Monday, November 12, 2018

PCL40: From Traditional to Transformative - Manhood: The Bare Reality

“Feminism has helped women to re-interpret womanhood and break down feminine stereotypes. I don’t feel this has happened enough for men.” -- Laura Dodsworth in Manhood: The Bare Reality

“Breasts and penises are not direct counterparts but both embody ideas of femininity and masculinity, womanhood and manhood, and offer intimate windows into our emotional and psychological worlds.”
Thus opens Manhood: The Bare Reality by Laura Dodsworth. This book is a sequel of sorts to The Bare Reality, the original book in the series where 100 women had their breasts photographed and shared what it meant to them to be a woman. In this edition, penises took the stage as men shared their stories of what manhood meant to them (including Band of Ballers alumni Matt Wakefield).


In why they sacked up, stripped down, and answered the call of duty, two men had this to say:
"If women are going to stand there and expose themselves in that open way, then to be one of the men who is willing to do that is a really positive thing."
""Penises are so linked to our psyche. Language says it all, we call a penis our 'manhood.'"
As I read the book, I saw many interesting things, and I’m not even referring to the multitude of penises (there is also a strong narrative of what word to use when referring to the penis as throughout the book; I settled for the anatomical term in this piece).

Throughout the 300 pages, major themes arose about the concept of manhood and masculinity. These themes mainly revolved around the differences between “traditional manhood” and “transformational manhood” - not terms used in the book, but I like alliteration so that’s what we’re going with.

These selected quotes (in italics and used with permission of publisher) were moments that made me think about my own experiences growing up as a boy, adolescent, and man and how we can shape the future of our sex.

The concept of “traditional manhood”

"We're taught that men must work hard, provide, be the breadwinner, be strong emotionally and physically, and that's it really." 
"The classic social pressures mean that it can feel very shameful for a boy to... be perceived as weak." 
“Masculinity says you don't talk about stuff."
These and many similar quotes were woven throughout the book. Throughout history, men were supposed to keep their emotions in and just provide for the family. This narrative must change. Not belabor the point, but I’m calling this viewpoint of manhood “traditional” for a reason.

How “traditional manhood” impacted men’s health

"As a small child, you were told, 'Big boys don't cry.' I think this is why men sometimes have a higher incidence of some of the serious illnesses because we don't like to complain about being ill."
"The conventional wisdom is that men don't like to talk about things, and that they are suffering and even dying because they don't talk about this part of their body."
As this is a driving force and predominant theme behind the mission of ABSOT, these lines aren’t new information. Nor are these notions just the musings of random men. The MENtion It survey from the Cleveland Clinic has consistently shown over the past three years that men just choose not to open up about their health.

However, what is most revealing about these quotes delves into why men might keep things close to their chest. Personally, I know I heard time and time again while growing up that “big boys don’t cry” and because of that stereotype, I was very reluctant to call my doctor when I discovered a lump during my monthly self-exam. We need to open up lines of communication to dispel any sort of shame or stigma attached to freely discussing men’s health.

Here are a variety of ways to talk about men’s health in a natural manner, ranging from using current events to witty remarks to simply grabbing the conversation by the ball and being blunt about this crucial topic.

How “traditional men” interact with other “traditional men”

"I can't talk to any of my male friends about anything meaningful emotionally or psychologically.”
"My men friends and I don't have the sort of friendships where we talk about personal things. I never really knew how to make it different"
Prior to cancer, the majority of dialogue with my close male friends included random bantering, ‘roasting’ each other, and discussing movies, but nothing of real substance. I think this really aligns with what “traditional manhood” is all about - keeping deep thoughts and feeling to yourself. Since my experiences with testicular cancer, many of my conversations with my friends have delved into more serious topics, including taking care of their health and taking a real look at the future.

The second quote in this section bemoans that that guy didn’t know how to make it different. In my opinion, he’s halfway there. Recognizing that a disparity exists is the first step, and it must be followed by concrete action steps to fix this. Be that guy to take the first step and ask about personal things with your buddies. Eventually, it will feel less awkward.

Transitioning from “traditional manhood” to “transformational manhood”

"As men, we are told to be have a cool, calm exterior, never cry, brush things off. But you need to have emotion."
"I think as a boy growing up, to be a man was to be strong, to be hard, to not cry. And then I was told that wasn't OK, that I should be softer."
"The old way of bringing up boys, whereby you are not really supposed to express feelings much, ends up with men doing odd things, and those energies can come out in other ways which are unhealthy. Talking and expression are a big part of healing."
"When I was younger, I thought being a man was about being buff. Now it's about being a good person and giving to society"
I’m not going to weigh in too much on these quotes since they do an excellent job of speaking for themselves. While my commentary is absent, I made it a point to include them here to show that many many are aware of the dichotomy of being raised in the “traditional manhood” eras as we enter into the “transformational manhood” time.

The concept of “transformational manhood”

"Being a man means being loving, kind, compassionate, being there for your friends and loved ones"
"I feel that when men come together and talk we can integrate our emotions and then be true in our actions."
This is the heart and soul of the book. While there were a few quotes that reinforces “traditional manhood” concepts, they were shared by men who had their penises photographed a few minutes earlier and were sharing some of their deepest and darkest moments in their lives. (As I was typing this, I really had to wonder - were the interviews taped while they were still naked or did they get dressed first?)

We need to talk more - not about sports and women and stereotypical “guy things,” but about what really drives us as people. Topics like our physical and mental health, our worries and insecurities, our hopes and dream, and our overall emotions should become commonplace.

