Monday, April 30, 2018

PCL28: HealtheVoices18 - The Pre-Conference, Day 1, and Day 2

I Was One of the Selected Advocates for HealtheVoices18, a Conference for Online Health Advocates

A few months ago, I saw an Instagram post from my fellow Uniballer, Kyle Smith of Check 15 (and future Band of Ballers contributor), that mentioned that he was on the Advisory Board of HealtheVoices18. He also shared an application link and urged people to apply. I filmed my video application and was about to hit submit when I realized I had made a vital mistake.

Even shiny balls need to be checked.
I repeatedly referred to the conference as “Heal The Voices”… And it's pronounced “Health eVoices.” I should have realized that it's a conference for online health advocates, so eVoices makes sense. 53 takes later, my final draft was submitted. Despite this hiccup, I was accepted, and arrangements were made for traveling to Chicago in late April 2018 for the three day conference.

The day before HealtheVoices18

When I arrived in Chicago, I grabbed a late night snack with Kyle, marking the first time the two Uniballers would form one complete sack. We had to ensure he sat on the left side of the table, while I manned the right side.

After a day spent in hardcore tourist mode (that included administering more surveys and a visit to the Chicago Bean, which I of course used to demonstrate a self-exam, meeting up with Aerial from the Stupid Cancer app, and dinner with my friend, Chris), we had one session on Thursday, a day ahead of the official start of HealtheVoices18.

As a side note, please consider completing the above mentioned survey, which is embedded just below. It's a total of six questions and part of an extremely important research study I am running about men and testicular exams at the doctor's office. If you don’t have testicles yourself, the direct link to the survey is, so please pass it on to your sons/husbands/boyfriends/uncles/male dogs/etc. (You can also snag a copy of the graphic here).

Thanks in advance! Back to HealtheVoices18...

A number of cancer advocates and I were invited to be an advisory panel for This was my first experience being in a room full of cancer advocates, and I have got to say, I loved it. Instant bonds were formed, especially while sharing why we all started advocating. I noticed immediately that we are all passionate about what we do, and I commend the team for listening to our honest input and sometimes critical feedback. I look forward to seeing how they continue to develop and improve the website.

That evening, I did manage to see Avengers: Infinity War. No spoilers, but hot damn it set the bar early for the rest of the weekend. (Author’s Note: To the best of my knowledge, this is the first swear word on ABSOT. Cancer never made me curse... But Thanos sure did.)

Day one of HealtheVoices18 begins

With the woman behind it all!
The next morning, HealtheVoices18 began with opening remarks from Caroline Pavis, who works in Corporate Communications for Johnson & Johnson, the parent company of Janssen (the company running the conference). According to her, there were 400+ applicants for the conference and 122 total advocates (representing 40 health communities) were accepted, with 52% being new attendees and 48% being returning veterans. She also stated the theme for HealtheVoices18: “Growing Stronger Together.”

Next, Kerri Sparling, a diabetes advocate, took the stage for the opening keynote. While her condition is far different than mine, I did find myself connecting with her on numerous levels, and not just due to our common shared interests: an appreciation for humor and cat pictures. She told us her story of having to “follow the rules” of diabetes (check your blood sugar regularly, watch what you eat, and more) when she was younger, which reminded me that I had to eat and drink even when I didn’t want to during chemo. She closed her keynote by asking us to remember why we started advocating and to use our work to amplify others’ stories, which solidified my dedication to the Band of Ballers series on ABSOT.

Learning about the resilience and importance of health advocates

The next HealtheVoices18 session launched with attendees developing a one-word definition of resilience. We also heard about the benefits and consequences of being (or not being) resilient. Janssen’s researchers shared their definition: “Acquired ability to regularly recover, adapt, and grow from stress,” and defined three levels of stress - normal stress (in my case, my teaching job, being an adult), training stress (advocating with new projects, learning new homeowner/technology things), and excessive stress (taking too much on at once).

This was followed with a panel discussion from five different advocates, many of whom had attended previous HealtheVoices conferences and all represented a different advocacy domain. These are their quotes that stood out to me:
Kenzie - “Keep showing up.”
Kate - “This is just another day… It’ll be ok tomorrow.” “Make your illness work for you.”
Jen - “Kids live in the moment - it’s such a great lesson.”
Hetlena - “Have a bad day for a few minutes. Put it on a timer and move on.” “Turn a negative into a positive.”
John - “The difference between being and having is really at the core of the story. I’m not HIV and HIV is not me. I’m John.” 
After a fantastic dinner, Catherine Bright, President of Infectious Diseases for Janssen, took the stage to share her own experiences of how health advocates helped her daughter. Her final message reminded us that “there are always families out there who are wanting and needing to hear your voice.”

