Marc's TC story

June 1997

My story is not unusual, but perhaps it adds something to the other stories, because I do not live in the USA but in Holland. I'm now a 24 year old man. I have always been healthy. My hobbies are cycling and playing the trombone. I have always been cycling a lot here in Holland, and during my holidays often in the French alps. I have always been very interested in professional cycling (like in the Tour de France), and Lance Armstrong was one of the men I admired a lot. It was strange to hear he had cancer. But three months later it was even stranger to hear I was suffering the same disease.

In early November 1996 my left testicle had a bit pain. I had slight problems cycling and sitting. I did it with my legs a bit spread. The pain disappeared after a few days. But afterwards I felt a little lump in my left testicle. Because I had no more pain at all, I didn't take any further action. At the end of November 1996 I graduated from the Delft University of Technology, and in early December 1996 I started sharing rooms with my girlfriend. By chance Tuesday, December 10, I had my first meeting with a new family doctor. I thought: why not, let's tell her about the lump in my testicle. She felt the lump, and did not say what she thought it was, because she was not sure. She made an appointment for me on Friday, December 13 with the urologist in the Reinier de Graaf Gasthuis, the Delft hospital.

That Friday I went to the hospital on my bike, not suspecting anything. The urologist felt the lump and told me right away that he was almost sure there was a tumor in there. I was terrified, but didn't panic. The urologist wanted to do surgery the same day. No more eating and drinking from now on. But first I had to have an ultrasound to check if there was indeed a tumor. I could see it myself on the monitor: there was a mass in my left testicle. I called my girlfriend. She came to the hospital as soon as possible. When she arrived, the urologist told us about the surgery. My left testicle would be removed. I agreed.

I had to give some blood, and I was given a bed in the hospital. I called my parents, who do not live in my neighbourhood, to tell them what was going on. A nurse shaved a part of my private hair. Now I had to wait until they called me to go to the OR. Tears for the first time. About three o'clock they drove my to the OR. I decided to have an epidural (lower back) block by getting a needle in my spine. That was the recommended anesthesia. It didn't hurt at all. I also got a dazing remedy, so that I wouldn't be aware of the operation 100%. My left testicle was removed through the groin (inguinal orchiectomy).

The operation went without problems. After about an hour I was back in my room. I was still a bit dazed. From the waist down I was still blocked. That's a really strange feeling. You can't move your legs or feet. They are very heavy. If you touch your leg, it's like you are touching something that's not yours, because the leg doesn't feel the hand touching. The feeling returned slowly. After visiting hours my girlfriend went home as well, and I stayed alone.

I got a pain-killer, because of the wound. I slept well, and the next day around 11 o'clock I left the hospital. I had to walk carefully, and I was not allowed to carry heavy things. That Monday I had to make my first CT-scan -- I got diarrhea from the contrast. I was very happy when I heard there was no spreading. According to the pathology report the tumor was malignant, seminoma, stage I (confined to the testicle). I had been very lucky, because I had this first meeting with my new family doctor, otherwise I would perhaps still be walking around, unaware of the cancer.

In January 1997 I had my next appointment in the Dijkzigt Hospital in Rotterdam. The oncologist offered me a choice: either I could go through the standard treatment for my type of cancer: radiotherapy, or I could cooperate in a European research-program. In the latter case I would get an alternative treatment with chemo.

Intuitively I choose the standard treatment. This treatment is one for safety: there is no visible spreading, but for safety a radiation treatment is often recommended. January 20, I got my first radiation to the abdominal lymph nodes. I had treatments 5 days a week for three weeks. The first day I got very sick, and vomited several times. The next three days were the same: vomiting and feeling very, very sick. I completely lost my appetite. The radiologist now gave me the strongest medicine called Zofran from Glaxo, and it did the work. No more vomiting, and my appetite returned. -- but I lost about 10 pounds. Next symptom: constipation from Zofran. I had no skin reactions.

During the radiation I got all the cooperation from my work at the Delft University of Technology. Now I'm in the cycle of making chest x-rays, CT scans and blood tests. All results are negative until now. Testicular cancer seldom recurs after a patient has been free of the disease for 3 years. That's a positive outlook. At the moment I'm not depressed at all. Only seldom do I even think about the cancer. My only concern is that the cancer also occurs in the other testicle and I can't have kids anymore. But I know that chance is very small.

Six months out and I'm very much back to most of my normal lifestyle. I'm back to cycling (but I lost a lot of conditioning!), I'm back to playing the trombone and I'm back to work 100% Sometimes I feel a bit tired. I've had great family and friends, and best off all: a great girlfriend.

Something funny at the end of this story: a few days ago I was shopping when something was going to be announced via the intercom. It started with that well known three-tone signal. It made me feel unpleasant, because it was the same signal I heard when the radiation-machine started to it's work!


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