I’m stealing a challenge from my friend, Dave Fuehrer: “If I can ask you to take one action, it is to admit to something that scares you. Admit it to a friend, to a partner, or to a piece of paper. But just admit it.” No matter if you’re talking to your male buddy, your wife, or a mashed up dead tree, it’s the first step in being a “transformational” man.
"My boy is very in touch with how he feels and I encourage that. I think it's important that as fathers we step up. At the moment, in the collective... there's more discussion about self-development."
While I don’t have children of my own, this quote still resonates strongly. It’s showing that not only is this father recognizing the value of “transformational manhood,” he’s working on instilling and encouraging it in his own son. In that boy’s life, he may see the end of “traditional manhood” as we know it. He may even be able to answer my final question as I closed out the book...

Should we even be asking what a man is?

"What being a man means is becoming quite blurred"
"I don't like to think about what being a man means. We're not just men and women. We're human."
In writing a men’s health blog, I always try to be careful to not act like men have been systematically oppressed. Every ABSOT post runs through a review process by my Editor-in-Chief, Katie, and we’ve had numerous conversations about making sure that I’m keeping my eye on the ball with regards to the overall scope of society in regards to men and privilege. While I do get very passionate about men’s health, the truth is that men have done much of this damage to themselves by perpetuating harmful stereotypes and narratives.

Since the US election of 2016, which literally coincided with the day I was told my cancer had spread, there has been an inspiring movement of female empowerment between the #MeToo movement and more.

This isn’t to say we need a ‘manism’ movement, which is even echoed in this quote:
"I don't think feminism should rewind, but there needs to be a way for men to say it's hard for us, that we hurt. [But] that should take place away from feminism"
We can celebrate the differences without placing one sex above the other. Respecting differences and promoting equality for all gender identifications is important, especially in today’s world. It’s truly the only way we can progress as a human society. It’s ok for men to have feelings and share them, and it is ok for women to stand up for what they believe in when something isn’t right. At the end of the day, as the above quoted man said, we’re all human; we shouldn’t assign certain ‘tasks’ to certain genders.

We know “traditional manhood” is broken. “Transformational manhood” is in a step in the right direction, but we should continue moving closer to just “humanhood.” In closing, I feel this final quote really drove home the overall message of where we need to go from here:
"It's divisive to have all these projections about what men and women do. None of it's helpful. We have to just experience each other in the moment."

*A big thank you to the author and publisher of this book for sending me a copy of this book to review. All opinions expressed are my own and I was not compensated (beyond saving on the cost of this book) for this review. I highly encourage you to check it out. Even though you may be uncomfortable with the idea of looking at 100 penises in a row, the stories are compelling and you’ll find yourself seeing beyond the pictures to get to the real meat of the book*



A self exam is how most cases of testicular cancer are detected early. Click the image for video directions or click here for a larger version


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Thursday, November 1, 2018

BOB09: Teri Price - “Falling Through the Cracks: Greg’s Story”

Teri Price, Executive Producer of “Falling Through the Cracks: Greg’s Story,” Wants to Empower Men to be Part of their Health Journey, In Memory of Her Brother, Greg Price  



Welcome to the Band of Ballers! In this series on ABSOT, I’m turning over control to some other ballsy testicular cancer survivors and patients who have inspired me with their work in advocacy and awareness during and after their diagnosis. This month’s feature is all about Teri Price, who is one of the executive producers a short film called “Falling Through the Cracks: Greg’s Story.” Enjoy!


My brother, Greg Price, was an innovator and was constantly thinking of ways to improve anything and everything. He was an outside-the-box thinker and believed that, with a bit of grit, we could accomplish anything. He also had a crazy high pain tolerance and preferred to shoulder any burden himself rather transfer it onto anyone else. He truly believed in people and encouraged everyone to be their best selves.

We know now these characteristics put him at risk when testicular cancer forced him to interact with our health system


Greg and his plane
Greg’s healthcare journey lasted 407 days from April 2011 to May 2012. He had his Private Pilot’s Licence which requires relatively frequent physical exams, and during one of these exams the doctor flagged an “abnormal thickening” of Greg’s epididymis (a tube-like structure located behind the testicle that aids in the maturation and transport of sperm). This resulted in some initial tests, but those results didn’t raise any red flags.

Ten months later, Greg was back in the doctor’s office for an unrelated, different reason. The doc re-checked Greg’s testicle and didn’t see any improvement. At this point, the doctor decided he wanted to get the opinion of a general surgeon, so he made a referral. From this point on, Greg experienced several unnecessary delays and breaks in the continuity of his care.

It is difficult to summarize Greg’s journey, but issues included referrals that went unanswered for 3 months, a referral to a doctor who left the clinic, and a referral to a doctor who was on vacation for 3 weeks. You can also check out more details here and an interactive timeline here.

Information was trapped in silos, wasn’t available to all of people who provided Greg’s care and was not openly shared with Greg. The processes in place wasted precious time and compromised Greg’s health. His experience was very transactional - the providers each did their individual tasks but didn’t work as a team or recognize Greg as a member of the team.

He experienced many unnecessary delays and miscommunication, which resulted in his testicular cancer diagnosis and treatment coming too slowly. Eventually, he was given surgery, but it was too late. Three days later, he died suddenly in our parents’ home from a blot clot, which was also overlooked.

After his death and journey with testicular cancer, our family wanted to understand how this could happen


Greg playing baseball
Greg was an engineer and private pilot. He was a fit 31 year-old, a good communicator, and he wasn’t afraid of a challenge. Fortunately, with our support, the Health Quality Council of Alberta decided to investigate and use Greg’s experience as a way to highlight issues and the lack of continuity of care. We were included in and contributed to the investigation, and we are extremely grateful for the Continuity of Patient Care Study that was released in December of 2013.

The lead investigator for the study, Dr. Ward Flemons, is also a professor at our local medical school. When Ward asked us if we wanted to work with his team to develop video clips they could use in the classroom to highlight the critical need for teamwork and communication in healthcare, we were excited about the opportunity to potentially have an impact on future doctors.

