Thursday, February 14, 2019

PCL46: 6 Reasons to Show Love to Your Testicles This Valentine's Day

This Valentine's Day, Skip The Date and Invest Your Time In a Testicular Self-Exam. 


Valentine's Day (or Singles Awareness Day, if you prefer) is supposedly a day all about showing love to your significant other. However, I challenge you to give some self-love to your “significant other(s)” below the belt. I promise you it’s a far superior way to spend your day.

1. You don’t need a partner to do a testicular self-exam


If you’re not already in a relationship, finding a date for the big day can be a stressful experience. However, with a self-exam, all you need is yourself. Just follow these directions:

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 weird lumps or bumps should be checked out by a doctor ASAP. When you get out of the shower, be sure to look for signs of changes in shape, color, or swelling.

There you have it - no awkwardly asking if someone is free or beating around the bush (if you’re doing that, you’re not doing a self-exam correctly!). Just seize the moment (and your testicles) and get down with your bad self.

2. No reservations required to do a testicular self-exam


More times than I would like to admit, I’ve been guilty of waiting until February 13th at 7:00 pm to try to make reservations for Valentine's Day. Suffice it to say, this doesn’t generally bode well for places that have been booked for months in advance. However, I still maintain that there’s no better way to express love than a bucket of Sonic corn dogs.

With a testicular self-exam, no reservations at a swanky restaurant are required! You simply need to visit a shower to get in on the action. A shower is the perfect locale for a self-exam. Since your clothes are already off and the hot water helps relax your scrotum, it’s an easy and convenient place to do your exam.

Unless you share a house with too many people, it shouldn’t be hard to get on the exclusive guest list at the Lounge de Shower.

3. A testicular self-exam takes less time than getting ready for a date


Even for guys, getting all spiffed up for a date can take a while. With the showering, shaving, applying inordinate amounts of cologne, hair styling products, clothes, and brushing your teeth, it could take up to an hour til you’re all ready to go.

Here’s my proposal - start with the shower and do your self-exam. In less than two minutes (or one in my case), you’ll be all done. Skip the rest of those unnecessary steps (though maybe put some clothes on) and stay in for some endless YouTube streaming. Make it a special event and check out the CHECK 15 videos for a healthy dose of humor and awareness.

4. A testicular self-exam is less expensive than a bouquet of roses


I am fundamentally against buying flowers. Not only are they are ridiculously expensive (most good bouquets START at $20), they also eventually end up looking droopy and sad. Plus, they die after like two weeks, which is kind of a buzz kill.

The price of a self-exam? Free.

To be fair, roses and and self-exams do have something in common - they both deal with things that eventually end up droopy-looking.

5. It’s always a guaranteed second date with a testicular self-exam


Even if your date went well, it’s a gamble if there will be a redux. Will they accept a rose for a second date? This may be especially difficult if you followed the previous advice and refused to buy any roses.

However, a self-exam should occur once a month, every month. Doing it regularly helps you notice any changes and helps you determine your normal set.

If you need helpful reminders, check out #Takea2nd4theBoys and the Testicular Cancer Society’s text reminders. There’s no “wait three days” rule on that message!

6. Nine months later, the only risk in doing a testicular self-exam is that you’ve done nine self-exams


So let’s say your date goes really well and you’ve… sealed the deal. Nine months later, you may be skipping holding hands at your romantic date nights in favor of rocking a baby at daddy and me play dates. But if you skip the Valentine's Date and stay in to do a self-exam, nine months later, the only thing you’ll have cradled is your own pride and joys.

There’s an even bigger risk in not doing your exams, too. According to the American Cancer Society, testicular cancer presents as a lump in the testicle 90% of the time. About 9,560 new cases will be diagnosed in the US in 2019, which is up from 9,310 in 2018. Roughly 1 of 250 males will develop testicular cancer at some point during their life, with 50% of testicular cancer cases occurring in males aged 15-44.

Better yet, skip the obligatory Valentine's date night and grab some time with your buddies


We need to talk about men’s health with our male friends more often. The Cleveland Clinic found that 56% of men prefer to keep health concerns to themselves and not share them with anyone, which can have deadly consequences.

Let’s sack up and change that. After reading this post, hopefully you’ll be compelled to take the opportunity to make sure your male friends know how important it is for them to make time grab their own “buddies.”



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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ABSOT is endorsed by the Laughter Arts and Sciences Foundation, a registered 501.c.3 charity. To make a tax-deductible contribution to help help continue ABSOT's work with testicular cancer awareness and men's health, click the image below.

Monday, February 4, 2019

BOB12: Dan Duffy - The Half Fund and Half Book

Dan Duffy, Creator of the Half Fund and Half Book Says, "I Talk About My Ball Cancer, and You Should As Well."


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 Dan Duffy, who wrote the Half Book and began the Half Fund. Enjoy!

“We’ve hit a homerun! It’s testicular cancer!” My oncologist of a grand total of six days, Dr. Burt Needles, was over the moon.

