May 25, 2001
My story begins, like I suppose many of these do, in the shower. I notice that sometimes in the shower my epididymis seems to swell and feel like an odd mass, and it always gives me a start when I forget about it - but this time, even after getting out of the shower, something felt strange on the lower left side of my left testicle, and examination of the right one revealed that this was unusual.
I'm a bit of a hypochondriac (okay, a lot of one: I have OCD, anxiety/stress, etc. etc. - it runs in the family, apparently), so I immediately leap to the bad conclusion that this is something serious, especially remembering my health teacher's exhortations.
I happened upon your site, and some others, and generally was cautiously optimistic that this wasn't a huge deal - whatever it was qualified as a "lump", I guess, but not much of one, and it wasn't very hard. It felt kind of like a cord. And I had been having an occasional soreness in the upper scrotum.
Long story short, I alternated over the next few days between saying "it's nothing" and "it's really, really serious - get it checked out". And I have to say, had it not been for the stories on your website (especially that of J.D. - rest in peace, J.D.), I probably wouldn't have had it checked at all. Heck, I'm in my twentieth year, I have no family history of cancer, no undescended testicles - I should be fine, I say to myself. I started to get more worried, a few days later, when I developed an awful cough and a horrible feeling in my upper chest. I didn't know if this was related to whatever was going on in my testicle, but I went to the ER anyway, where I was diagnosed with having a bad viral infection. While there, I decided to ask about this testicle thing - I was afraid to ask less out of embarrassment than fear of looking like a hypochondriac (which I am - I know, it's backwards). So I ask the nurse. She takes a look.
Hmmm? I ask if it's a swollen vein or something.
"Feels hard for a vein. You should have that checked out."
So I get a chest X-ray while I'm there, which was for my cold thing - nothing suspicious shows up there. Then the nurse says while I'm here I can have a doctor look at the testicle. Okay. He looks - doesn't find a problem. Results inconclusive. I'm a little bit heartened by that, and she gives me a urologist's referral, and tells me to get it looked at.
So, I have to see my family doctor about this chest problem again, because I'm still hoarse after three weeks, and am getting these occasional chest pains. While I'm there, I ask for a urologist referral. He says he'll look at it, and I say that's fine, but I want the referral anyway. So he just gives me the referral. Fine with me. I catch a lucky break and get a fairly immediate appointment.
I meet with the urologist a few days later, and we have a bit of a chat about the whole thing. He doesn't know I've been spending my nights as an internet testicular cancer researching, trying to figure out if I have something that serious, and he basically tells me a few things I already know, tells me not to worry about it, asks me to cough a few times (which turns out to have been a good thing - more later), and gets me an ultrasound for the next afternoon.
However, in the afternoon, after going to the urologist, I'm just sitting watching TV when I have a horrible, horrible cough. I go up to spit out what I presume is phlegm and see blood all over the place.
(Surprisingly enough, and this is a bit of a side-track of interest for those of you with anxiety problems: this was not when my anxiety really kicked in - that came a few hours later. My immediate response to this rather unexpected and frightening event was: "it's nothing". That's the whole delay, deny, then panic effect some of you who have stress problems may notice, or those of you without stress problems who worry about things like TC before being diagnosed.)
That night I call the family physician, get a prescription for some doxycycline (after accidentally getting a prescription for erythromycin, which I'm allergic to - if I had taken that, things would have just gotten worse, most likely), start taking that. Next afternoon I go in for the ultrasound expecting the worst.
The ultrasound is a little bit uncomfortable, but what made it all the worse (aside from the fact that I forgot my belt and my pants were slipping as I walked around the hospital trying to find the ultrasound room) is that they won't tell you what they're seeing. I keep asking the woman, and can't get a specific response. Finally, as I'm leaving, and ask once more, she gives me a rather vigorous nod and starts pointing at the door. So I hope that means, "Yes, it's nothing, but I can't TELL you that, because hospital regulations prohibit it".
The blood coughing goes down and away, and I finally get to call the urologist for the test results: no cancer.
Long story short, at my appointment my urologist told me they found both a spermatocele and a varicocele (neither of us had felt the spermatocele, which was very small and on the testicular cord). It turns out he had had me cough because varicoceles change somehow (tighten?) in coughing, and he was fairly certain that was what it was, but didn't want to say anything conclusively before the test results came back. I ask him about the blood coughing, which my other doctor had said was from bronchitis, and he says that would be unrelated to any testicular problems.
So, the moral here is: I was lucky. I could have easily NOT been lucky. Reading this site, I remember being reassured by seeing that TC, of all cancers, is one of the easiest to detect and to treat, even when spread, but I can really say that that is the sort of reassurance that should get you to a doctor promptly, so as to get results (after all, TC seems very easy to diagnose on an ultrasound, which isn't an invasive or a painful or a long procedure) and treatment if you need it. If you are reading this, I'm guessing you are in the situation I was in: wondering if you had something serious, and trying to guess by reading other people's stories. I'm glad to contribute to the "relief" stories, but I really want anyone reading this who is nervous about getting checked to haul ass to the doctor, please.
And I don't want to give anyone false hope, and this is CERTAINLY NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR A DOCTOR'S EXAMINATION, but here's what I can say about how this varicocele felt:
Thanks also to the people who have worked on this website: it is an excellent resource. And I'd like to conclude by giving all my heart-felt sympathies to people who really did/do have this disease: I pray all of you will defeat it.
Love and respect to all,