Eventually we ended up with a 30-minute short film about how Greg’s battle with testicular cancer didn’t have to end this way


This film is called Falling Through the Cracks: Greg’s Story. Through a colleague, Ward met writer Andrew Wreggitt and his wife Becky Shaw who joined the team and recruited director Dean Bennett, who has directed Heartland, a popular Canadian 1-hour family drama (now in its 12th season). Once we had this core team assembled, we were able to attract an amazing, skilled and professional cast and crew. Check out the trailer below.


Falling Through the Cracks greatly exceeded our expectations, and we believe the cast and crew gave us an incredible gift. We also realized early on that it should be shown to more groups than medical students, though we still consider them to be an essential group. So far, we have shared the film more than 90 times to a variety of different audiences. The film has a deep impact every time it is shown partially because it uniquely puts the audience in the patient’s shoes and they experience Greg’s journey through his eyes.

In the post-film discussions, we have shared the same message about the teamwork and communication that the first year medical students at the University of Calgary receive in the first months of their training. We have shared the film with a number of healthcare organizations and public audiences and have big plans for the next few phases of its release.

We are currently planning two virtual screenings of the film where we hope to connect with audiences beyond the communities and organizations we have visited:


Registrants of both virtual screenings will be able to watch the film and participate in a post-film discussion with members of Greg’s family. You can also submit a request for access to the film though our website.

We aren’t planning to charge fees for the use of the film. Instead, we are asking everyone to let us know who they are sharing it with, what their hopes/objectives are, and to to loop back after viewing the film to share what they learned, including what worked and what didn’t with their audience*. We want to continually grow a community around the use of the film and share resources that will set everyone up for successful screenings.

Greg was an amazing individual but the characteristics that put him at risk are not unique to his personality 


Greg and his family in their younger days
Many guys his age would rather tough it out than scare their family members. When a doctor says everything will be fine, we want to believe them. When we are told not to worry or question, this is a more desirable path than being a squeaky wheel or burden on the system. But healthcare should be a team sport and patients and their families should be acknowledged (and welcomed) as critical members of the team. This is not what Greg experienced, and unfortunately, his experience is not unique.

Greg’s journey was a series of transactions, he was not fully informed of what was going on, and because of this was not able to contribute to his own health care journey in ways that he was fully capable of.

Be sure to connect with Greg’s Wings by visiting them at twitter.com/gregswings, instagram.com/gregswings, facebook.com/gregswings, or by emailing teri@gregswings.ca. Until next time, Carpe Scrotiem!

Know someone (or even yourself!) who is supporting TC awareness and would be willing to share their story? Drop their name, contact, and why they should be featured into this Google Form and I’ll reach out to them and/or you!


*NOTE: The film can have an emotional impact on people, especially those who have had their own experiences with the healthcare system. Additionally, having the option to talk about reactions and share ideas after you have seen the film is crucially important. We strongly encourage you to watch the film with a group of friends, family, co-workers or anyone that you will be able to have a discussion with afterwards. 



A self exam is how most cases of testicular cancer are detected early. Click the image for video directions or click here for a larger version


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Sunday, October 28, 2018

PCL39: Eight Reasons Why One Ball is Better Than Two

It's Been Two Years Since I Last Had Two Testicles - But It's Much Better This Way


My mother, ladies and gentlemen
Today marks a special moment in my life. It’s the two year anniversary of when I last had two testicles - or as I like to call it, my orchiectomyversary. Although I was initially upset at the notion of being a Uniballer and almost kept it close to the chest (though the groin would be more accurate), I have fully embraced that label and wear it on my sleeve. I do mean that quite literally, as I have numerous wristbands that talk about balls that I wear regularly.

Last year, I reflected on how I’ve grown since losing one. But this year, I’m going bigger. Right here, right now - I’m taking a stand and making a bold proclamation.

Having one testicle is far superior to having two. Don’t believe me? Read on to find out the top eight reasons for why having one testicle is a better way of life.

1. Self-exams take half the time  


If you’re unaware of how to do a self-exam, they’re best done during or after a shower when the scrotum is relaxed. Just place your index and middle fingers under the testicle with your thumb on top. Firmly but gently, roll the testicle between your fingers. Any lumps or changes should be checked out by a doctor ASAP. (If you were too lazy to read all of that, click here for video and picture directions.)

They should take about two minutes and be repeated every month, for a grand total of about 25 minutes a year. In the case of a testicular cancer survivor, less area to check means that it takes half as much time. I’ll take my extra twelve minutes, thank you very much.

Even though I’ve had testicular cancer once, it’s still important for me to do regular self-exams. About 2 in every 100 testicular cancer survivors will develop testicular cancer in their remaining testicle. However, as I write this, I now realize that my friends and fellow survivors, Dave Fuehrer and Matt Wakefield, have those 25 minutes all to themselves, since they are both flatbaggers. Maybe less really is more.

2. Half sack equals double aerodynamics.


Josh has two testicles and I have one. The defense rests.
Since becoming a Uniballer, I have decreased my average mile time from about a ten minute mile down to around a 7:30 pace. Some may say that this is because I actually have been investing in exercise as self-care and following a strong regimen of fitness and healthy eating, but I say this is all bologna.

It’s definitely since I have one less sphere down below. It was holding me back. Imagine if I had it removed in high school when I was varsity cross country - I could’ve been a contender.

3. Vasectomies cost half price.


Now to be fair, I have no idea if this one is true, but it makes sense to me. There is one less baby-making organ, so the doctor would have to do half the amount of snipping. Haggling on eBay is one of my favorite pastimes, so I’ll be negotiating with the doctor if I ever get a vasectomy.

A big question I always get when I tell people I’ve had testicular cancer is if I can still have kids. To be honest, I have not had my fertility checked since chemo, but generally it returns within two years. I’m not 100% decided if I want kids or not, but even if my little swimmers never recovered, there are a million or so on ice up in northern Virginia.