“Wait, what?” was all I could muster.

The man himself
“It’s testicular cancer. A simple seminoma,” he beamed… as much as one can beam over the phone.

“But you’re saying I have cancer,” I said.

“Yes, but we’ve got this,” he responded.

“But you’re saying,” pausing for effect, “that I have cancer.” (Editor’s Note: It seems dramatic pauses are a hallmark of testicular cancer survivors.)

“Yes, Dan, you have cancer.” He understood his faux pas of reveling in something that, to him, was good news, and to me, sucked.

“Do you feel good about this?” I asked, now fully rocked to my core.

“I do. I know how we’re going to treat it, and I really believe you’re going to be just fine.”

It’s not every day that you hear that you have a parasitic mass of cells that are not only living in your human apartment, but they’re actively trying to evict you


Dr. Needles’ words terrified me at first, but the more I thought about it, the more relieved I felt. This paradox makes sense when you realize that I had lived with a gimpy back my entire life. In high school, one flailing backhand on the tennis court was enough to knock me out of whack.

And then, October 21, 1996 happened.

In a nutshell, a guy driving his three-day-old car drove into the back of my Jeep. Accident reconstruction said that the car that hit me slowed down to slightly over one hundred miles-per-hour before impact. We spun into the concrete barrier, and in mid spin… and flip… I was ejected.

Somehow, I flew through the air in a perfectly straight line down the center of the breakdown lane, avoiding both the barrier and the fast lane of Interstate 70. I landed on my shoulders and skipped like a rock across a lake three times. The Jeep was utterly destroyed, coming to its final rest on its roof. Had I not been ejected, I would have been decapitated, crushed, or both.

And yet, I walked away... or rather... hobbled.

For eight months before that fateful call with Dr. Needles, I would have sworn that the back pain I’d been suffering with was due to arthritis from the accident. This pain was so bad, that this Roman Catholic… while ruling out ending it all… actually prayed for death. I was twenty-nine. I couldn’t imagine living even another five years in this agony.

Now I had a diagnosis. And with that diagnosis, I had an answer to why my back was hurting so much. More importantly, I could formulate a plan of actually getting better.

Thankfully, I had cleared the first hurdle without actually knowing it was a hurdle: I had a doctor that I trusted implicitly


He gave me four rounds of five-day chemo, followed by the jewel heist… which is actually the backwards way of doing things. Story of my life. What ensued was a series of utter failures, some physically… most psychologically. Sometimes, I couldn’t see the well-camouflaged landmines of regression that awaited me. Other times, the bomb went off in the road miles ahead of me, and I still couldn’t keep from falling into the blast crater.

Giving a talk 
For instance, I was more worried about how my loved ones saw my condition over my actual condition, so I hid what I was really feeling. I would put on a brave face and say, “I’m fine,” which was a complete and utter lie… and they knew it. What I failed to remember was that many humans have an innate desire to make things out to be worse than they are. So while I was trying to be strong and not lay the burden of my misery on them, what I was actually doing was letting their imagination get the better of them… and that imagination was far more diabolical than my reality.

But while that was a miscalculation, this next one was thermonuclear stupidity. One of the side effects of my chemo was the temporary eradication of my white blood cells. Dr. Needles was as delicate as ever.

“Your white count is a little low,” he murmured.

“How low?” I asked.

“Zero.”

The remedy was a week’s worth of Neupogen shots after each of my four rounds. The first fifteen shots were not terribly difficult, as the gauge of the needles was nice and thin. When it came to my fourth and final week, my regular pharmacy didn’t have the shots, so I had to go to a different location. When I got home and opened the bag, I freaked when I saw the gauge of my final five pricks. It reminded me of the thickness of tennis racquet string.

And dear Jesus, did that first shot hurt. I quickly surmised that this was going to be the worst part of my days going forward.

On the morning of the final shot, I felt like doing something grandiose to mark the occasion. So as I sat at the edge of my toilet, I picked up the bag and dumped out the last shot. Only, something else dropped out the bag, as well. And do you know what that something else was?

Adapters to make the needles smaller. And do you know what I did? I jammed the big needle into my leg as penance for my stupidity of not actually looking in the bag. In essence, it’s as if I felt that cancer and chemo hadn’t beaten me up enough. I wanted my own pound of flesh, too.

It’s not to say that I did everything wrong during treatment. I learned quickly that you had to use whatever worked. The nausea made you not want to eat, but if you found a meal that you could actually tolerate, it was okay to eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I learned that putting Nestle Quik chocolate syrup into a glass of Ensure made it infinitely more palatable. I learned that the banana is the only food in nature that tastes the exact same way, no matter which direction it travels through your upper-body plumbing.

Have you noticed that most of the good decisions I made have to do with food?

Sadly, those little victories were few and far between. On the last day of my treatment, I walked out of the room after my final infusion. I stopped in the middle of the hallway, and turned around… almost in disbelief. What the hell happened over the last twelve weeks?

