Wednesday, July 12, 2017

PCL9: No Time for Excuses

Self-exams of testicles save lives. Period. End of story. Do not pass Go; do not collect $200. (Although if you skip doing the exams, you’ll wish you had collected that $200. Cancer is crazy expensive.) I was told by my doctor many years ago to do them monthly, and luckily, I did them regularly and discovered the lump on Lefty.

Thanks to Fighting Cancer Takes Balls
for my new shirt!
Zig Ziglar once said, “Put all excuses aside and remember this: YOU are capable.” I’m assuming he forgot to fully articulate his thoughts, probably because he was doing a self-exam. What he meant to say was, “Put all of the following excuses aside and remember this: YOU are capable... of doing regular self-exams.”

Excuse #1: I didn't know I was supposed to.

Well, you clicked on this page, so now you do. Self-exams should be done monthly. If you haven’t been doing them regularly, start now. Pick a day of the month and stick with it. You have two testicles - maybe do a check on the second of each month (or remind the man in your life to do one). I guess that means I have to do it on the first now.

Excuse #2: I don't know how.

Ever checked a grape for anything wrong before eating it? If yes, you’re halfway there. If not, you should really slow down and look at your food before eating it.

Your scrotum is relaxed in the shower, and you’re hopefully already naked too, so that’s a good place to do a self-exam. The process is easy: just place your index and middle fingers under the testicle with your thumb on top. Firmly but gently (no need to squash the berries), roll the testicle between your fingers. Any weird lumps or bumps should be checked out by a doctor. If you’re doing it monthly (LIKE YOU SHOULD BE DOING), pay attention to any changes from month to month.

My lump was on my left testicle towards the bottom. It felt like a pea-sized pebble, and there was another mass that felt like a baby jellyfish was hugging my testicle. Trust me - it wasn’t that cute. When in doubt, schedule a doctor’s appointment.

Excuse #3: I don't have time.

Stop reading this post, and do one now. I promise I’ll wait.

Seriously, it takes about a minute. (Although it now takes me half the time.) Skip that last Tweet, don’t watch the full Netflix credits, or do one less swipe on Tinder. You need to make the time. Taking care of your health is one of the most important things you can do.

Excuse #4: It's uncomfortable.
You know what else is uncomfortable? Losing your hair, low white blood cell counts, constant nausea, and never-ending fatigue from chemo. In many cases, if you detect a lump early enough, removing the testicle is enough to treat it and you won’t need to endure chemotherapy. Yes, it might suck to lose a ball, but early detection is key. The earlier you catch a lump, the better your prognosis will be, which means you’re less likely to need intense treatment.


Furthermore, it’s your body. Not to be crude or vulgar here, but chances are you’ve gotten familiar with that area of your body a few times before. I can’t think of a better reason to touch yourself than for your health.

Excuse #5: I get checked once a year at the doctor.
There’s a couple points to be made here. First of all, do you really visit your doctor once a year? If you’re like me, my last regular physical was in 2014, although I’ve definitely made up for that with the nearly 100 doctor visits since November.

Here’s another scenario for you to consider. My annual check up was always scheduled in July, since that’s my birthday month. I discovered my lump in October. Had I waited the nine months until my next regularly scheduled appointment (which I probably would have skipped again), who knows how far my cancer would have spread? Paying attention to your testicles once a year just isn’t going to cut it.

Excuse #6: If I do have it, isn't it treatable
?

While testicular cancer is among the most highly treatable cancers, I would still rather avoid chemotherapy and further treatment. Cancer of any kind has long-lasting physical and mental impacts and isn’t something I would recommend.

That’s also a weak excuse. It’s like saying, “Well I don’t need to wear a seatbelt because if I crash, I can have some surgeries and a long hospital stay and be fine eventually.” Guys, you’re not invincible.

There’s also a somber point to consider here. While testicular cancer is curable in over 90% of cases, that means it causes death in around 10% of men who develop it. Those aren’t odds you should be willing to bet on.
Watermelons are slightly larger than the average testicle,
but work well for demonstrations

Excuse #7: If something's wrong, I'll notice on my own.
False. I had no other symptoms that pointed to a health issue, aside from feeling the lump, which I wouldn’t have caught without a self-check. While it’s true that some people who are diagnosed with testicular cancer have pain, physical swelling, or other signs of something being amiss below the belt, symptoms vary from person to person. Self-exams are the first and easiest line of defense to catch early developments.

Excuse #8: Cancer is for older people.

Also false. 50% of men diagnosed with testicular cancer are between the ages of 15-35. If you consider that old, you’re probably in my fourth grade class (in which case you probably shouldn’t be reading this page until you’re a few years older - but you should come back then!) Testicular cancer can hit anyone at any age, so don’t just chalk it up to something old people have. However, if you’re not vigilant with self-exams, you could look like an old person, walking with a cane and having your hair fall out. I have personal experience with both.

So there you have it.
Eight common excuses for why you might not do a testicular self-exam - and eight reasons why they’re excuses that you should stop making. If you can think of more, let me know in the comments and I’ll update the post. If you’re still unclear about the importance of self-exams, maybe my friend Mr. Deadpool (who also had cancer but got some pretty sweet superpowers, which I regrettably have not gained… yet) can convince you. This is slightly vulgar, so consider yourself warned.



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