4. Uniballers are better than unicorns.


Yes, yes I did craft myself a unicorn horn
As a male elementary school teacher, I was often compared to the unicorn, since a guy teaching younger students is almost a mythical sight. After I woke up from my orchiectomy two years ago, I realized that the prophecy had become more literal - except my single appendage was located further south.

According to UnicornsRule.com (yes, this is a real site I am citing), unicorns live in families of four or five. Yet the Band of Ballers has a membership of over seven men right now, with more to come. The bonds are strong, even upon meeting for the first time. I recently was e-introduced to a fellow survivor, and my first question to him was right or left. Within the world of the uniballers, nothing is held back, unlike unicorns who are rarely glimpsed. Furthermore, our lone member is a heck of a lot less pointy and potentially murdery.

Thus, we can concretely conclude that uniballers are actually superior to unicorns - though I cannot promise you a cursed half-life if you drink my blood.

5. Boxers fit better.


When asked what it’s like to have one less testicle, the Lefty to my Righty, CHECK15 founder, and fellow WEGO Health Award winner, Kyle Smith says, “I just have a little bit more room down there…” (He has slightly more… detail… if you click on the link). While I won’t be as ballsy as him in this post, he’s right. During my recovery from the orchiectomy, I switched from standard boxers to boxer briefs, and I have to say that they fit much nicer than they would have prior to surgery.

Even if you’re one of those strange men who still have both testicles, which is complete overkill, you can still wear boxer briefs and not have to worry about developing testicular cancer. Unlike the 40 percent of men that CACTI surveyed who believe that tight underwear, spin class, and too much sex causes testicular cancer, this is not a proven cause.

6. It reduces the likelihood of getting hit in the nuts by 50%.


Having one testicle cuts my risk of getting struck in the balls by approximately 50%. It’s a minor trade off, but I have to look for silver linings wherever I can. Nevertheless, testicular trauma does not cause testicular cancer, but I’m pretty sure I’ve had enough physical pain between the surgery, chemotherapy, and lasting effects.

7. It’s a natural avenue to talk about testicular health.


My new favorite shirt
When introducing myself to new people, I generally say, “My name is Justin, and I have one ball - try not to stare.” This usually shocks people but leads to a good conversation about testicular cancer. Using The Blunt Approach from “Six Ways to Talk About Testicles” is my forte, only slightly beat out by The Pun Game Strong.

Sometimes, my talking about testicular health comes before I can even do my standard opening. A few weeks ago, I was at the Young Adult Cancer Conference in Washington, DC. No sooner did I say my name than a woman in the room shouted, “Oh I know you! I follow you! You’re that ballsy guy on Instagram.” While I do like to think I am on the ball on my social media game, I’m not to be confused with Mr. Ballsy.

Either way, being a known Uniballer helps people normalize talking about testicular cancer and men’s health. Case in point - my mother, who sent me the delightful text message above just a few weeks ago. Two years ago, I don’t think my mom would have sent me pictures like that - although I kind of wish she would stop now.

8. I’m going to be honest; I’m dropping the ball on thinking of a final reason.


However, this is no surprise - I seem to have a problem completing a full set nowadays.



A self exam is how most cases of testicular cancer are detected early. Click the image for video directions or click here for a larger version


Click the ABSOT logo below to subscribe to the mailing list for the new blog posts, latest testicular cancer information, and self exam reminders!


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Saturday, October 20, 2018

BOB08.5: John Falk - "Men Get Breast Cancer, Too!"

John Falk Shares His Experience and Mission as a Two-Time Male Breast Cancer Survivor 



Welcome to the Band of Ballers! While this series on ABSOT usually features other ballsy testicular cancer survivors and patients, this is an extra special edition featuring a two-time male breast cancer survivor.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and what better way to raise awareness in our men’s health community than from a male breast cancer survivor, John Falk. I guess technically he is a Band of Boober, but he’s a member of the Band of Ballers in my book.


One day in 2013 I noticed my left breast was swelled up. It did not look right at all. The breast itself felt uncomfortable. It had a ticklish feeling and it really made me wonder what was going on. I went to the doctor to get it checked out.

John and his wife and two awesome shirts
After my first consultation my tests were negative. It was a year later when I felt the lump. I caught it so early that it was frozen in place and did not move. I had a full mastectomy. No lymph nodes taken. No chemo or hair loss. No medication. It was a surgery and I was done. I didn’t want to have the ribbons. I didn’t want to wear the banner because I didn’t go through wrenching treatments battling my cancer.

Two years later, I found another lump and my male breast cancer was back


The second time around the doctor said it was invasive. I was thunderstruck. I realized that I am a cancer survivor. I had a mammogram, a biopsy, and a pet scan. After my surgeries, I had 30 radiation treatments and I am on a 5 year regimen of Tamoxifen. I also had genetic testing that shows I do not carry the breast cancer gene mutation.

Now, I am 2 years in remission. I had radiation pneumonia and I have some resulting issues such as coughing and shortness of breath but at age 60, overall, I am doing great.

However, my experience with the first doctor I saw was not great


When I came into his office, in a matter-of-fact voice, he asked me, “Why did your doctor send you to me?” It came off as cold and unconcerned, as though I had interrupted his day. He examined my breast. He stated “It’s breast tissue. Men have breast tissue.” Then he said, “I guess I’ll have to order some tests.”

I did switch to a different doctor right away. The biopsy was no fun. The device made a sound like a staple gun while withdrawing the tissue. The mammogram was interesting. I was a 50 something guy who doesn’t work out at the gym so there wasn’t much to work with. But believe me... they can definitely do mammograms on men. I felt no embarrassment or shame at having to be in an office with only women; I actually felt special. I was the only man there and I had a procedure that mostly women get but not many men do.

The day my wife sat me down to tell me the result I did not cry. I was not hysterical. I kept myself together for my wife’s sake and she did not cry. She wanted to but only because she was sad I had to go through this. But I was strong. The surgery was easy. The woke up with a drain tube wondering when I am going to feel pain from the surgery which never happened

From the moment I discovered my swollen breast tissue to the last radiation treatment I was not scared. I never was depressed. I never said, “Why me?” I did not will it away but I was so sure I had caught it early I was certain the outcome would be good.