I had so many questions and no good answers


I barely knew the who-what-where-when of my treatment. I had no clue of the why. So I spent the next few years finding out every why that I could, and eventually, things started making sense.

I soon realized that I had a unique set of encyclopedic knowledge of living through a cancer diagnosis and treatment. I also knew, however, that the volumes of knowledge were grossly incomplete. I would definitely need the insight of others… something I’d shunned during treatment.

When I finally started to dialogue with some amazing patients, survivors, and caregivers, I learned so much useful information. One girl told me, “You know, if I could give people one piece of advice, it would be to buy two good pieces of headwear to conceal your baldness, not five crappy ones.”

“Want constitutes a good one?” I asked.

“Rub it on the inside of your forearm,” she said, “and if it doesn’t itch there, it won’t itch your head.”

Mind… blown.

And that just scratched the surface


Dan has also given an incredible Tedx Talk -
Watch it here
By the time I was done, I had so much accumulated knowledge that I knew deep in my heart could help people. With my friend Joe Farmer (both of his parents are survivors), we started a small little charity dedicated to telling stories about cancer. It’s called The Half Fund, and half of all of the money we raise from commercially viable works of art go to charity - think movies, documentaries, and even books.

Soon after, by divine providence and dumb luck, I was asked to blog for the Huffington Post. These would eventually become the basis for my story, The Half Book: He’s Taking His Ball and Going Home. It became our first project for The Half Fund, and as of this writing, we’ve donated $3000 to the American Cancer Society from the profits of our sales.

I actually have an inordinate amount of friends who have had cancer, and the vast majority of them never, ever talk about it


It’s as if they survived it, and now they’re simply moving on with their lives. I don’t necessarily blame them, but it is not how I can live my life. While I wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone, it put everything into perspective that should have already been in place. With the knowledge I have, I want to help make it easier on others who will invariably go through the same thing.

I know that cancer is not always the easiest thing to talk about for men, especially testicular cancer. Just because of where it’s located, and because it’s related to our manhood, many men are embarrassed by it. I know of several young men who are no longer with us who actually knew they had something wrong with them down there, but said nothing for fear of being laughed at. By not speaking up, they ensured there would be no laughter.

Only tears.

That’s why I fight tirelessly to encourage men to speak up, to seek advice, and to not be afraid of walking back into the fire of survival and re-engagement. It absolutely makes a difference. Not a month ago, a friend called and asked me, “Hey what type of cancer did you have?”

“Ball,” I said.

“Ah, okay. So one side is bigger than the…”

“Go have it checked,” I said.

“But…”

“Tomorrow. I’m not kidding. And I’ll be here for you every step of the way,” I said.

“But I don’t have a urolo…”

“Go to an urgent care, get a referral, and go get checked tomorrow,” I reiterated as sternly as I could.

Yesterday, he posted to Facebook that they caught his cancer at stage-one, and he is now a proud one-bagger. (Editor’s Note: Here at ABSOT, we prefer the term Uniballer, but I’ll let it slide this one time.) I almost shed a tear.

Almost.

Be sure to connect with Dan by visiting him at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or via E-mail. 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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Don't forget to follow and share ABSOT on social media by clicking the icons below!



ABSOT is endorsed by the Laughter Arts and Sciences Foundation, a registered 501.c.3 charity. To make a tax-deductible contribution to help help continue ABSOT's work with testicular cancer awareness and men's health, click the image below.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

PCL45: Getting Back into the Swing of Things Post-Testicular Cancer

Begin 2019 By Taking Resolving to Continue to Take Care of Your Health, Post-Testicular Cancer


After learning in December that I am still cancer-free, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how I can continue to create awareness and support surrounding post-cancer symptoms and how to be proactive in treating them. Going through something like testicular cancer does a number on the body and while being in remission is a wonderful feeling, it’s likely some parts of you (both inside and out) may not function the same as before.

Have no fear - there are plenty of ways to help you get back to your “old self,” and regain the confidence you need to live your best life, testicular cancer-free (though I do firmly maintain that the Uniballer life is the best life)!

Take care of your mental health


My #10YearChallenge
Despite the smiles, both of these Justins were facing
depression around when these pictures were taken
Battling a disease like cancer can do a number on not only your physical health but your mental health as well. The great news is, there are plenty of cancer support groups designated specifically for survivors to talk out their feelings, both happy and otherwise, to aid in the recovery journey. I specifically recommend the eTC Express program, which you can read about my experiences with here.

It’s completely normal to feel a mixture of emotions even after being told you’re in remission - I’ve certainly run through a gamut of feelings, post-cancer. Whether it’s excitement because you’re free of this disease, fear because you don’t know what may come next, or even anger that the cancer took away a part of your life, discussing these feelings in a support group with others who have gone through the same experiences can help you to be at peace.

Don’t be discouraged in the bedroom


While the diagnosis of testicular cancer does not mean your sex life is over, the methods for treating testicular cancer can cause some side effects that may impact performance. Those who are in remission from testicular cancer have often times undergone a surgery such as an orchiectomy or RPLND (Retroperitoneal Lymph Node Dissection - a surgery to remove affected lymph nodes).

