Ron was diagnosed after he began coughing up blood. The cancer had spread to his lungs by the time we discovered he had it. He had choriocarcinoma, but it responded well to the treatment that Dr. Einhorn at IU advocates for later stage TC (extra heavy doses of chemo requiring a great deal of hydration).
The cancer spread to his spine and brain. The brain tumors were inoperable but he underwent radiation treatment. Prior to the spread to the brain Ron had a bone marrow transplant, which also slowed down the disease.
In Ron's case, the only way to keep the cancer in check was to continue with chemo. He had just started his next round when he started to bleed internally. He was losing blood faster than was safe to transfuse. He died a couple of days after that. He had been diagnosed for seven months when he died.
Sadly, neither one of us knew anything about testicular cancer or its symptoms prior to his illness. Interestingly, one symptom he did have that we didn't recognize as a symptom was that his chest increased in size from a 38" to a 44". The doctors later explained that his chest expanded to accommodate the tumors growing in his lungs.
Something else I also found interesting was that even though the doctors knew they were looking for testicular cancer and that it was in his left testicle, it took them weeks to actually locate the tumor. I used to kid Ron that more doctors were groping him and spending more time in the region that I ever could. Later, when they removed the affected testicle, the doctors said his tumor had "burnt out" and was therefore more difficult to locate.
In short, everything that could go wrong, did. Ron and I spent many doctor appointments crying in the examining room. Remember, too, that this was back in 1989-1990. I think people like Lance Armstrong are going a long way to make this topic more public than it once was.
Oddly, a former co-worker's husband recently died of the disease too. He was diagnosed in November of last year and died this past January. He was in intensive care from the minute he was diagnosed. In his case, his kidneys started to fail and the doctors couldn't use the high dose chemo that his stage of cancer required.
Since my husband was diagnosed I've met many people who were diagnosed with testicular cancer and survived, including one of the radiologists who was treating my husband. I understand better now than I did back then how unusual it is for someone to die of this disease. And, although I'm only in my 30s, I often lecture the young guys I work with to take the disease and self-exams seriously.
About a year before my husband was diagnosed, my father died of pancreatic cancer (a week after diagnosis), so some of the things I encountered with Ron, such as blood clots, I had already experienced with my father's illness. So, I was lucky to have had some experience before we faced Ron's illness.
As horrible as those two deaths were for me, I consider myself privileged to have been with them during their illnesses and deaths.