After my two experiences with male breast cancer, I’ve made an effort to educate men about this disease


I have joined a Facebook page for “The Male Breast Cancer Coalition.” It includes stories of men and them dealing with breast cancer. It is terrific organization. They sent me a men’s breast cancer T-shirt. I wear it every day and switch off with a shirt I had made with my own mantra, “Breast Cancer - Men Get It Too.”

John post-mastectomy 
I was sent stickers that are imprinted “Men Get Breast Cancer.” It sounds crazy but I have taped them to public urinals at every store that I shopped at. I wear my t-shirts and push them in people’s faces and tell them I am a two time breast cancer survivor. I talk to people I see when I’m out and about. I’m don’t think I am annoying; I like to think I am passionate. I tell everyone guys check yourself and to the women be sure the men in your life do the same. I told my story on my Facebook. I don’t usually do personal things, but I did this.

The funny moments in handling male breast cancer for me started when I returned to work and my friend said, “I heard you lost a moob. How are you doing?” From that point forward it was easier to see the humor in it. After a full mastectomy, I told my my friends, “Summer’s coming and I’ll be out on the beach. My shirt WILL be off. See you there!”

Another funny moment was a guy at work posting pictures of his knee surgery staples. I said, “If you can do that, then here’s my scar.” I posted a selfie of me with my radiated nonexistent breast and a screwed up pained expression. I killed it.

Men need to know that they can get breast cancer


Every man needs to check themselves frequently as we should our testicles against testicular cancer.

How to do a Male Breast Self-Exam (via verywellhealth.com

1. Run a warm shower or bath. Use soap or bath gel to create a soapy, slippery layer over your breast area. Well-soaped skin will be easier to examine, as it allows your fingers to slide along your skin without rubbing. 
2. Raise your left arm over your head, and if possible, put your left hand on the back of your head. On your right hand, put your index finger, middle finger, and ring finger together as a group. You will use these three fingers to check your left breast. Check the texture of your left breast by starting at the outer edge. Place your three fingers flat onto your skin, press down and move in small circles. Repeat this all around your breast. Don't rush. 
3. Check your nipple by gently squeezing it between your index and ring fingers. Look for any discharge, puckering, or retraction (pulling inward). 
4. Check the other breast. 
5. Rinse yourself off and dry with a towel. Stand before a mirror which is large enough for you to see both breasts. Take note of any asymmetry and skin changes (rash, puckers, dimples).

Check yourself on a regular basis for any lumps. You don’t want to be the 1 of 2500 guys who will be diagnosed. Get your physical every year. If you feel a lump or something not right don’t ignore it. Go to the doctor. There is no shame in having breast cancer. It’s not a woman’s disease. It’s a human disease.

As a man with male breast cancer, I’m driven to make others comfortable with me as a person with cancer


No one wants to talk about it. On my Facebook page I told everyone. If you want to ask me what my cancer, please do. I will try not to bore the heck out of you. If you don’t want to ask that’s okay too. Don’t be uncomfortable around me. I’m still the same guy as I have always been.

Shirt game so strong
People need to know it’s ok to talk about cancer. It’s tough. When I discovered my cancer was positive, I called my job, where I had worked 22 1/2 years as a correctional officer. I told my Sergeant that I have breast cancer and I am having surgery. I told him to tell my coworkers I had cancer and I would be back. I wanted him to announce it in roll call so they would know so they wouldn’t worry or wonder.

Men are afraid of sharing feelings or talking about them for the most part. There is stigma attached to illness mental or certainly men's breast cancer. All I have read of male breast cancer stories is the shame and embarrassment they felt. Many of them had an obvious symptom that was ignored. Mine is a different take because I caught it extremely early. I had symptoms and I got it taken care of.

In a decade, I believe our awareness of male breast cancer and men’s health will be tenfold or more from where it is now because of folks like Brett Miller of The Male Breast Cancer Coalition, your work with A Ballsy Sense of Tumor, and me, taping stickers in men’s rooms, wearing my shirts, and telling everyone wherever I go.

But my real wish is for men's breast cancer being spoken about in lockstep with women’s breast cancer. I want the American Cancer Society to recognize it equally and in the same breath as women’s breast cancer.




A self exam is how most cases of testicular cancer are detected early. Click the image for video directions or click here for a larger version


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Sunday, October 14, 2018

BOB08: Nancy Balin - The Family Jewels Foundation

Nancy Balin Raises Testicular Cancer Awareness Through Her 'Family Jewels Foundation' in Memory of Her Stepson, Jaimeson Jones 

Welcome to the Band of Ballers! In this series on ABSOT, I’m turning over control to some other ballsy testicular cancer survivors and patients who have inspired me with their work in advocacy and awareness during and after their diagnosis. This is a special edition, featuring the the first female member of the Band of Ballers, Nancy Balin. She founded the Family Jewels Foundation in honor of her stepson. Enjoy!

My journey as a passionate testicular cancer educator started on January 15, 2005, when my stepson Jaimeson Jones was diagnosed with late stage, poor prognosis testicular cancer at age 14.

Nancy and Jaimeson in his junior/senior
year of high school
He had had symptoms of pain and swelling in his testicles for upwards of a year, but he was “too embarrassed to tell mom.” We had his course of treatment managed by Dr. Einhorn at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis. He went through four cycles of BEP chemotherapy in Seattle and then multiple life-threatening surgeries in Indianapolis, including an RPLND (Retroperitoneal Lymph Node Dissection - a surgery to remove affected lymph nodes). Thankfully, he was declared in remission by age 15.

Over two years passed, and he had not had a testicular cancer recurrence.


