Sunday, August 26, 2018

BOB06: Dave Fuehrer - Gryt Health

Dave Fuehrer, Two Time Testicular Cancer and Founder of Gryt Health, Says, “Losing My Balls Helped Me Become More Of A Man."


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 Dave Fuehrer, the founder and CEO of Gryt Health, the minds who developed the Stupid Cancer App (check out ABSOT’s posts about the App here). Dave recently gave a Ted Talk, entitled “The Science of Living”. Enjoy!

I won’t try to convince you that going through testicular cancer twice in my twenties wasn’t physically painful. It was. But when the physical pain started to subside… a new tidal wave of emotional, mental (and even subconscious) pain began to take its place.

In the few short minutes I have to convey something meaningful, I want to focus on how much we suffer beyond the physical challenges of cancer. As men, we often hear comments like “Be strong,” “Tough it out,” or my personal tormentor: “You gotta have balls to try something like that.”

I’ll admit it, before facing testicular cancer - I fully bought in to that mentality.


Surprisingly, this is not the face of pain
As a former athlete, ignoring pain is what made me who I was. For context, this was me winning a New York State Natural Bodybuilding Title in 2001.

A few months after winning the title, I felt something different in my groin. I just had this really weird feeling about it. I was a senior in college and remember walking into the Health Services office. Whatever I said, they got me right in (Editor’s Note: Sounds like the doctors were about to actually get the right out) and then immediately sent for an ultrasound at the hospital. Testicular cancer. BOOM. Just like that. I remember thinking “How fast can I recover from the orchiectomy and get back to the gym?” And that was it, ignoring pain again as quickly as I could.

Five years later, I started to notice changes in my other testicle.


You might think having one diagnosis already… I would be eager to get it checked out. But denial is a powerful thing, my friends. I waited several months (with continued atrophying) until my routine check-up.

It was a whirlwind of a few weeks. CT Scan. Followed by MRI. Followed by immediate attempts to determine sperm count. “None present.” Then immediately into surgery...

Dictation Date: 13 March 2007

SPECIMEN: LEFT TESTICLE

--- SEMINOMA, 1.8 cm

--- MULTIPLE FOCI OF INTRATUBULAR GIANT CELL NEOPLASIA WITH FOCAL AREAS OF SEMINOMA

That’s what my surgical pathology report reads. I have it in front of me as I write this. Almost not believing it was me, Patient No: 342661320XX.

Soon thereafter, I started radiation treatments, covering my pelvis through my abdomen. I remember feeling dirty inside - like my body was betraying me. Still, I just wanted to ignore it all.

But while ignoring pain can be a highly effective approach to athletics, it is the direct enemy to men’s health. My training as an athlete taught me to ignore all of the real pain I faced from cancer (including anxiety, PTSD, isolation, and loss of identity),. What I’ve learned in the last 10 years is that you can only ignore these things for so long before they overwhelm your life (at least, this was certainly the case in my life).

A few years ago, I made what I thought was a mistake. I was so full of pain inside, that I let some of it slip out. In a moment of breakdown, I admitted how broken I felt. But this started to change my life. People didn’t judge me in the way I expected - quite the opposite, actually. They thanked me for being open and told me how strong I was to be vulnerable. (If you’re a man, your internal monologue is probably going crazy right now!) Admitting pain, crying and asking for help...how could anyone see me, a former bodybuilder, as… strong?!

Fast forward to 2018 - I’m a far different man after facing testicular cancer twice. 


I had the honor of giving a TEDx Talk this year. It was the most honest I’ve been about my experience as a two-time testicular cancer survivor. Getting to this point was only possible because of the “mistake” I thought I made all those years ago.


Between that moment of starting to let things out and today, my life has completely changed. I’m humbled to play a small part of helping men (and women) in 80 countries feel proud of who they are after cancer.

I work with a team of inspired survivors and caregivers at our company, GRYT Health (pronounced “grit”). Together, we have built and run a free app that’s used by survivors and the people who love us around the world. The purpose for our app is to help others like us live on our terms. Nobody is more of an expert on our life than we are. When we think of ourselves as a “patient” or “caregiver,” we’re dependent on others. At Gryt, we think of ourselves as Healthcare Consumers - those who are empowered to know our options and choose what’s right for us. As Healthcare Consumers, WE are in charge.

If you look at this picture with
3D glasses, Dave actually
appears to have two testicles
If you ask me what I hope my legacy in this world will be, my answer will be counted in the number of lives changed. In the number of people who felt helpless but now feel hopeful. In the individuals who went from feeling out of control or alone to those who now feel empowered and connected.

I am truly grateful for the leaders of this movement who help each of us stop “being tough” and start talking openly. I admire Justin at ABSOT for his willingness to be open about our struggles - the physical ones, and even more importantly, the emotional ones. (Editor’s Note: Aw Dave, you make me blush, but since you said something... if you're reading this, check out this piece about how to talk about testicles.) I am in awe to see organizations like The Movember Foundation (through their TrueNTH Testicular Cancer program and their Quality of Life pages) support and celebrate men’s health in the way they do.