These procedures can leave men suffering from side effects such as low sexual desire or erectile dysfunction. It’s important to discuss any concerns you may have with your doctor in order to figure out the best course of action for you.

Continue to be proactive about your testicular health


If you want to take it a step further,
make a super inspirational meme
This one may seem obvious, but remaining proactive even after you’re scans come back clear is the best way to ensure they stay that way! I’ve posted time and time again about testicular self-exams and I can’t emphasize enough the importance of this when it comes to early detection. Perhaps the biggest silver lining in having gone through testicular cancer is that your self-exam will take half as long now!

Making this a part of your monthly routine and choose a place such as the shower to perform it. For those who are forgetful, #Takea2nd4theBoys will add a recurring calendar appointment to your phone, so there’s no excuse. The only thing worse than testicular cancer is not being proactive about the measures taken to help prevent it. 

Visiting your doctor for follow up appointments and being vocal about any changes (in your physical or mental health) you’ve noticed is also necessary if you want to stay ahead of the game. You are your own advocate and you know your body best. 

If something doesn’t feel right, address it ASAP. You don't want to drop the ball on your continued health.


This post was written in collaboration with Hims, a company with the mission statement that reads, "We hope to enable a conversation that’s currently closeted. Men aren’t supposed to care for themselves. We call bullshit. The people who depend on you and care about you want you to. To do the most good, you must be well.”



Nothing in this article should be considered as medical advice, as I am not a doctor. Always be sure to discuss any concerns with a medical professional. 



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!



ABSOT is endorsed by the Laughter Arts and Sciences Foundation, a registered 501.c.3 charity. To make a tax-deductible contribution to help help continue ABSOT's work with testicular cancer awareness and men's health, click the image below.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

BOB11: Jon Barr - Here Be Barr on YouTube

Jon Barr Shared His Experience with Testicular Cancer on YouTube - It's Been Viewed Over 36k Times!


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 Jon Barr, a travel vlogger, who shared his testicular cancer journey on YouTube. Enjoy!

I was on top of the world and living in Mexico. It was mid-April of 2017 and I had spent over a month in the largest city in the Western Hemisphere, living with my girlfriend and making travel vlogs for my growing YouTube audience.

It’s amazing how one day can completely change your life


I had just finished filming a vlog about my experience volunteering at a school for the blind in the Condesa neighborhood of the city. I was voicing my outro clip on camera, and right as I completed what I wanted to say, I felt a sharp pain shoot up from the right side of my groin to my lower abdomen.

I even captured that moment on camera, which you can watch on the video below that I made about my testicular cancer ordeal, around the 1:04 mark.




It hurt so much, I had to sit down on a nearby chair. My first instinct was, this was from squatting to much at the gym that afternoon. I told my girlfriend and I noticed how concerned she was from the get-go - maybe it was the female instinct. I convinced her that I was fine, and that I would get home, lay down and it would go away.

We returned to our apartment about 15 minutes later, and I went to lie down. I had planned a video shoot the next day at some Mexican pyramids. I didn’t want anything to stop me from joining this shoot. I got back up one hour later and the pain was still there. My girlfriend insisted that I go to the hospital to see a doctor. I later learned that she had an ex-boyfriend who died of testicular cancer 10 years earlier, and any symptom of this nature was an automatic alarm for her.

Even though I didn’t know about her past with testicular cancer, I still agreed to go to see a doctor


Hat skills on fleek
We walked to a private hospital a few blocks from our Airbnb. First, a general doctor came to see me and asked about my symptoms. He felt around and concluded that I potentially had a hernia from lifting to heavy at the gym. While I wasn’t thrilled with his prediction (I had a hernia years earlier as a child), I was willing to accept it. To prove his hypothesis, I had to go upstairs for an ultrasound. I later learned that this scan was critical. While his initial diagnosis was wrong, it did lead to them finding what came next.

I laid on a cold metal table on the second floor of a Mexico City hospital and met with a technician, who luckily spoke fluent English. He applied the ultrasound wand to my groin, which was not exactly a pleasant experience. As I waited for him to find the “hernia,” I saw his eyes widen. He said, “This isn’t normal... I found something else.” I replied, “What is it?” He exclaimed, “You see this, right there? That’s a tumor.”

The words stung, I was in complete shock. I felt like I just got blindsided by a truck. I was speechless. He explained he would have to call in a urologist. The rest of the night at the hospital was a bit of a blur. The urologist explained what would likely come next: I would need blood work, a CT scan to see if the likely cancer spread and I had to make a decision if I wanted treatment in Mexico or the United States. The decision was easy, and I flew home to NYC the next afternoon.

Back in New York City, my testicular cancer journey moved along swifty


The doctors at NYU’s Langone Medical Center, got me in the day after my flight arrived. A second ultrasound was done, confirming the tumor, and I did blood work, chest x-rays and a CT scan that afternoon.