Due to this, his surveilling oncologist (not Dr. Einhorn) began saying, “If it hasn’t come back by now, it won’t.” The doctor was so convinced of this that he actually missed the recurrence when it happened, after 4 ½ years of remission when Jaimeson was 19. When we saw some college pictures of Jaimeson, we knew he didn’t look right. It turned out that one of his markers had risen into the 80s. He went through four cycles of BEP again, high-dose chemotherapy with stem cell rescue, and multiple additional surgeries. But this time we couldn’t beat it, and Jaimeson died on October 7, 2010 at age 20.

It's a well known fact that many Uniballers are
former/current runners
When he knew that he was dying, Jaimeson asked us to give his college savings to his two younger sisters for their schooling. His request inspired me to endow a scholarship in his memory at his college, Washington State University. This scholarship was to be awarded to a student who had had a sibling with cancer. Almost as soon as the papers were signed, we had our first scholar! Since then, we also have endowed a scholarship in Bothell, Washington, where we are from, and currently we are helping put three local students (who have had a sibling with cancer) through college.

As the years have passed, I have become even more “ball(s) to the wall” with testicular cancer awareness.


I am very active in teaching boys and young men about the symptoms of testicular cancer and the importance of both monthly self-exams and medical provider testicular examinations. Although Jaimeson had a sports physical seven months before his initial diagnosis, the family practitioner he had been seeing for years did not perform a testicular examination. (Editor’s Note: Sadly, the study I ran found this to be common. When I talked to the Cleveland Clinic about possibilities of why, they said that doctors are just asked to do too much nowadays.)

Given that one of Jaimeson’s cancer types was non-seminoma, which doubles in size every 10-30 days, that massive oversight and the resulting loss of seven months of diagnosis and treatment time has haunted me ever since.

Now, I find myself “talking testicles” all the time. 


My heartfelt motto is “I couldn’t save my own boy, so I’m trying to save yours.” Whether it’s the Boy Scouts, various Chambers of Commerce, retired folks (Don’t forget, they have grandsons and nephews and sons and sons-in-law), Rotary clubs, local employers, school health classes (still working on that), or anywhere else that boys and young men (and their families) gather, I lead the charge for helping young men to learn about testicular cancer.

I'd like to make a reservation for one
(to clarify - I mean one testicle, not one person)
I bring Nut Notes (“Check Your ‘Nads, Lads!”, “Too Chicken to Check Your Nuggets?”, “Swelling is Telling!”, and more), Nut Sacks (bagged peanuts), informational brochures, self-check-reminder shower cards, and my tongue-in-cheek humor and driving passion to keep other families from going through what my family experiences every single day.

Ever seen a Nut Hut? I take this mobile self-check station on the road to many of my talks and fundraising events, and the Family Jewels Foundation (the charity I founded) recently won “Most Imaginative” for our float, featuring the Nut Hut, pairs of balloons and blown-up rubber gloves (get it?) in a popular local summer parade.

I also have developed two annual events to help this mission. Every March on the second Saturday (Jaimeson's birthday is March 14), I put on the Family Jewels Pie-K, so named because of Jaimeson's Pi(e) Day birthday and the fact that we are the #only5Kwithapietable. On March 9, 2019, we will put on our 9th annual event.

A newer event is coming up fast on November 10, when I will put on the Family Jewels Kenmore Ball Crawl. At this fun, family-friendly event, three local craft breweries donate taster trays of their brews, and people receive testicular cancer info, “Nut Sacks,” and other swag in their swag bags.

Because of Jaimeson’s needless and tragic death, I am absolutely compelled to educate about testicular cancer.


This disease essentially was cured 15 years before my boy was born. I am so driven, in fact, that I left the government-lawyer career I loved in order to talk testicles full-time. There is a glaring gap in education about testicular cancer. It doesn’t have national prominence or its own “Pinktober” like breast cancer awareness does, and this omission is further exacerbated by young men’s sense of invincibility and their embarrassment about these sensitive body parts. Most of my Nut Notes are funny, but there is one that isn’t: “Don’t Be Embarrassed to Death.”

Be sure to check out the Family Jewels Foundation...
and check out your family jewels!
What can young males do to take charge of their own health? Make sure you have a medical provider do a testicle exam annually. Check your own testicles every month, and see a urologist right away if they hurt, have lumps or bumps or have either shrunk or grown since the last time you checked them. Most importantly, please don’t wait! People who love you are counting on you to take care of yourself, and this includes making sure your testicles are healthy, too.

Remember, “Smooth and Round is Healthy and Sound!”

Be sure to connect with Nancy Balin by visiting her at WWW.FAMILY-JEWELS.ORG; https://www.facebook.com/FamilyJewelsFoundation; https://twitter.com/FamilyJewelsFdn; https://www.instagram.com/familyjewelsfoundation; SavingGuysLives@gmail.com. Until next time, Carpe Scrotiem!



A self exam is how most cases of testicular cancer are detected early. Click the image for video directions or click here for a larger version


Click the ABSOT logo below to subscribe to the mailing list for the new blog posts, latest testicular cancer information, and self exam reminders!


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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

PCL38: Every Man Needs a Urologist

A Conversation with Dr. Charles Modlin of the Cleveland Clinic about the MENtion It Survey 



As legend has it, ABSOT originally began as a guide for newly-diagnosed testicular cancer patients - the resource I wish I had had when I first heard the words, “You have cancer.” However, the mission changed into educating the general public about the importance of discussing men’s health when I found the 2016 MENtion It survey done by the Cleveland Clinic. This was one of the first surveys that showed clearly that men don’t always necessarily take their health seriously, and I incorporated into one of the first pieces on ABSOT about my reluctance to call a doctor.

Since then, I’ve referenced those stats multiple times in my writing and awareness work but never had personal contact with the Clinic. A few weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see the results of the 2018 MENtion It survey land in my Gmail inbox. Now in its third year, the theme of this year’s survey is analyzing how men’s health is influenced by female spouses.