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. Getting that fear out of the darkness inside us and exposing it to light is the first step in changing the world. And it is the first step in helping men become of the men we’re proud to be. Thank you for changing the world with us.

Be sure to connect with Dave by visiting him at www.facebook.com/grythealth www.instagram.com/grythealth www.twitter.com/DaveFuehrer #MensHealth #OnMyTerms #poweredbygryt. 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!


https://aballsysenseoftumor.us18.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=b4883398e11f09a7628a9ac58&id=b967eb48f2

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Thursday, August 16, 2018

PCL36: Three Self-Care Tips from a Testicular Cancer Survivor

As a Testicular Cancer Survivor, Self-Care is Very Important to Me. 


While I spend a lot of my time working on ABSOT and other cancer awareness and advocacy projects, I’m also careful to make sure I’m not investing every single moment of my day into this work. I’ve talked about how I have focused on healing my mind, but it’s been just as important to take care of my body.

Exercise is what I do solely for me - it’s my form of self-care. I was honestly ashamed of my bloated and flabby body, lack of endurance, and pitiful amount of strength post-chemo. I finally decided to do something about it a year ago, in August 2017. Since then, I’ve shed over forty pounds, dropped nearly ten percent of my body fat, increased my running stamina, and nearly doubled my maximum lifting stats.

Chemo journal is the bigger one,
just in case you thought WBC Low
was some sort of extreme lift.
These three tips are how I’ve grabbed my life by the ball(s) and made a commitment to making my post-cancer life the best it can possibly be. While exercise is what I’ve chosen as my form of self-care, it may not be yours - and that’s totally fine. The following tips can all be easily adapted to whatever form of self-care you choose. Find what works for YOU.

Apply old cancer habits to new endeavors in self-care


While I was going through chemotherapy, I kept a journal of how I felt at certain hours of the day, medications I took, my temperature, and the amount of testicles I currently possessed (spoiler - it was always one).

Now, I use that meticulous record keeping habit for a different purpose - tracking my weight lifting routines. Every single workout is logged, including how many pounds I picked up and subsequently put down, how I was feeling that day, and how many sets I did.

Another major component of chemo was strict scheduling. I had a timetable of when I had to be at chemo and what treatments I would be receiving. These days, keeping a schedule is just as important - straight to the gym from work. I may not necessarily write it down always, but I have a plan for which muscle group and run I do on each day.

  I lived with a rigid schedule and a journaling habit for many months, and now I’m retooling these habits to benefit my self-care routine.

Repurpose cancer objects into self-care motivational tools


Not to humblebrag or anything, but I get a lot of compliments on my gym bag. If you’re reading this without looking at the pictures (which is an impressive feat in and of itself), it’s a backpack with various Marvel characters on it, represented in a stylized cartoon format. It may or may not have been designed for fourteen year old boys, which are half my age, but I have half the amount of testicles as they do, so I think it all balances out

Even though I am wearing the same bandana in
both of these pictures, they were taken weeks apart.
However, this bag used to be what I used to carry my personal effects to and from chemo. By bringing the same bag with me to the gym, it’s a constant reminder of where I was and my motivation to take care of myself to get to where I want to be.

My iPad traveled with me to chemo, and it still has a place in my bag today. The purposes I use it for are even similar. My iPad, which is a vintage model (to be generous) is basically a way to watch digital movies and TV. However, while it was used during chemo to Netflix and chill (I’m 98% sure I’m using that term correctly), it’s now used to Vudu and run (not as catchy, admittedly). Sometimes, I just plain don’t feel like running, but by seeing that iPad poking out from my former chemo bag, I remember what it was like to not even have energy to do a flight of stairs.

Finding physical reminders and repurposing them for my self-care routine helps keep me motivated to stay on the ball with my fitness regimen.

Set self-care goals, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t meet them


Both minor and major goal setting was a huge component how I faced cancer. Some of my minor and more short-term goals included eating lunch, walking around upstairs, and not throwing up for the next hour (admittedly, I failed pretty epically on that last one). Goal setting gave me something to work towards and focus on, and I’ve applied that to my self-care routine today. If I did 2.2 miles in a 20 minute interval run this week, I’ll aim for 2.3 the next. I did 8 pull ups on that last set; I’ll shoot for 9 the next time. Small goals help keep me motivated and moving along.

This pic took a ridiculous amount of effort and
skill with a self-timer
My main cancer goal (as is the goal of most cancer patients) was to beat the disease. Since I am writing this, I’ve clearly achieved that goal and I am thankful every day for that. However, I did not achieve my primary goal I set for myself when I began working out in August 2017. I had a plan - I would have a max bench press of 225 pounds, something I had never been able to do this when I was an avid lifter in college. While this was a completely arbitrary goal, it felt like a good amount of weight to aspire to (and two plates on each end seems really cool, though two of one thing seems to be excessive in my opinion).