Our last speaker for the evening was Karen Duffy, a chronic pain advocate, former MTV VJ, and actress (mainly of Dumb and Dumber fame). Again, while her condition does not involve cancer or testicles (the latter would be pretty hard), I found many parallels to my own life. She was at the top of her game when she developed her condition, just as I was in 2016. She decided to become an advocate just because she could - she had the skills to serve and was committed to using them in a positive way. As she said, “Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. I didn’t want a bad day with my disease to trick me into thinking that I had a bad life.”

Day two of HealtheVoices18 begins

The first session of the day focused on Twitter. While I didn’t really learn anything inherently new about growing an audience on Twitter, I was affirmed that many of the things that I already do are considered best practice. Some mental health advocates asked about Twitter would be doing about cyberbullying and ways to stop it, but they didn’t have many concrete steps in place. I also inquired about the verification process and discounted/free Tweet promotions, which would help spread more influence for health advocates, but unfortunately, they had no real answers. Even though their answers were disappointing, to be honest, I hope our voices were heard and I will be following up over the next few months.

A new avenue of health advocacy for ABSOT

Jen from Booby and the Beast.
Her pun game instantly earned her my respect.
However, the next two sessions about video production, led by Sarah Snow of Wisdo, and YouTube sessions, by Sarah Healy and Sonalika Reddi of YouTube, were amazing and got my wheels spinning. While ABSOT started as a blog, it’s since grown into the realms of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, but I haven’t really tackled YouTube.

After learning various tips on how to create videos and grow an audience, I’ve decided that I will be launching the A Ballsy Sense of Tumor YouTube channel, which you can check out and subscribe to here. In the interest of full disclosure, I was so excited about this new venture that I worked on some changes during the next two sessions. The sessions had some valuable information, but I was just so inspired that I had to multitask.

To be honest, I am a bit nervous and anxious about this endeavor. While I am hilarious and charismatic in person (not to mention incredibly modest and humble), that doesn’t always show through in video. I also know I do better when I just let it free flow instead of scripting out what to say. Perhaps a storyboard and major bullet points format will work best for me when planning out my content. It will definitely be a learning curve, but I am excited to start planning my first videos, for shooting, editing, and publishing over the summer/early fall.

Unwinding and sharing stories at HealtheVoices18

Our final group session was led by Mike Veny, HealthCentral’s Mental Health Social Ambassador. Since mental health has been a recent focus of mine, I was very interested in how he shared his definition of mental health: how you respond to life through thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Only behavior can be observed by an outside observer, while the first two are internal. To help us learn a technique that has helped him, he led us in some rhythmic drumming exercises, which were definitely fun. In true Uniballer fashion, I chose a single maraca.

Afterwards, representatives from Wisdo, a video app for sharing and learning from the collective wisdom and challenges of others, interviewed me for eventual sharing on their platform. It was nice to share my story, and the video producer said I had her in a combination of tears and silent laughter in the back of the room. The videographer was another fellow Uniballer, but he was born that way, so I’m not sure which one of us won… but we each had one!

Later that evening, we had an open mic night. I had prepared a poem about my journey in mission, in the style of Dr. Seuss. The video is embedded above, and I think I did a pretty good job. I only dropped the ball on one line, but totally mocked myself on it. Self-deprecating humor is only second to my ball puns.

Disclosure: My travel expenses were paid for by Janssen Global Services, LLC. All thoughts and opinions expressed on social media or this blog are fully my own, honest thoughts, and not reflective of those held by Janssen… Especially the ball jokes. Those are all mine.

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, April 24, 2018

PCL27: Why I Relay

I’ve Never Attended Relay For Life, and My First Was as Team Captain and a Cancer Survivor. It’s More Than Just the Laps and the Fundraising.

My little sister, who is nearly as passionate about cancer awareness as I am, has been part of numerous Relay for Life events, and she’s not even 18 yet.

My mom/caregiver and me.
Her being there really meant a lot.
On the other hand, I’m 26 and had never attended one, despite cancer being a part of my life even before my diagnosis (remember this point - I’ll come back to it later). I knew Relay for Life included a ton of walking, raising funds for the American Cancer Society, and raising cancer awareness, but otherwise I didn’t know much at all.

Earlier this fall, I received an all-staff email from the team captain of the Relay for Life team at my school. She wanted to take a break this year and needed someone to be the new captain. I volunteered, since someone who has never attended an event is most qualified to become the captain (obviously). To be fair, I do only have one ball, which is a qualification, I believe.

