Sunday, November 13, 2016

What is ABSOT?

I was diagnosed with Stage IIB Nonseminoma cancer in November 2016. It's a form of testicular cancer that had spread to my lymph nodes. I had surgery to remove the original mass on October 28th, and will be beginning chemotherapy on November 28th to get rid of the remaining cancerous cells.

Naturally, my first priority after hearing my diagnosis was to tell my friends and family. However, after everyone in my life had taken care of when it came to knowing what was happening with my health, I wanted to keep going. I went semi-public with my diagnosis by sharing it on Instagram in early November. However, I had yet to share my news on Twitter. My Instagram account is private and largely comprised of friends from high school and college and distant family members. I only have about 100 followers, but on Twitter, I have more than six thousand. This is a huge reach and could have a real impact. I began thinking about using this reach to spread awareness about testicular cancer, a topic that is rarely discussed, as is men’s health in general.

The decision to potentially tell six thousand people is terrifying. While I have no problem Tweeting about my opinions on homework (it’s in how you use it), my stance on standardized testing (it’s too much), or my feeling on GSuite (I love it), letting people in personally would be a new order. I also didn’t want cancer to become my only identity. My handle is @Mr_B_Teacher, not @Mr_B_Has_Cancer. While I have shared some personal information, I still wanted the focus of my Twitter and blog to be educational.

However, I couldn’t put the thought out of my head that I should do something more when sharing my diagnosis on Twitter - something beyond just mentioning that I had cancer once and then never bringing it up again. Six thousand people is a lot, and I was close with a number of people who had more followers than that. I decided to use my diagnosis and my Twitter handle to my advantage in a new way - to spread awareness about men’s health and testicular cancer.

In mid-November, nine days after learning that I had testicular cancer, I decided that I would begin this awareness campaign. The goal from the beginning has been to share my personal story and journey from discovery to being cured. My hopes are that this will bring more open discussion and a larger focus to men’s health in general. Knowing someone who is going through cancer can help make it more real. I would put my face where their balls are (which is a somewhat awkward turn of phrase).

Knowing this, I decided to start this blog, A Ballsy Sense of Tumor. The title was important to me. It had to convey it was about testicular cancer and that I would be talking about it in as much of a positive light and with as much humor as you can use when discussing cancer. While cancer is no laughing matter, my outlook on my story has to approach it with humor and positivity. I will beat this; there has never been doubt in my mind.

I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I first reached out to my friend, Katie Kraushaar, to help me produce and edit the pieces that will appear on this blog. These will be my words, but she helps me sound better. I also know that as I start chemo, I won’t be able to keep up with it by myself. Her support from the start of this journey has been invaluable.

Over the course of a few days, we worked together to brainstorm ideas for what ABSOT would look like. We decided to tackle three different aspects of my cancer journey:
  • Chemo Chronicles (CC), where I’ll be posting on Mondays about my present-day experiences with chemotherapy and general musings about life as a cancer patient.
  • Throwback Thursday (TBT) posts, will travel back to the beginning of my story from the initial discovery up until the beginning of chemotherapy.
  • Healthy But Aware (HBA), where, on Saturdays, my close friends and family will share how my diagnosis has affected them.
We decided to launch it in November because the month is supposed to be used to raise awareness for men’s health issues. I couldn’t have gotten cancer at a better time! Thinking on how to heighten the impact, I personally reached out to a number of men who I admired and respect to help me boost awareness. I wanted to use influential men to help underscore that this is a men’s issue and we need to highlight it as such. Thank you to Ben Brazeau, Ben Cogswell, Mark Wagner, Lee Aroaz, Doug Robertson, Quinn Rollins, Don Wettrick, Dave Burgess, Mark French, Jay Atwood, Steven Isaacs, Mark Bartmas, Matt Miller, James Sanders, Greg Bagby, Donnie Piercey, and Mark Barnes for helping spread awareness about an issue that affects all lives.

ABSOT was first mentioned on the “I Have Cancer: Telling My Students” post on my educational blog. This marked the bridge between my identity as a teacher and my newer identity as as cancer patient. On November 20th, I pressed publish. Finally, the whole world knew my diagnosis.

17 comments:

  1. HI Justin,
    We have never met, but I feel like I know you from many interactions on social media and with Digital BOEdu. Thank you for your bravery creating this blog and going public about your cancer. You're right: it's such an important disease to publicize and make people more aware of. Might I ask what symptoms you had that led you to the doctor for your diagnosis (if it's not too personal)? I will follow you on your journey to health and will send positive vibes your way every day. With much admiration, Sylvia

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    1. Thank you for the support Sylvia. I'm hoping to destigmatize talking about it and spread awareness. I'll discuss my symptoms that lead me to the doctor the Thursday after Thanksgiving. Looking forward to having you along for this journey.

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  2. Thank you for this open and honest approach to a really awkward topic. I lost my father to testicular cancer when he was only 55., It was diagnosed only after every inch of his body was involved. He might have been saved had it been diagnosed earlier in the disease. Thank you for taking an educational approach.

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    1. Thank you for sharing this. This is exactly my goal - spread awareness now so men catch it early so it doesn't have to result in a fatal disease. I look forward to having you along for the journey and will keep your father in my thoughts.

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  3. I admire your bravery, positivity, and desire to spread the word about this disease. Praying for complete healing for you, Justin.

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    1. Thank you! Looking forward to having you along for the journey.

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  4. My thoughts and prayers are with you. I have sons your age. We never know what our journey here on earth is but I have learned that the negative things in our life can serve a purpose if we make positive things happen from them. I encourage you on this road and know you'll make a difference in others. For everyone who follows your story, they have the ability to share. Don't feel pressured to post when you are not ready. It's ok to change your schedule as your feel necessary along the way. Thank you for you openness and sharing your experiences for others to learn from.

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    1. Thank you for your kind works and feedback. I look forward to sharing my journey.

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  5. Justin,your bravery and optimism are an inspiration to us all. Thank you for seeing thr opportunity in this challenge and using your voice to help others. Sending loving kindness your way.

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    1. Thanks, Les! So happy to have you in my corner.

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  6. I love this approach. Us guys can be pretty poor when it comes to talking about our health.

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  7. You've made me realise I need to be open about it as well. Trying to do my bit now.

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  8. I missed so much of this because I got a concussion on October 31st. I am just now gradually getting back to work, and though it is in no way the same, I just shared with my principal that I want to be an advocate for students who are suffering from Mild Tramautic Brain Injuries because so many people don't understand the symptoms and the impact it can have. Thank you for inspiring!

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