It’s now August 2018, and my max bench press hovers around 200. For those of you who may struggle with math, this is approximately 25 pounds less than I planned on attaining. To be frank (and this is not to be confused with ‘to be Frank,’ my neighbor who I aspire to be one day and who is a fellow cancer survivor), I was very disappointed in myself at first. I pride myself on reaching goals, and I failed.

But then I flipped back to my lifting journal and saw where I started in August - barely 100 pounds. I wasn’t kidding in the introduction when I said I had no strength. By lifting 200 pounds, I’ve nearly doubled my bench in a year. This is a huge proportional increase, and this isn’t even to mention the gains in other areas of lifting or the great strides in running progress - pun fully intended.

Both small and large goals are great, but don’t let them bury you.

A final note on self-care


Self-care is important, and we need to take time for ourselves. You don’t owe anyone any explanation of your preferred method, and it’s not always necessary make a big deal over how or what you’re doing to take care of yourself. While I am exercising, I often think about what I’ve been through and what kind of person I want to be. It’s an intense moment - both physically and in the reflection aspects.

Physical fitness is a great idea, especially in the case of cancer survivors, since the American Cancer Society recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week to lower risk of cancer.

No matter what you choose as your form of self-care, make it a priority. We can’t give our 100% to others if we’re not taking care of ourselves first. While this may seem selfish, as a cancer survivor, I realize I’ve been given a second chance at life - and I intend on making the most of it.



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!


https://aballsysenseoftumor.us18.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=b4883398e11f09a7628a9ac58&id=b967eb48f2

Don't forget to follow and share ABSOT on social media by clicking the icons below!

Monday, August 6, 2018

PCL35: ABSOT is a Winner in the WEGO Health Awards

A Ballsy Sense of Tumor Has Been Nominated Won for Hilarious Patient Leader in the 2018 WEGO Health Awards


About a week ago, I turned 27 years old. If you missed my birthday, it’s not too late for you to give me a present - or even an additional present (looking at you, Mom). Take 27 seconds out of your day to help me out.

ABSOT has been nominated for Hilarious Patient Leader and Instagram Best in Show. If you don’t feel like reading this entire post, simply click here to endorse me. It seriously takes just a handful of seconds. If it takes less than 60 seconds, please use the remaining time to do a self-exam. (Please note: Endorsements closed in August 2018, but read to the end of this post for an exciting update)

Endorsing me isn’t about stoking the flames of my ego. Although I am writing this as I sit by my firepit, so essentially it’s a fireside chat - move over, FDR.

It’s about elevating ABSOT’s mission - open, frank, educational, and humorous discussions about testicles and men’s health as a whole. 


By endorsing me for this award, you will help get the ball rolling on bringing this topic to a wider audience.

#relatable
I’ve dedicated a vast majority of my free time since being diagnosed with testicular cancer in November 2016 to raising awareness of testicular cancer. Among the efforts I’ve led or participated in are:


This year, the 16 WEGO Health Award winners will be honored at an in-person celebration in October co-hosted by the Society of Participatory Medicine at the Connected Health Conference. This would be a huge accomplishment for ABSOT and the work we do here.

By connecting me to health leaders and other influential members, having this opportunity would continue to amplify conversations about men’s health. 


I may be one man with one blog (and one ball), but together, we can make sure that the ball isn’t dropped on this topic. In addition to attending this celebration, the finalist in each category receives a feature on WEGO Health’s blog and social channels and special access to WEGO Health opportunities throughout the year–including chances to speak at or attend conferences. All of these opportunities would help further ABSOT’s mission.

I generally don’t ask for much from my readers, beyond requesting that you do a self-exam every month, but I’m now looking to you to help endorse me for this award. I am one of 25 nominees in this category. The three nominees with the most endorsements by August 17th, along with two additional nominees chosen by judges, move on to the final judging.

OCTOBER 2018 UPDATE  


I ended up being a finalist in the Hilarious Patient Leader category, because let’s be honest, I am incredibly funny. I’m also very humble, but mostly funny. I mean, I laugh at all my own jokes.


As you may have guessed from the above video, I ended up winning the category and got to travel to Boston to the Connected Health Conference in mid-October to network and accept my award. It was a whirlwind of an adventure, with many laughs, connections, and opportunities for networking. Hopefully, this helps elevate the work of ABSOT to more prominence. 

ABOUT WEGO HEALTH:


WEGO Health is a mission-driven company connecting healthcare with the experience, skills, and insights of patient leaders. They are the world’s largest network of patient leaders, working across virtually all health conditions and topics.

The WEGO Health Awards were created to celebrate those who tirelessly support the mission of WEGO Health: to empower the patient voice. With 16 award categories, the WEGO Health Awards are the only awards across all conditions and platforms, that recognize the over 100 thousand inspiring Patient Leaders who raise awareness, share information, and support their communities - but often without recognition.



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!


https://aballsysenseoftumor.us18.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=b4883398e11f09a7628a9ac58&id=b967eb48f2

Don't forget to follow and share ABSOT on social media by clicking the icons below!