The hardest part of any medical situation is not knowing. The days I waited for the results of my blood work and CT scan to see if cancer spread to other parts of my body was the most agonizing of my life. By the end of that weekend, I decided I was ready for whatever came my way, good or bad and that I would take it one step at a time.

My doctor called on Monday and asked me to get out a pen and paper. I was locked in for the news. The bloodwork was okay, and the CT scan showed no spread. It was the best news someone in my situation could receive.

I still had one final hurdle - surgery to remove the tumor, along with my right testicle

That Friday, I went to NYU for the first surgery of my adult life and it went smoothly. There was one last bit of information I needed, the results of the biopsy to find out what kind of tumor it was, and if I would need radiation or chemotherapy.

I was walking on a Monday afternoon around the West Village of Manhattan. My phone rang, I recognized the area code, and it was my Doctor. He said, “I have your results. Good news. It’s a seminoma, the slowest moving of the cancers. We see no reason to treat you any further. We’ll put you on active surveillance for the next few years, but the odds are you’ll never need anything else done to you.”

Again, it was one of the best case scenarios, outside of the small percentage of men who have a benign tumor. While I wasn’t thrilled because I was still at a small risk of a recurrence, this good news was cause for celebration. I kissed my girlfriend, and went home to drink a Brooklyn Lager beer. I still remember the brand for some reason… Beer never tasted so refreshing.

Fast forward a year and a half, and I’m still cancer free


So much travel envy
With my role as a YouTube Creator, I have made a few videos about my experience, including the one above that has over 36,000 views. My videos encourage men to take care of themselves and listen to their bodies. (Editor's Note: He should connect with fellow Band of Baller alumni, Kyle Smith of Check15. These two Uniballers could grab the attention of YouTube by storm!)

If my girlfriend didn’t push me to go to the hospital, the cancer could have spread by the time I caught it. Before, I didn’t check myself in the shower monthly, but now I am a keen advocate for early detection. I was a 31-year old healthy young man who went to the gym. Cancer can affect anyone, and testicular cancer is the most common one for young men. It’s very treatable, but you need to be vigilant to catch it early before complications can you cost you time, money, and even your life.

Be sure to connect with Jon by visiting him at www.twitter.com/herebebarr, www.instagram.com/here.be.barr/, and www.youtube.com/herebebarr/. 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

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



ABSOT is endorsed by the Laughter Arts and Sciences Foundation, a registered 501.c.3 charity. To make a tax-deductible contribution to help help continue ABSOT's work with testicular cancer awareness and men's health, click the image below.

Monday, January 7, 2019

PCL44: A Look Back on 2018

New Year, Same Me: Reflecting on the Past Year of Testicular Cancer Awareness Work and Setting Goals for 2019



Generally speaking, I try to avoid writing reflective posts that have no actionable takeaways. However, I feel like after being in 2019 for a week, it’s a good time to reflect back on 2018, while also looking forward to the upcoming year.

"Four score and seven years ago... Brothers talked about
regular self exams"
Those 365 days made up quite a momentous year, both in my awareness/advocacy work and in my own continued personal healing. Since this is a recap of a bunch of articles I’ve already written, I’ll be presenting this post in a ‘Listicle’ format, so feel free to click to the links to read the whole post.

Although, a more appropriate term might be a… Test-icle.

2018 was my busiest year yet on the testicular cancer awareness and advocacy front


  • In late March, I launched the Band of Ballers series, highlighting other advocates for their efforts in raising awareness in testicular cancer. In the months since then, I’ve had the privilege of sharing eleven different stories of some incredible people, with more to come. 
  • Throughout April (testicular cancer awareness month) and June (men’s health awareness month), I surveyed over 500 men to discover what really happens with testicular exams and discussions about self-exam at the doctor’s office. I’ve left the survey open since then and accumulated nearly 700 responses. Now, the statistics stand at saying on that only 46% of the men had their testicles examined at their last physical (down from 51% originally), and 80% were not told how to do a self-exam (as opposed to 78% previously). 
  • In April, I was able to attend the HealtheVoices conference through Janssen Pharmaceuticals. The connections I made there have continued to flourish to this day and I hope to be there again this year!
  • One of my most shining moments was winning WEGO Health Award for Hilarious Patient Leader in October. Somehow, I’ve managed to trick many people into thinking that endless ball puns is worthy of recognition. Earlier in the year, ABSOT was also recognized as the Best Cancer Awareness and Advocacy Blog by I Had Cancer.

Quite the ballsy headline, no?

