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:

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!

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, 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!

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, December 3, 2018

PCL42: Bollocks and Bums

The Urology Foundation Releases Startling Figures on What British Men Know About Testicular and Prostate Cancer

Whether it’s CACTI’s study on men’s perceptions of testicular cancer, the Cleveland Clinic’s survey on the state of men’s health, or my own dive into understanding what how doctors perform and teach about testicular exams, I have developed quite the affinity for reading research studies and surveys about men’s health.

In early November, I came across a new men’s health study from The Urology Foundation, a UK-based charity that “leads the fight against urology disease.” While this study focused exclusively on British men, it was still eye opening. I reached out to them to get some more insights and to ask permission for me to repost their findings… and of course, I had to add my own ABSOT spin.

What do British men know about testicular cancer?

  • More than half of British adults do not know the age range when men are most likely to get testicular cancer
  • Half of British men have not checked their testicles for lumps in the last year 
Click to enlarge and download
Each time I read different studies and see numbers like this - I think two things. First, I realize just how important my mission truly is in this world. Second, I get fired up that someone dropped the ball on sharing such important information with men. If you don’t know to know to do these things, you aren’t going to do them. How can you know what you don’t know - you know? It’s up to doctors and patient advocates to band together to share this information widely.

For those men who didn’t know this information, 15-44 is the “high risk” age range, with over 50% of cases occurring in this age band. In the past year, you should have performed a self-exam once a month, for a total of twelve. If you’re not sure how, allow me to tell you (or click here if you’re more of a visual learner):

Best done during or after a shower when the scrotum is relaxed, a self exam is a quick and effective way to catch testicular cancer early on. 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.

What do British men know about prostate cancer?

  • 70% of British adults do not know the correct age from which men should be tested for prostate cancer
  • 2 in 3 British adults do not know what a prostate does
Click to enlarge and download
While I have a vague understanding of these matters, these were topics I admittedly needed to research to fully understand. According to the American Cancer Society, a prostate is a gland found only in males that makes some of the fluid that is part of semen. Prostate exams should begin at 50 years old for average males (and as early as 40 for the higher risk population).

I was correct in knowing that the prostate had something to do with the male reproductive system and that it’s generally screened later in life. However, I’m not sure that this is something I knew off hand before making my life’s work about men’s health. I also am assuming that even though I am citing American Cancer Society statistics, the same holds true across the pond.

Though prostate cancer is generally regarded as an “older man’s cancer,” any man with a prostate can develop it - the twisted mirror of testicular cancer being a young man’s disease. Either way, more men need to know this information so they know what to look out for.

To this end (pun very much intended), I commend a new fellow advocate friend, Gabe Canales, for committing to educate young men about prostate cancer (and how to lower risk from an early age) through his Blue Cure foundation. Stay tuned for a future Band of Ballers from Gabe!

How do urology diseases affect British men’s outlook on relationships compared to women?

  • 2.6% of women said they were often prevented from having sex because of urology disease, but that number jumps to 4.1% in men 
  • 15% of men say they’ve been prevented from pursuing a romantic relationship because of urology disease, but only 10% of women have
When I emailed TUF to ask for further information, they shared the above two statistics along with the following anecdote:
“I had a prostate cancer patient tell me that he’s heard other men say that they’d rather not know if they have prostate cancer because they’re worried what the cancer and subsequent treatment could mean for their sex life.”
This connects to what many of the themes, quotes, and anecdotes in Manhood: The Bare Reality encompassed. Men view their genitalia as an extension of their manhood and will literally choose to be kept in the dark so they don’t have to admit to problems in the bedroom… also in the dark. Unfortunately, this is a damaging, and possibly fatal, mistake that we must work to change.

What does The Urology Foundation plan to do to fix this?

Click to enlarge and download
Statistics are important, but more crucial is actionable steps. I asked TUF for their overall thoughts on this study:
“Unfortunately, getting men interested and engaged with their urological health has been an uphill battle for far too long. Urology disease for men often means problems with sexual function and once you start to get into that territory, a lot of men put off dealing with it, and it’s easy to understand why.”
“We need to work on educating men. The message is simple: the sooner you deal with a problem, the more chance you have of getting it fixed. If you notice something out of the ordinary for your body, whether it’s struggling to pee, peeing too often, a lump on your testes, or difficulty with erections, you need to see your doctor.”
It’s not just a fancy quote; they’re doing the hard work to raise awareness wherever and however they can.

