July 1, 2001

Karen's TC Story

My husband Mike (age 36) and I (age 35) had been trying to conceive for around 8 or 9 months when October 2000 rolled around. We had actually been pregnant in December of 1999, but lost the baby due to a miscarriage. We had waited three months and decided to try again starting in March of 2000. When 8 or 9 months had passed (which brings us to late Sept. or early October 2000), we started having conversations about him getting his sperm checked. If by chance we had been trying for a year and had not been successful, we would at least have this information. We were sure that his sperm was fine, but he decided that to ease my mind, he would have it checked.

That conversation took place on Wednesday, October 4th 2000. Little did I know that in just two days, our lives would be changed in a way we had never imagined. Mike came home from work on Thursday, October 5th and announced that he had made "the appointment" to get his sperm checked. He also decided at that point to share with me that he had been noticing a swelling in his right testicle and that he would bring that up at the doctor's appointment also.

I wondered how long he had noticed this swelling, and he was sure it had only been a few days. (We would find out later that really he may have been noticing it for even longer than that... lots longer!). We searched the internet that evening to look up possible causes of swollen testicles. There were numerous things it could be including cysts, hernias, twisted testicles, etc... When I came across information regarding testicular cancer, I told Mike that I thought he should at least call his mom (who lives three hours away and worries endlessly about things) to see if they had any history of testicular cancer in his family "just in case" the doctor asked him that tomorrow. His first response was that we would just be worrying his mom for no reason. Finally, I convinced him to call and we were relieved to find that there was no history (little did we know that they aren't even sure that has anything to do with it) in his family. Of course, his mom was worried, but believed as we did, that it was probably something minor and he would just get medicine for it.

Friday, October 6th Mike was scheduled to see his doctor on the way home from work around 4:00. I didn't even think about going with him because we were sure it would not be anything serious. When I got home from work about 6:30, Mike was still not home. I was beginning to think this was a little odd and felt a pit in my stomach. By 7:00 I was sure he had just stopped off somewhere to pick something up and was aggravated that he at least had not called.

I kept thinking about the fact that it was a Friday and doctors offices don't stay open this late on a Friday, so he must be on his way. Shortly after 7:00, I heard the garage door and decided to meet him. I could see his face through the windsheild and I suspected something was terribly wrong. As he approached me on the steps into the house, he seemed weak and pale. From this point on, my head began to whirl.

He explained that our family doctor had examined him at his office and had sent him right over to a urologist. The Urologist had immediately ordered an ultrasound based on what he was feeling in Mike's testicle. The ultrasound confirmed it, and before Mike knew it, they were talking to him about cancer, surgery, etc... As he relayed this story to me, all I could think of was what it must have felt like to hear that kind of news all by himself and then to have to tell me. We held each other and cried for a long time. We called his mom and dad to share the news.

I am not sure whether it was shock or survival mode, but once we got ourselves together that very night, we headed to the nearest bookstore to look up as much information on TC as we could. We did not explore the internet that night... we needed to look it up in a book for some reason. We educated ourselves as best we could that night because we knew we would be talking to the urologist the next morning, and we wanted to be informed enough to ask the right questions.

We spoke with our urologist on Saturday, October 7th for quite some time. Basically we found out that Mike needed surgery on Monday, Oct. 9th and that they would not know what stage it was at or what kind it was (seminoma or nonseminoma) until a few days later. That was the worst news to hear... that we were going to have to wait to know any real answers.

Monday, Oct. 9th Mike had surgery to remove his right testicle. He remained in such good spirits and with such strong faith. He was a witness of the power of faith to everyone who met him. They sent him home that night and told me to keep an eye on the swelling. After two days, the swelling looked worse to me, so they had me bring him in and found he had a large blood clot and they were going to have to do yet another surgery to remove the clot.

The next week was filled with appointments for CT scans, more surgery, meeting with the urologist, finding an oncologist, talking with a fertility specialist about banking sperm, praying, praying and more praying, looking on the internet, talking to friends, etc...

By October 14th we had some wonderful news! It was a stage I Seminoma. They would be treating it with radiation. We would be banking sperm just in case the radiation rendered Mike infertile. Once we found out that it was at a stage that was highly curable, we began to wonder about our future with having children.

Unfortunately, within a week, Mike had yet another blood clot and went through one more surgery. All of these extra surgeries were putting off the radiation. We had both been out of work for over two weeks (I am a first grade teacher so I was trying to write lesson plans for kids who I barely knew yet because it was so early in the year). Fortunately, Mike's parents stayed with us and we had so many friends and neighbors bringing us meals that it helped with all of the other daily routines.

By November we had made progress. Mike would begin his radiation in early November. He had banked a lot of sperm (enough for 12 kids!) and he did not have any more blood clots. We had found a great oncologist and our urologist was also wonderful. We had met with a fertility specialist and decided that, since our oncologist had told us that we would not be able to try and start a family again for 6 months from his last day of radiation, we would try some inseminations with the banked sperm for those 6 months. If we were 28 years old, that would not have been the recommendation. But we were 35 and 36 and so 6 more months of trying nothing was a long time.

We have done 5 inseminations and they were all unsuccessful. In April of 2001, we decided to stop for a couple of months because we didn't want to use up all of the sperm. We knew that in July 2001, Mike would be tested again to see if his remaining testicle was producing enough sperm and enough high quality sperm, or if it had been to affected by the radiation.

That is where we stand now. It is July 1st and in a few days, Mike will be tested to see if his other testicle is producing healthy sperm and enough sperm. We are hopeful that it will be good news in a few days.

My version will probably be different from Mike's in the fact that I did not go into detail about what he went through as far as drinking a horrible tasting liquid prior to his very uncomfortable CT scan or talking about the details of radiation and the metal "clam shell" he had to wear to protect the very testicle that will be tested.

I can tell you however, that watching a best friend go through something like this is unbelievable. They are losing a part of themselves as when a woman loses a breast. They will go through some humiliating circumstances. But, with prayer and faith together, you will come through it. We did lots of praying and took time this last 6 months to build ourselves spiritually as individuals and as a couple. Mike had his first check-up in April and it was good. His next one is in the middle of July. We will be on pins and needles with each check-up until we feel more confident that it will not return or show up somewhere else.

I am sharing all of this in hopes that there may be someone looking for information frantically some late evening (as I did many times) and they will come across this story that might actually be close to theirs. We are both trying to turn what could be a negative situation into something positive.

Peace and God's love to all of you...Karen


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