The email also mentioned an opportunity to speak one-on-one with Dr. Charles Modlin, a urologist at the Cleveland Clinic and the founder/director of Cleveland Clinic's Minority Men's Health Center. I eagerly accepted the offer, which led to the following fantastic conversation.

Discussing how the the Cleveland Clinic came to be a pioneer in men’s health with the MENtion It campaign


Click to enlarge and share
One of the first things I asked Dr. Modlin was why the Cleveland Clinic started this push for men’s health. A few years ago, the Department of Urology in the Cleveland Clinic noticed that men historically “have, in many respects, shunned doctors, and a lot of times they don't want to go to the doctors. They ignore signs and symptoms of certain diseases they may have. As long as they're able to get up, go to work, and aren’t in severe pain, they'll just say, ‘There's nothing wrong. I don't need to go.’”

Dr. Modlin postulated why this may have occurred: “A lot of men were taught to be stoic, to be macho, to grin and bear it, to just deal with and ignore pain, [whereas] women have been educated at earlier ages that if they sense there's something wrong with their health or their bodies to go get it checked out.”

Realizing all of these factors, the Cleveland Clinic started the MENtion It campaign in 2016 to do more to encourage men to take better care of themselves.

Discussing differences between 2016 and 2018 MENtion It surveys


The 2016 MENtion It survey found that 53% of men don't talk about their health, and in 2018, that had slightly increased to 56% of men preferring to keep health concerns to themselves. 2016’s survey showed that 40% don’t attend their yearly physical, while the 2018 edition said that 61% of men have neglected visiting a doctor even when they needed to go. In this year’s study, it was also reported that 83% of women said they encourage their spouse/significant other to get their health checked once a year, but 30% of men believe that they don’t need to go because they are “healthy.”

I asked Dr. Modlin about his opinion on why these stats don’t seem to be improving. He said, “he fact of the matter is, it still suggests that over half of men are reluctant to speak to others about their health concerns, to speak to each other about their health concerns, [and] to admit that they even need to get checked out, even if they do have signs or symptoms.”

Comparing the results of the 2018 MENtion It survey to other testicular cancer studies


Click to enlarge and share
On a good note, the 2018 MENtion It survey also mentioned that 59% of men would see a doctor promptly for changes in their testicles and 49% of men would see a doctor immediately for testicular pain. However, the majority of men aren't actively looking for these problems. The survey found that only 41% of men under the age of 35 regularly do testicular self-exams. This aligns with findings from the CACTI study from earlier in 2018 (more than 1 in 3 of all men polled have never been told about the importance of a monthly testicular self-exam) and a 2016 study by the Testicular Cancer Society (only 42% of men know how to do a self-exam).

When asked for his reaction to these studies, Dr. Modlin stated that he was surprised that the statistics were that high and would have assumed that they were lower. I also shared the study ABSOT ran that found that 78% of men weren’t taught how to do a self-exam at their most recent physical, and asked why the ball has been dropped on this particular information.

“Medicine is changing and in a certain way that is actually putting more pressure on primary care providers to do more during their encounters with the patients in a shorter amount of time. They're trying to manage the diabetes, the hypertension, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke prevention,weight management, behavioral health, the medications and all that kind of stuff… in a 15 to 20 minute interaction that is allotted to them. It [also] requires that doctors spend more time doing documentation and it's taken away time from the face to face encounter interaction between doctor and patient.”

As a public school teacher, this made total sense to me. Just like I’ve felt pressure to do more with less, doctors are feeling many of the same stressors. In either case - this isn’t an excuse; it’s simply the reality of our society.

Identifying a problem in men's health awareness is important, but working to a solution is critical


ABSOT’s mission isn’t just to bemoan the state of men’s health - it’s to improve the care and attention it receives. I asked Dr. Modlin how healthcare professionals and health activists can work together to right this course. He suggested a three-pronged approach.

1. Every man needs a urologist:


I used to joke that I was 25 and had a urologist, but Dr. Modlin said this should be the norm, not the exception. He didn’t mean that urologists should replace primary care physicians; they should augment care. The primary care physician can focus on the aforementioned general issues and allow the urologist to focus on men’s health issues, similar to how gynecologists work in tandem with women’s doctors on their specific needs.

For this to be successful, two things need to happen. We must begin educating people that men need to start seeing a urologist far before the traditional 40’s/50’s timeframe. Dr. Modlin said as early as 15 (the same age in which testicular cancer begins to become more common) wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Click to enlarge and share
In addition, the digital age of medical records has definitely helped put collaboration between primary care physicians and radiologists on the right path. Dr. Modlin said that e-consultations and phone calls between the medical professionals are common, but it’s also important for doctors to physically refer patients to specialists.

2. Help men prioritize their health:


On the Titanic, it was women and children first, and men - if there was room. Dr. Modlin mused that this attitude had been adopted throughout society, and though putting others first is kind, it can be deadly when it comes to personal health. Without being politically incorrect, according to him, “historically the men were the ones that went off to war. It was the belief that men were expendable.” This notion that men were expected to endure danger contributes to modern feelings towards personal health.

While healthcare is a personal responsibility, and men need to start prioritizing it, we also need to place more emphasis on men’s health as a society as a whole.

3. Go where the men are:


I always find it ironic that my analytics on ABSOT and Instagram show that my viewership is primarily women. While it must be my endless charisma, my roguish good looks, and the allure of what a man with one testicle must be like, sadly, they’re not my target audience. This isn’t surprising however, since the major users of most social media are women (with YouTube being a notable exception).

We need men talking with men about men’s health where men are hanging out with other men - places like work, barbershops, gyms, bars, and places where sportsing happens. If you look at the world through my eyeballs, you’d be amazed how many opportunities for talking about balls and other men’s health issues present themselves in these areas.