Beyond my testicular cancer awareness efforts, I had many special moments in my personal cancer journey


  • In June and December, I received two good follow-up scans - no active cancer in my body! This is definitely a major plus. In 2019, I’ll only have bloodwork and won’t have a scan until December (or possibly January 2020)!
  • I spent the majority of the first half of the year taking care of my mental health, through a combination of antidepressants, regular exercise, and writing. Although I never got back around to resuming therapy, it’s always on my radar as an option if I feel the need. 
  • At my December scan, it was also found that my Vitamin D was low, which can also contribute to mood swings and memory issues. I’m now on a supplement that is supposed to help, and it feels like it might be helping. 
Hitting the smize in a Bristol-Myers Squibb video
  • I opened up a lot about what it means to live life after a cancer diagnosis, including regular posts on Cure Voices and working with Bristol-Myers Squibb to share my perspective in their Life with Cancer video series that aims to help raise awareness of life after diagnosis by sharing the stories of patients and those who support them.

Looking towards 2019 in the testicular cancer awareness space


New Years Ball-Checkin' Eve
  • To be honest, I don’t have many “big goals” for 2019. I want to continue doing what I am doing and help improve on the work I’ve already done. 
  • In late 2018, I became a weekly columnist for the Good Men Project and a brand ambassador for Zeus Beard. These two additional roles are vital pieces of the puzzle as we move into 2019, as it helps me reach my “target market” with more regularity and ease. Both organizations have been so welcoming and understanding of my goals and I am excited to see what these opportunities hold. 
  • In another new role at the latter half of 2018, I joined the Board of Directors for the Crush it for Curtis Foundation. Now in 2019, my ‘title’ is officially Director of Men's Health Programs, and will be more solidified as the organization begins to get more involved in the men’s health space
  • The results from the aforementioned survey still are bothering me. A self-exam saved my life and I find it ridiculous that it’s not a common occurrence and talking point in physical exams. A big reason for this may be that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends against them for a variety of reasons, including “unnecessary testing.” However, if a testicular lump is detected, a scrotal ultrasound is done, which does not have any harmful side effects. The USPSTF also used to recommend against both mammograms and prostate PSA tests, but they were overturned. There are a variety of advocates working to do the same for testicular examinations, and I want to help join this force. 
  • Finally, I am going to be focusing on getting the PSA into high schools, starting with the school district I currently work in. While the production of the video is awesome in and of itself, it’s not serving its primary purpose of educating high school students by just sitting on YouTube. 

The ball may have dropped on New Years Eve, but I’ve only begun to crack the nut on my testicular cancer mission




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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Thursday, December 20, 2018

BOB10: Mike Craycraft - The Testicular Cancer Society

Mike Craycraft Founded the Testicular Cancer Society to Help Raise Awareness and Improve Care for Testicular Cancer


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 Mike Craycraft, who founded the Testicular Cancer Society. Enjoy!

When I first heard the doctor say, “It looks like you have cancer,” I wasn’t shocked at all. In fact, unfortunately, I was all too well prepared for it. I had felt a lump on my left testicle some seven months previous and immediately “knew” it was cancer. However, instead of going to the doctor I remained silent, not sharing my concerns with anyone.

At the summit of Kilimanjaro for his 7th Cancerversary
During this time of “silence” I convinced myself that I was going to die from metastatic disease and even “made peace” with it. I took a long hard look at my life and realized that, although I didn’t want to die, that I had lived a great life already with incredible friends and family and that I was way more fortunate than others have been. I even went as far as to throw a party in my hometown of Cincinnati during Thanksgiving weekend but didn’t tell anyone that it was my “going away” party. I figured in a few months that my friends would find out that I was dying of cancer. They’d realize that me buying some beer and getting people together was my feeble attempt to see everyone one last time.

I should have known that going to the doctor immediately was my best option when I suspected testicular cancer


As a clinical pharmacist, you’d think I would be smarter than I was being. However, I specialized more in cardiac, critical care and infectious disease medicine. Besides knowing that testicular cancer existed, I knew little about the disease.

Miraculously, despite the seven month delay, I was diagnosed with stage I seminoma. At the time, three weeks of radiation therapy, just to make sure that the cancer did not return, was the gold standard of care. However, a wait and see approach, called Active Surveillance was beginning to come into favor and a single dose of carboplatin chemotherapy was an option too but was still a bit too investigational for wide acceptance in the U.S.

Being a clinical pharmacist, I believed in primum non nocere (first do no harm) and decided that Active Surveillance was the correct approach for me. I chose to defer radiation therapy or chemotherapy until if I relapsed and definitively knew it was needed.

Amazingly, 12 years on and I have not faced a relapse. Today, Active Surveillance is now the preferred approach for stage I seminoma so perhaps I was a bit ahead of my time in selecting this as the best option for me.

Once I was diagnosed, I opened up about testicular cancer and have never stopped doing so


I reached out to whomever I could find that had been affected by the disease and started asking about their experiences and how they made treatment decisions. I began to learn of the journey of others and more specifically what resources were missing from that journey. When I was diagnosed, some 12 years ago, there was very little, even on the internet, about testicular cancer.

Talking balls in Ireland
Given my experience as a survivor and my knowledge as a medical professional I figured that I was uniquely positioned to help change the world of testicular cancer for the “next me” that was diagnosed.