They have Urology Health pages that provide information on a variety of diseases. Beyond their own site, they write articles that are aimed at getting men to take greater care of their health (including a post in the Huffington Post recently). Just as Ken Lane created #Takea2nd4theBoys, TUF set up #TUFnutsTuesday which encourages men to check their testes on the first Tuesday of every month and use our social media channels to share urology health information. They’re also working to get leaflets and slideshows into GP (general practitioners) waiting rooms.

As I was emailing back and forth with TUF (and often getting confused why their emails would come at like 3 am, before realizing time differences between North America and Europe are a thing), I realized that perhaps I need to take ABSOT’s mission more worldwide.

In looking at my audience analytics, United States visitors account for well over half of all viewers. I am based in America so this make sense, but men’s health is a worldwide issue. Furthermore, while I am focused mainly on testicular cancer, I need to make sure I’m also highlighting other men’s health conditions. We need to bring all nations of the world together to rally around this important message.

Only through collaborations between men’s health organizations and activists of both the Western and Eastern Hemispheres can we make sure men know how to take care of their own ‘hineys’ and spheres.

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!

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, November 20, 2018

PCL41: Two Years of Writing... and Still Only One Ball

A Look Back At The First Two Years Of Testicular Cancer Awareness and How It Has Changed My Life

In addition to November being No Shave November and the month I began chemotherapy in 2016, it’s also the month I began writing about my cancer journey. ABSOT was officially launched towards the end of the month and since then, I have published over 100 pieces here, in addition to about 120 other guest posts/interviews on other sites.

Last year around this time, I wrote about the story behind the creation and original intention of ABSOT. The first plan was to begin developing a comprehensive resource for someone facing testicular cancer, as it was something I could not easily find when I was initially diagnosed. Since the active treatment part of my testicular cancer journey wrapped up almost two years ago, I haven’t added new pieces in this regard.

One recent email
However, I do frequently receive emails from new patients who find my blog. It’s nice to see that the resource I wish I had is helping others and I can point them to one of my posts about what to expect in their coming journey, whether they’re wondering if they should bank sperm for the future, how hair loss will go, or if nausea ever proves to be an issue.

Despite not having an active testicular cancer experience to write about, I still continue to publish pieces frequently

These pieces are generally focused on two of the other goals of ABSOT - sharing an honest look about what it means to be a cancer survivor and broadening lines of dialogues about men’s health as a whole. These are two vital parts of my post-cancer life (so much so that the current series on ABSOT is literally called “Post-Cancer Life” and form the bulk of my writing these days).

The Band of Ballers class of 2018
Beyond the PCL series, I have also opened up ABSOT to share the voice of others through the Band of Ballers series. This series was launched in April 2018 and features other testicular cancer patients, survivors, and advocates who have grabbed their life by the ball(s) to spread awareness about this disease. I get to play more of an editor/producer role in these pieces and it is completely awe-inspiring to see other men sack up to share their stories so openly in hopes of destigmatizing men’s health.

In the future, I hope to continue this series and bring in advocates for other men’s health conditions, such as when John Falk shared his story with male breast cancer. At the end of the day, I’m still just one man, with one testicle, and one blog, but by giving a platform to other men to share their health journeys, we can get the ball rolling on changing this narrative.

In addition to writing on ABSOT, I became a regular contributor to CURE Voices in March 2018

CURE is the largest publication for patients, survivors and caregivers in the US. Knowing this, I was honored when they reached out to bring me on board. Perhaps my favorite thing about having CURE as an additional place to write is that I can keep ABSOT’s focus on men’s health and post more generalized cancer pieces on CURE. The community on the CURE Voices forums truly “get” what I’m saying in these pieces, so it’s great to have another place to share my random rambling thoughts.

While the first few posts on CURE were remixed versions of my original journey and posts from ABSOT, I also regularly produce exclusive pieces that do not appear here. Since I did a top twelve list last year of my favorite ABSOT posts, I felt it was just as important to do one this year for CURE, since they have become such an integral part of my writing process. The list is presented in descending order.