According to the 2017 American Time Use Survey, men spend more time than women do working, exercising, and watching television. While the above mentioned ideas cover the work and exercise components, a push for national media coverage would help reach the men who watch TV or stream online.

Dr. Modlin and I agreed that there needs to be a collaboration between healthcare professionals and men’s health activists to make this work. My voice alone (as someone who is seemingly obsessed with testicles) doesn’t carry much weight by itself, just as a medical facility’s message can be augmented with a “Regular Joe Everyone” voice.

Let’s join together to grab this mission by the balls and make it into a reality.




A self exam is how most cases of testicular cancer are detected early. Click the image for video directions or click here for a larger version


Click the ABSOT logo below to subscribe to the mailing list for the new blog posts, latest testicular cancer information, and self exam reminders!


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Monday, September 17, 2018

BOB07: Matt Wakefield - Manhood: The Bare Reality

Matt Wakefield, Two-Time Testicular Cancer Survivor, Bares All About His Journey - Quite Literally. 


Welcome to the Band of Ballers! In this series on ABSOT, I’m turning over control to some other ballsy testicular cancer survivors and patients who have inspired me with their work in advocacy and awareness during and after their diagnosis. This month’s feature is all about Matt Wakefield, who showed just how ballsy he is in various awareness events, including posing in a book called Manhood: The Bare Reality. Enjoy!

So I've been asked to share a few words about my two cancer experiences, and how it's changed me. How hasn't it changed me? Well, I have two birthdays, 23rd April, when I was born and 22nd June, when I joined the cancer community.

I'm a double testicular cancer survivor, a Flatbagger, if you will.


It looks like it's cold as balls up there-
Oh wait. 
I was first diagnosed in 2000, when I was 20. Before then, I was quite ignorantly ignoring the lump on my left nut for about 9 months. Why did I ignore it? Mainly the typical reason men ignore problems down there - ignorance and embarrassment. When I finally bit the bullet and told my parents about it, and in turn my GP, the lump had grown from the size of my little finger nail to the size of my finger and thumb put together.

On 22nd June, I had a hospital appointment and found out it was more than likely testicular cancer. The urologist telling me the news said he was so certain the lump was malignant that he would bet his house on it. I was shocked and I thought I was going to die. But I was also defiant; I wasn't going to go down quietly!

A week later, I became a one baller (Editor’s Note: I prefer the term Uniballer, but this may just be a USA/England difference. Jolly good!), and shortly afterwards, I got the results that it was cancer - Stage I seminona. A CT scan revealed that while it may not have spread, I would soon begin a course of radiotherapy to nuke away any cancer cells just in case. As the radiotherapy would have an adverse affect on my fertility, I decided to freeze some sperm in case I wanted to have kids in the future.

Radiotherapy came and went and life resumed its regularly scheduled programming. In 2004, I met the woman who would later become my wife, Corinne. We decided it would be a good idea to have children; unfortunately my fertility was next to nothing after the radiotherapy. So we went the IVF route with the sperm I had banked. The results were Sam and Bethany, born in August 2008!

Life went on.

In summer 2014, I found a lump on my remaining nut.


Matt with his twins (while lacking
his original twins)
This time, I didn't mess around. I found the lump on a Friday night, and I was at the doctor's on Monday morning. I knew from the feel of it that it was cancer. An ultrasound scan confirmed it, and so I became a flatbagger. Again it was Stage I seminona, with no sign of spreading, but I had a cycle of chemotherapy (carboplatin) to be on the safe side.

As a result of being a flatbagger, I am now dependant on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for my body’s testosterone. I had already been on HRT when I was a one baller, in the form of a gel (testogel) but now, as I need it full time, I am on an injection (nebido) which I have every ten weeks.

One thing you don't get told about when you face cancer is how it affects you mentally and emotionally. I was a wreck following my first round with cancer. I felt guilty for surviving, was anxious, and had an overactive imagination that it was coming back (Editor’s Note - Par the course, been there). The second time I had cancer, I booked myself in for some counselling sessions which helped me 100%.

I'm a big believer in raising awareness of testicular cancer.


Back when I was diagnosed 18 years ago, there was zero awareness of testicular cancer. Now, it has vastly improved. I have been involved in awareness campaigns for TV, radio and newspapers and magazines over the years. I have done awareness stunts, such as sitting in a bathtub of nuts - after all, you check your nuts in the bath! (Editor’s Note: Slow clap.)

Matt being on the ball on the radio
I have also been in documentaries about testicular cancer and have shared how my life has been affected by low testosterone. I have also posed naked from the bottom half down in a book called ‘Manhood- The Bare Reality’, which is about men and their penises, their life experiences, and what it means to them to be a man. That came about after seeing a shout out on Twitter by the author, Laura Dodsworth, looking for men brave enough to bare all, so I went to London to give an interview and have my picture taken.

(Editor’s Note: I have received a copy of this book and will be doing a review of it in October - stay tuned. I have already read Matt’s story and it is incredible!)

The thing is, my life is richer because of testicular cancer.


It revealed hidden strengths I didn't know were there, a true sense of resilience. I appreciate life a lot more. I have made lifelong friends with people, fellow survivors who I wouldn't have met otherwise. And of course, my kids exist because of it.

What has cancer taught me? You have zero control over what life throws at you, but you have the ultimate control over your attitude towards it.

- Matt ‘the Flatbagger’ Wakefield, aged 38.

Be sure to connect with Matt by visiting him on Twitter (@flatbagger1980) or on Instagram (@insta_flatbagger) Until next time, Carpe Scrotiem!

Know someone (or even yourself!) who is supporting TC awareness and would be willing to share their story? Drop their name, contact, and why they should be featured into this Google Form and I’ll reach out to them and/or you!



A self exam is how most cases of testicular cancer are detected early. Click the image for video directions or click here for a larger version


Click the ABSOT logo below to subscribe to the mailing list for the new blog posts, latest testicular cancer information, and self exam reminders!


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