To achieve this, I founded the Testicular Cancer Society. Originally, I envisioned it as kind of a hub in a tire and figured that I could easily point people down the spokes in the direction of what few resources were available and then develop resources that didn’t yet exist.

Today, we focus on reducing the burden of the disease by simultaneously working to increase early detection, access to care, and quality of care. We strive to make sure that those affected by testicular cancer (the fighters, survivors, and caregivers) are not facing things alone and have the best support and resources available to help assure positive outcomes.

I am often asked, “What does the Testicular Cancer Society do?”


My best answer is that until you contact us in need you’ll never really know exactly what we do. I know that is a horrible elevator pitch, but it is the truth. Fellow “Band of Ballers” Dave Fuehrer once said that we, helped people “go from overwhelmed and unable to cope to having a new perspective and hope.” (Editor’s Note: Seeing one Uniballer reference another survivor is a heartwarming feeling. Mike and Dave are two of my favorite people in the cancer space, with one nut between them.)

I like to believe that this is indeed the case and each person we connect with differs in what they need.

In medicine, I was trained to give the answer that is needed and not necessarily the answer to the question that is asked. I do this all the time in helping those affected by testicular cancer. While I can answer their direct question, I more impactfully provide the answers they need and help avoid pitfalls in their care. For example, the answer to, “Where can I get financial assistance for my care?” is that none really exist unfortunately. However, given my experience in health care I can usually make some calls and get the care that is needed.

In fact, not once have we been unable to find care for someone, regardless of the patient’s insurance status, ability to pay, or our limited resources as an organization. It is somewhat amazing that some of the largest cancer organizations in the nation, those that raise tens of millions of dollars a year, refer patients to us. They have no resources for testicular cancer and yet we are able to help overcome any access to care issues.

I am frequently asked why I continue to do what I do with testicular cancer?


Hopefully, I’m not risking sounding braggadocious, but it is because I am not sure who else can or would. I do believe I am unique in having the sincere empathy as a fellow survivor, the in-depth medical knowledge to converse with world-experts on the disease, and the communication skills of a pharmacist to be able to explain things to the patient and caregiver.

I have developed relationships with experts across the globe to help advance the access to quality care. I have published articles in medical journals, have developed research partners for further publications, reviewed other’s articles for publication, and even review proposals for cancer research funding. Most importantly, I have continued to have the compassion and open ears to listen to those newly diagnosed, to those mothers, wives, and girlfriends that are scared for the man in their life and console each the same.

One of the best ways to reduce the burden of testicular cancer and save lives is via early detection and treatments. If diagnosed with stage I disease, the 15 year-survival rates are almost 100% and most men can avoid chemotherapy, radiation and more aggressive surgery.

However, getting the attention of young men and having them realize that they are most at risk for the disease and convincing them to do monthly testicular self-exams is like herding cats.


While our social media and web properties reach several million people a year, this post from the Super Bowl reached over 1.7 million individual users on its own, we have come up with some unique ways to achieve our awareness goals.

At the opening of Funeral Day
We developed a mobile app, Ball Checker, with a few facts about testicular cancer, instructions on how to do self-exams, and the ability to set monthly reminders. To date, the app has been downloaded in over 140 countries. (Editor’s Note: That means a minimum of 280 testicles have been checked… give or take a few!)

Beyond the app, we also have a monthly text reminder program where people can text @selfexam to 81010 and then once a month we send a reminder to do their self-exam with a link to instructions. We don’t use the system except for the monthly reminder and the person’s cell number is never revealed to us.

Furthermore, we have also forged partnerships with other non-profits and industries to help raise awareness. A perfect example was our partnership with Patient Point this fall that delivered our awareness video message into over 4,500 primary care physician offices.

We also have partnered with the movie Funeral Day, not only to have the rights to show the movie for educational purposes, but they have also graciously helped with some Testicular Cancer PSAs that we are currently releasing.

While we can’t prevent testicular cancer, we hope that by simultaneously increasing early detection, access to care and quality of care, that future guys diagnosed will be minimally impacted by the disease and get back to living their their lives immediately.

Be sure to connect with Mike and the TCS by visiting him at:

https://www.facebook.com/mikecraycraft

https://twitter.com/pharmacistmike

mike@testicularcancersociety.org

http://www.testicularcancersociety.org/

https://www.facebook.com/testicularcancersociety

https://twitter.com/TCSociety

https://www.instagram.com/tcsociety/

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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ABSOT is endorsed by the Laughter Arts and Sciences Foundation, a registered 501.c.3 charity. To make a tax-deductible contribution to help help continue ABSOT's work with testicular cancer awareness and men's health, click the image below.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

PCL43: There's Snow News Like Good News

Winter Storm Diego Brings Me Two Days Off From Work... and a Set of Clean Scans! I'm Still Testicular Cancer Free!


The weatherman predicted one to three inches of snow from Winter Storm Diego. In actuality, we received closer to six. With either amount, this equalled one thing - a snow day on Monday, December 10th, 2018. Even though I transitioned out of the fourth grade classroom at the end of last year and into an instructional technology coaching role for this school year, I still reap the benefits of school closings.