Cartoon Justin smiles

Honorable mentions:

  1. Conquering the Spartan Sprint After Cancer - About a month before my diagnosis in 2016, I “ran” (read: walked) the Spartan Sprint. Just a few weeks ago, I did significantly better.
  2. What Cancer Survivor Day Means to a Testicular Cancer Survivor - June 3, 2018 was Cancer Survivor Day. This is what it means to me.
  3. Another Spring, Another Worry, Another 'Balltrasound' - Fears of recurrence is a constant struggle. However, I’m learning to handle it better.
  4. But First... Let Me Take a Cancer Selfie - Beyond the blog, social media is how I raise awareness. 
  5. The Dark Side of Cancer and Social Media - As a continuation of above, this is what I see as a troubling misuse of social media in the cancer community.
  6. Pulling the Cancer Card - It’s a powerful way to get what you want, but when is too far?
  7. Why October Scares Me - October is diagnosis month for me. Sometimes, thinking back on it is more terrifying than any Halloween movie.
  8. Chemo Brain Returns? - Chemo brain (discussed more in depth in this feature I did for CURE Today) is a real thing, and sometimes I wonder if it’s truly gone.
  9. How Cancer Has Taught Me to Just Say No - It may sound selfish, but after facing cancer, I spend more time saying no to things that just don’t appeal to me.
  10. ‘I'm Not an Inspiration,' Says a Testicular Cancer Survivor - Of all the words that have been used to describe me, inspiration is among my least favorite.

Since this is my second year of writing, I figure I’d double up and continue with two lists… even though I no longer have two testicles

Without further ado, I present the second annual top ten ABSOT posts of 2017-2018, again in descending order. *Please note I chose to put both lists in descending order because an undescended testicle is a factor for an elevated risk for testicular cancer.

Honorable Mention:
  1. My Definition of Surviving - One Year Later - What surviving cancer truly means to me, as I reflect on one year of remission
  2. Looking for Clarity - A piece where I open up about my mental health journey with depression, post cancer
  3. Progress with Prozac - A continuation of the piece above, detailing how antidepressants helped me overcome depression after cancer 
  4. A Ballsy Challenge - Five easy ways to make the most of Testicular Cancer Awareness Month and beyond
  5. A Research Study By CACTI - My analysis of the spring 2018 CACTI study about men’s perceptions of testicular cancer 
  6. Every Man Needs a Urologist - An eye-opening interview with Dr. Modlin, of the Cleveland Clinic about their third annual MENtion It survey
  7. What's the Deal With Testicular Exams at the Doctors? A Research Study - An investigation I did about testicular exams at doctors office. Not to spoil it, but about 78% of men reported that they weren’t taught how to do a self-exam
  8. Making Testicular Self-Exams Standard Practice in Virginia's High Schools - The achievement I am most proud of with my awareness work - the creation of a PSA for high school students 
  9. An Open Letter to Tim Howard and Cremo - My response to Tim Howard and Cremo Company misusing the No Shave November hashtag to promote their products instead of men’s health
  10. Eight Reasons Why One Ball is Better Than Two - This post dives deep into the advantages of having only one testicle and is a peak-ABSOT post, blending humor and education AKA my new favorite pair

On a personal level, writing is my therapy after facing testicular cancer

I’ve touched on this in last year’s post, but I can never understate the importance of finding an outlet for dealing with cancer. For me, I have a hard time verbally speaking my feelings out loud. I can never seem to find the spoken words to reflect what I am trying to say, but I don’t have any problem writing them out. When I am feeling down, I write. When I am feeling proud, I write. It gives me an outlet and helps me process.

By having written so much over the past two years, I have a more or less complete record of my life and how far I’ve come. Every few months, I go back to reread the pieces to really reflect on what an incredible journey I’ve been on since October 2016. I don’t have any plans to stop, as this is a passion that truly brings me joy and helps me finding purpose and meaning in life.

Here’s to having a ball as we begin looking forward to a great third year of writing about balls.

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!

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, 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

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

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.

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,,, or by emailing 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

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

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.

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 (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!

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.

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

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

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

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.