October 17, 2001
Here is my story. At the time it happened it seemed embarrassing and degrading, but now I find uplifting and real.
I was only 20 years old when I first noticed a small lump on my right testicle. I disregarded it and wrote it off in my mind as pimple or something on my scrotum. As the months passed I started to feel aches and pains in my groin area, particularly when I was driving. Upon closer inspection I discovered my testicle was hard and about three times the size of the other one.
I went to my family doctor to have a check-up. I was so embarrassed that I didn't tell her the reason for my visit, hoping she would find the problem on her own. She didn't. After she told me I was in perfect health and that I could leave, I got the courage to say that there is a problem with my testicle. This one moment of strength and guts to finally fess up is what saved my life. (I later found out that if I had waited much longer the treatment would have been more severe.) She sent me to see a Urologist two weeks later. In the meantime she gave me some antibiotics to treat any possible infection. She didn't once mention the possibility of cancer.
I arrived for my appointment on a Friday and met with Urologist Dr. Leslie Spevac. He, after a 30 second exam, came forth with the life changing news, "Tyler, I think you have testicular cancer". That was when the whirlwind began. I had a blood test, ct scan and a scheduled surgery to remove my rogue organ. My tests were positive. I had cancer, but the numbers were low and the ct scan showed no signs of spreading. I was pretty happy. I went out and bought a bottle of Dom Perignon to celebrate my survival.
I was entering my second year at film school at Ryerson Polytechnic University in Toronto Canada. I thought great, I'll come in once a month get the tests and be on my way. I met with an absolutely wonderful Oncologist in Dr. Neill Iscoe at Toronto Sunnybrook Hospital a week after surgery and a month after my initial blood tests and ct scan. Dr. Iscoe told me that I was going to be fine and that he would put me under surveillance. I would have to swear to him that I would attend on time, every time. I took the oath. My doctor said that he would rather have what I've got then diabetes, "that'll really cut your life short". He did some more tests to see if the cancer had gone, just blood and a chest x-ray and I was out the door.
Note: the surgery wasn't bad, one day, one testicle, no biggie. Afterwards don't laugh and don't bend over. Trust me, it really hurts.
The phone rang early on Tuesday of the following week. My markers were still elevated and the doctor said you better come in. I was horrified and all kinds of terrible thoughts and visions ran through my head. Shit man I'm gonna die! I'm only twenty years old! Whose gonna look after my car! That was the worst day in my entire life. Thinking you're fine and then finding out you're not. It sucked! The unopened $150 bottle of Dom Perignon went back in the box.
I went back to see the oncologist. He said that there was probably a small mass somewhere in my abdomen, one that the CT didn't pick up. He said the best course of action was to medicate me. "Medicate me?" "Chemotherapy".
I was scared as hell as I had two days to make a deposit at the sperm bank, (which, in hind sight, was absolutely hilarious ) and a last weekend to prepare myself. Monday came and so did more drugs than any one in the late sixties has ever seen. I started with my first IV and the 3 hour drip of VP-16... which caused an allergic reaction. I couldn't breath and I turned beat red! (From then on, the VP-16 was preceded by a small dose of benadryl) After the five hour ordeal I started to feel bloated. Not sick, just bloated. I was pissing every ten minutes.
Two weeks straight, one week off, Bleo. Bleo (bleomycin) was harder to handle than the other drugs even though it was a quick 10 minute shot. It hurt going in and it made me feel horrible (tired, sick, uneasy). I was fine with the other stuff. I only puked once and that was because I was finished my last cycle and had run out of the anti-nausea drugs. No canker sores, no blood transfusions and no problems with "Mr.Happy".
My markers returned to normal after two doses and the third dose was insurance. At this point I was bald (everywhere), fat (gained 50 pounds of flab) and grossly out of shape. The chemo made me hungry. I just couldn't stop eating. Whether the food was for comfort or for nourishment I ate everything even though most of it tasted like lead (another side effect).
After 2 months of mortal worry, 100 IV needles, 35 blood tests, 3 CT scans (with the dye stuff that makes you feel hot and crappy) 16 X-rays, 1,000,000 hours of worry, all that remained was me, cancer free.
I visit my doctor every 3 months for blood work and a chest x-ray, so far no problems, thank God.
I sit here at my computer to tell this story because so many people die needlessly because they don't have the courage to tell their doctors. This is your life, nothing matters more than this. Not money, not sex, not power, not image or reputation. Would you like to be remembered as the guy that died because he was to afraid to tell any one? or as the guy that faced his problem head on?
P.S. I highly recommend Lance Armstrong's Book "It's not about the Bike." It helped me a lot. I lost a year of school out of this, but I got an insight on life that few have at my age. I met great people, and I am thankful for every day. Be Strong, God Bless and I say this in all honesty and I know that right now you might not believe it, I didn't at the time, But everything is going to be all right. Have faith no matter what, have faith in something.
I have been cancer free for a year and I finally, at this moment, am going to have a sip of my long awaited Champagne.
Thank you, TCRC, you were a big help in my time of need.
Sincerely, Tyler McKeag, Toronto, Canada.