Peep my decorating game
However, the icy conditions and blanket of snow represented more than just a day off to me. I was scheduled to have bloodwork, my next CT scan, and a phone call for the Crush It for Curtis Foundation Board of Directors all after school on Monday. Realizing that I could shift everything up to earlier in the day, I made a call to Dr. Maurer’s office and the medical imaging place to see if I could bump my appointments to earlier in the day.

Getting my medical tests done on Monday


Dr. Maurer’s office offered me a slot at 11:45 am, which I happily took. The medical imaging place couldn’t guarantee me an early slot, but advised me to just “show up and see if we can fit you in.” Quite the ballsy move - I approved.

Soon after I got off the phone with the imaging center, Dr. Maurer’s office called back. I was thinking they could offer me an even earlier slot, but instead they had some bad news. Dr. Maurer was not going to be in on Friday for my scheduled follow-up.

However, this bad news was headed off at the pass and they said they could give me an appointment on Tuesday. Not only was I able to get my medical tests done earlier on Monday, I wouldn’t have to wait four days for results. Talk about baller status.

I got my blood drawn at Dr. Maurer’s office (even earlier than I was supposed to be there, which may surprise some of my co-workers since I am habitually late to meetings) and showed up at the imaging place around 11:40 am. Luckily, barium for pre-scan prep has been eliminated, so I just needed to drink a bunch of water before my scan, and that’s fine by me. I checked in and the receptionist said they were having trouble finding my appointment.

“Yeah… I’m a little early,” I said.

“What time is your scheduled time?” she asked.

“Um… 5:45 pm. But the guy on the phone said I could just show up!”

Long story short, they were able to work me in. After getting an IV put in, requesting my traditional “CT scan pic,” following the directions from the CT machine about breathing protocols, and heading out, my medical tests were all done…. well before 12:30, which is around my normal lunch time. Diego, you’re the real MVP.

Not as good as June's pic, but still decent
As I drove to the gym for an earlier workout, I realized that I had not experienced any scanxiety in the lead up to this scan day. In fact, the only thing I had been stressed about before this day was that I was not going to be able to get to the gym, had these snow days not occurred. I suppose becoming accustomed to scans is all part of my “new normal.”

I got another call later that evening, which was far too many phone calls for one day, in my opinion. However, the message it brought was a welcome one - another snow day for Tuesday! Diego, you’re both the hero I needed and deserved. Don’t ever change.

Receiving the results on Tuesday


The next morning, I ate breakfast, headed to the gym, picked up my turkey to begin thawing for my annual “Friendsgivingmas” on Saturday, and drove to Dr. Maurer’s office. Soon after being seated in a room, he entered and told me that my scans were clear.

One set of lymph nodes is still on the higher side of normal size and one of my tumor markers were slightly elevated as compared to June’s scan, but on the whole, everything is looking great. Most importantly, my risk of recurrence drops significantly now that I have been in remission for about two years.

He asked how I was doing with the antidepressants and I said that they definitely were helping since the dosage was increased in January. I also told him about how I’ve been struggling with lingering effects of chemo brain, specifically short term memory problems and ability to focus.

Dr. Maurer shared that more research is being done into this phenomenon, but preliminary reports show that brain exercise programs, such as Lumosity or similar, can be helpful. However, my pun game remains strong, and that’s what really matters.

Two smiley selfies in one post...
A new record
I also got to see Nurse Jen, and later found out that it was her birthday, so here's another happy birthday message!

Reflecting on this scan and looking towards the future


In a month, I have another appointment for blood work to check on the aforementioned elevated tumor marker. Beyond that day, I will have a full panel of blood work in six months and won’t need another another scan until next December.

This is great news because I’ve been on six-month scan rotations since finishing chemo in January 2017. Since I’ll still be seeing Dr. Maurer for the next few years, he also said that he can more or less act as my GP doctor. That is one less, one less problem I need to worry about, as Ariana Grande puts it.

I will say that this scan was definitely the best of the six I’ve had since diagnosis. I had little to no scanxiety and just went along my day, business as usual. Usually, my anxiety peaks when I am driving to the office, but today it was a non issue, though this may have more to do with me being engrossed in Stephen King’s The Outsider audiobook. Having to wait only 24 hours for results versus a few days was definitely helpful, as was realizing that this might be the last scan for the next year.

The fact that this all transpired over two snow days didn’t hurt either. The only thing that could make it better would be a third day.

Come on, Diego…

Make my day.

Author's Note: About an hour after the original publishing time of this post, I got the call. He came through. 
Snow day, parte tres. Diego, wherever you are, you are a beautiful, beautiful soul.



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!



ABSOT is endorsed by the Laughter Arts and Sciences Foundation, a registered 501.c.3 charity. To make a tax-deductible contribution to help help continue ABSOT's work with testicular cancer awareness and men's health, click the image below.