I'll try to make this a quick story...
About 10 years ago I thought I had somehow gotten a hernia. For several months, my groin was very painful, but the pain and symptoms that I thought indicated a hernia went away. I figured the problem had solved itself. I never went to the doctor, so I never found out what it was.
Over the next several years, the pain would return usually for only short periods of time (couple of days). Sometimes after running or playing basketball, or even after sex, as I was quite active at the time.
In the back of my mind I was a bit concerned. I can recall a fraternity brother that preached to me one day about the need to do self exams and not to ignore any abnormalities. I would do self exams--never finding the classic pea-sized lump on my testicle that is always talked about in literature on the subject. But I did notice a swelling or mass on the spermatic cord/epidytimis on the left side--very small, nothing to worry about I told myself. I dismissed it as a result of the "hernia" that had happened before (so I thought).
Of course I did nothing about it (literally for years). I would go through periods where it would be on my mind every single day! Some months I would ignore the problem. Whether I ignored it or not, it was definitely affecting my mental health. Gradually over the years, the stress of internalizing this problem and not seeking medical advice was really building up inside me. Still for years, I chose to do nothing about it.
Just looking back at how I reacted to this (bottling it up inside and never doing anything about it) makes me realize how pathetic I was in handling a potentially life threatening condition. Aside from that short "sermon" from my fraternity brother years ago in college, this topic was not discussed with friends, family. I don't recall a high school coach ever mentioning TC or self-exams. I don't think I ever saw a pamphlet from the Cancer Society about TC. Then again, I might have been avoiding this topic because the truth hurts.
I must admit that for the majority of the 10 years, I never knew if a man could survive with TC for long periods of time (5-10 years). I was certainly under the impression that it could be present in a man for 10 years (which even today I am not sure if a man could have TC for years and survive until it has spread to a point where curing the cancer would be impossible). I also thought that "Hey if I have been OK for 10 years it must not be that serious" (the hernia condition I thought I had).
I hope I have told this tale in a way that you can understand what I was thinking over these years and how it was affecting my mental health. It is hard to imagine exactly how the stress has manifested itself in my every day life over the years.
This brings me up to the last year. I became engaged to my long-time girlfriend (we had an unusual relationship where some years we were not together. For a 15 month period we were even 5 states apart). Of course I never let her in on this (this is the only secret I ever kept from her in all our years together).
Well my girlfriend is in nursing school and has a bookshelf full of medical texts in our apartment. She also has several members of her family who have had cancer. As you can imagine this just fueled the fire that was burning inside of me.
Meanwhile, I noticed that the swelling in my scrotum had increased slightly over the last several months. I guess it was a matter of convenience that I just decided to pull a few medical books off the shelf and start doing some reading on TC. Well over and over again I kept reading the words "if there are any abnormalities you detect, it should be checked out by a doctor immediately". Of course there was also frequent mention of the survivability of the cancer if detected early.
I believe this was really the straw that started breaking the camel's back. The texts, whether accurately stating the facts or not, definitely lean towards a diagnosis of TC when abnormalities are detected. Rightly so I suppose--no man should get the idea that abnormalities are ok and that there is no reason to seek medical advise when a little swelling exists. Reading these texts really hit home!
Here is where you (TCRC) comes into the story. I have had Internet access for several months. I really think that I did not decide to use this powerful resource to gather more information on TC because I was afraid of discovering the truth. But last Monday I forced myself (out of being truly afraid of what might actually be wrong with me) to search on TC using a browser and read all there was to read on the subject.
I read everything, including your website. I should tell you that at this point I was convinced that the chance of my having TC was greater than the chance that I did not have it. I was terrified...absolutely terrified!
The next day I made a doctors appointment for the following day. For 24 hours, I was a wreck inside, but still did not show it on the outside. I went running up at my favorite track around sunset that day, and must admit that in my solitude, I broke down and cried. It was a very tearful 3 miles I can assure you.
I left work early the next day and arrived at the doctors for an afternoon appointment. "You had better remove your clothes for the doctor. Place this paper over your lower body until the doctor comes in," the nurse barked. The 5 minutes that I waited for the doctor was emotional agony. I told myself that good news or bad news I would make it through this ordeal.
The doctor stepped in the room. We have enjoyed a doctor patient relationship for many years and I feel completely at-ease discussing this with him. I am nervous as hell, though! I basically told him this story in short form. After the discussion he examined my testicles.
The exam was over in 30 seconds. Non-chalantly he moved over to his file and began writing. He said, "it looks like you have variocele". I remember this condition from my textbook readings at home, but did not recall what the nature of the condition is. I immediately ask "is it cancer?" He replies in the negative. After some brief comments about a sonogram and what the ramifications for the condition are, the doc shakes my hand and leaves the room. I was absolutely positively relieved beyond anybody's wildest imagination!
It is not the purpose of this story to go into what I felt after I learned that I did not have TC. What is important is that YOU provided me with a resource that gave me the information that I needed, along with numerous stories which scared the living hell out of me. YOU are the reason that I made the appoinment and finally did something about a condition that I have worried about for 10 years. I want to sincerely thank YOU for the energy you have devoted to setting up the website. YOU have made a very large impact in my life and want YOU to know that I am so very thankful.
I don't think that this is a story worthy of your website, but I would like for everyone out there to understand that living like I did is just another disastrous side effect that is associated with TC (and all serious health concerns). I will never again respond in this way to a suspicious ailment or condition in my body, and would like others to know the mental baggage that is carried around when we suspect something is wrong, but never do anything about it. This inaction could very well have ended my life.
My thoughts and prayers go out to all of you who are battling with or have battled TC...