My brother Matthew was diagnosed with Germ Cell Cancer in February of 1992 and unfortunately passed away in February of 1993. He was 19 when he was diagnosed and 20 when he passed away. One of the last things he said to me about his cancer was not to get mad but to get even, and to make sure that I did everything I could to make sure that no one else suffered the way that he did.
Matthew was in the Army stationed in Germany at the time of his diagnosis. He was coughing up blood while out on maneuvers and was sent immediately to the hospital where his cancer was diagnosed. It was a choriocarcinoma. It was never in his testicles, it metastasized directly to his sternum and lungs.
After he was diagnosed, he was medevaced to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC where he went through several regimens of chemo. These trials of BEP unfortunately failed, and he was retired from the Army at the ripe old age of 19 and sent home to Chicago. I called the National Cancer Institute what seemed like daily to find out about other treatments, and they put us in touch with Dr. Einhorn at IU and Dr. George Bosl at Sloan Kettering. It was very unfortunate that, because of the nature of his cancer and the fact that he had had a metastases to the brain, he was ineligible for their experimental treatments. One of which was a bone marrow transplant where his own bone marrow would be used - experimental then, and very common today only 4 years later...our last hope was a clinical trial at the University of Alabama utilizing Monoclonal Antibody Therapy and it was not successful.
Matthew came home from Alabama in January more sick than he was when he left. His health declined rather quickly and on January 29 he was admitted to the hospital for the last time. He was bleeding internally, and as quickly as they would transfuse him he would need more blood. I do not believe that until his last hours on earth that Matthew believed he would die. Finally after 24 hours of aerobic breathing and lungs comprised of more cancer than healthy tissue, Matthew finally let go at 12:40am on February 4, 1993.
I have followed the therapies to the best of my abilities since Matt's death, and I know that Dr. George Bosl at Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York City has done some great research and that at least one of the experimental treatments is now a fully usable therapy. That is the bone marrow replacement. This is when you have your own healthy marrow removed, then are given massive doses of chemo and then given your own healthy marrow back. I have always wondered if this would have saved Matt, but since it is helping other people, I am happy. [Editor's Note: I am sorry to say that even now it is unlikely that anything could have been done. Extragonadal mediastinal choriocarcinomas are bad tumors, and this one was very advanced.]
Matthew is survived by his Mother, Ginny, brothers Tommy (33), David (29), Mark (22) and me (31) as well as his estranged father. He was a strong, willful, caring and smart kid. He was a talented artist and writer with a flair for kind of a D&D type artwork and writing - very fantasy oriented. We love him very much and we also miss him immensely. We used to say he was tough as nails with a heart of gold. He would act very tough on the outside, but would never hurt a flea. He went on a camping trip in high school and during the course of the trip, he was given the nickname MOSES because of his leadership abilities. His friends confided in him often, and he was always there to listen to them. He was very spiritual and very intelligent.
He joined the Army initially to pay for college because asking his father for the money was not appropriate. Even once he was retired from the Army in September of 1992, he began to immediately look at college catalogs for schools he would attend with his retirement money. His bravery and courage while facing this disease was truly heroic. His heroism gives me strength every day to face the mundane challenges of everyday life.
I know that there are a lot of young men afflicted with this disease every year and many many who survive - I pray that everyone can be cured. I really want as many people as possible to get to know Matthew, he was a special guy who died way too young and he would have impacted many many more lives had he lived, and maybe he will impact people even after his death.
We found out only after Matt was diagnosed that he was in a high risk group for developing TC due to the fact that he had a hernia as a tiny baby. Other risk factors include undescended testicles, and trauma to that area. His pediatrician never warned my mother (of 4 boys) of any of these risk factors. Matt only knew about self exams because he was in the military and they went over it occasionally with all the young men and encouraged self exam. I strongly believe that there are a lot of young men out there who die of this disease each year but there is little attention, and therefore little research funding (that is my own personal conclusion) given to cure this disease. [Editor's Note: I am only guessing, but I believe that his tumor started outside of the testicles, and self exams would not have helped and neither his hernia nor undescended testicles had anything to do with his illness.]
As I said earlier, one of the last things Matthew said on one of his last days on earth was "Don't get mad, get even, and make sure that no one else has to go through this..."