are sincerely with you. If you ever need to communicate to someone about it, vent, or whatever, drop me a line. I may not have any answers for you but I will at least have an idea of what you are going through. Just remember, no matter how dark or hopeless it may seem there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Do I still think about my TC Experience? Yeah, each and every day. Thanks for reading my story.
P.S. GO LANCE !!!