Summer 2001

Nick's TC Story

NEW BALLS PLEASE

Nick O'hara Smith It was late in 1987 that I first noticed a tiny lump on my right ball. I discussed it with my girlfriend and decided to see a doctor, but not before I took my customary skiing holiday at Christmas. It was only two weeks away, what could I lose? I lived in London UK at the time, not that it is relevant, but perhaps it may help you understand the treatment I received.

Once I got back from skiing, (no snow but we had a ball *oops sorry*), I went to see my GP, who happened to be a friend. He told me I had nothing to worry about, but referred me to a surgeon anyway. A week later, the surgeon inspected me then asked, "do you have any kids?" Alarm bells rang loud and clear. He told me right then and there he thought I had Cancer. So there I was aged 34, libido raging through Europe like an out of control bull, being told I was in trouble. It scared the hell out of me. I didn't want to die.

The morning I presented myself at the hospital for the operation, they gave me an ultrasound. This revealed growths on both balls. I was suddenly confronted with the realization that if Cancer was in one, it could be in both. I asked the options available to me. I was told the following

1 - Bilateral Orchiectomy with follow up Radiation and hormone replacement.

2 - Unilateral Orchiectomy with Chemo follow up for 6 months to remove the seminoma in the surviving ball.

I asked what the chances of remaining fertile were and was told 1:3 against. My decision was based purely on survival. I decided to have them both out if they were Cancerous. Talk about a leap in the dark!

Out they came and with them went the Cancer. Mercifully, I was spared any further treatment for Cancer, apart from RT. I began to wonder what was going to happen to me. I felt I had lost everything. My masculinity had disappeared with my balls.

I was faced with a decision about my friends. I knew they would feel very awkward about addressing me in the same way as before. No choice really, I had to be up front and make them feel comfortable with me again. In the "Cheers" like atmosphere of my local bar, my friends would talk, afraid to mention my *problem*. Now and then they would slip an epithet into the conversation by habit of course. "Bollocks" one would say in response to another. Then he would see me and become embarrassed and mumble an apology. So I developed some witty responses like "if you have one spare let me know". It eased the uncomfortable atmosphere.

The depression I sank into was in no way helped by the fact it took some three weeks before I got my first shot of HRT. By that time I was beside myself. Hot flushing many times a day, quite deranged at times. No coherence in the logical thought processes I had come to rely on. It was extremely unnerving. Now I liken it to PMS in women. This difficult period in my development took about a year before I was able to start looking life in the eye again. I decided I had been living an excessive lifestyle. I was in business, a sportsman and a hedonist to boot. It had to change. I began my metamorphosis. No longer excessive, no longer a womaniser, I made plans to leave my business and the UK.

Over the years that have followed my hormone treatment largely settled into a pattern. It took some time to find the correct dosage and repeat pattern. I inject myself in the butt every three weeks now. I discovered that although I was different, I could still operate the same way sexually. The difference was in the way I approached women. No longer sex objects, I found I could relate much better to them and their hormone related problems.

I wandered the world for a few years in search of my new life. First to the Caribbean, where I saw how corruption could deprive people of even the most basic facets of clean life. Then to Los Angeles, arriving just in time for the 94 earthquake, where I saw and helped people who had lost everything in a single minute. Then Ireland, Dublin to be precise, where I saw how a country can be held back from developing due to an asinine war. Finally to Canada where I live now.

I was single throughout that period, until I came to Canada. My second marriage has now failed after just over four years.

Such is life.

There is much to be done in the field of Testicular Cancer in the way of treatment. Just as much needs to be done in relation to male hormones. Too many men are misdiagnosed or misprescribed. Perhaps the medical community at large needs to treat this issue with as much concern as they do other, more "popular" diseases.


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