I could fill this post about attending team captain meetings to get ready for the big event on April 21, 2018 at Massaponax High School. I could talk about how many steps I took (over 20,000 for a total of about 9.5 miles, according to my FitBit - yet still a far cry from what Rob Harvey will be attempting in a few months). I could share about the escape room my team led twice (with the record being 11 minutes). I could captivate you with the tale about how I won a grill in a brutal silent auction that came down to a blind bid against another team captain, which ended in a tie but my opponent let me have it “since I am a survivor.”

But this isn’t what Relay for Life is all about.

Relay For Life is to celebrate cancer survivors

The first lap for Relay for Life is the survivor and caregiver lap. Each survivor’s name is called individually and they are presented with a balloon. Their caregiver is invited to join them on the lap as they kick of the twelve hours of walking around the track.

My grill "opponent"
Having a last name like Birckbichler ensures two things - it will be one of the first called alphabetically and it absolutely will be butchered in pronunciation every single time. When “Justin Brickbirchlir” was called, I wasn’t even near the track, since I was looking for my survivor sash, which I couldn’t find in my cancer survivor gift bag.

Each survivor is given a white sash that proclaims their survivor status. I thought I had overlooked mine in my bag, but upon closer inspection, I realized my bag was lacking one. (I do also realize this also describes my scrotum.) Resigned to not having a sash, I took my lap, as my mom joined me.

While I was taking the cancer survivor lap, I noticed one guy was walking alone. I joined up with him and asked him about his experiences. He said he also had testicular cancer but didn’t need further treatment beyond his orchiectomy. He shared that he didn’t feel like he should have been in that survivor lap, but in my opinion, he had every right to be there. Not having chemo doesn’t make his experience any less significant.

After completing the lap, I was determined to get my sash. I never received my letterman’s jacket I assumed I’d be getting on remission day, so I wanted my sash. I went up to the Survivor Team Lead Coordinator, Tammy, and spoke with her. She’s an awesome woman and she got me my sash. I also decided that I’m not much of a sash guy, but it perfectly fit as a headband. Party on, Garth.

One of the other special Relay for Life events that Tammy organized for the cancer survivors was a special luncheon for survivors and caregivers. It was completely free and was delicious, but it was more than just a meal. There’s a level of camaraderie among cancer survivors that I couldn’t possibly capture in a blog post. Being in a tent with a bunch of fellow survivors was uplifting. We had all defied the odds and showed cancer who was willing to keep surviving.

Tammy also arranged for each cancer survivor to receive a free gift. I had donated a few books I had bought when I was determined to regain the ability to read post-chemo brain but had never gotten around to reading. I wrote printed labels (since I have terrible handwriting) with an inscription in each one. I included my contact information and hope to hear from whomever picked these books.

My new testicular cancer buddy
(both of us sans sashes)
I personally selected a nice assortment of pencils that were make from tree branches, which will be a welcome addition to my workshop. Again, it wasn’t the gift that mattered - it was the dedication that Tammy put forth. She said it was her ninth year doing it, and she truly made every cancer survivor feel like a rock star, which I guess makes me Rod Stewart.

Some Guys Have All The Luck, but after lunch, I couldn’t stop thinking about the conversation with my new testicular cancer friend. While we were talking during that first lap, I learned he basically said, “I Don’t Want to Talk Talk About It” at first and put off going to the doctor for a while. I guess he realized if he wanted to stay Forever Young, he had to make a call to nurse Maggie May. This discussion sparked a mission for the rest of the day.

Relay For Life is to fight back against cancer

My latest project with ABSOT is a research study about men and their experiences with testicular exams at the doctor’s office. At this point, I’m going to embed the form and ask you to fill it out. Seriously - please do. It takes less than a minute to complete, and when you’re done, pass it on.

If you don’t have testicles yourself, the direct link to the survey is, so please pass it on to your sons/husbands/boyfriends/uncles/male dogs/etc. (You can also snag a copy of the graphic here).

Now that you’ve completed (and/or shared) the survey, we can keep talking about Relay for Life. Knowing that I had my cool survivor bandana on and the event was all about cancer awareness, I decided I would take The Blunt Approach from “Six Ways to Talk About Testicles” and give the survey to literally any guy I saw along the way. I probably talked with well over fifty guys, and their answers to the survey all varied. I’m not ready to release the results yet (seriously, go share it so we can have a solid sample size), but it’s definitely eye opening.

"Excuse me sir, do you have a
moment to talk about
your testicles?"
'Let me see if my wife will let me.'
I talked to all sorts of males - from high school students to a Vietnam war veteran. The Sheriff's Department had a team, and I interviewed each of them in turn. I also administered the survey to the Miss Relay contestants, who are men who dress up in drag as another fundraiser.

Out of all the people I approached, only two guys outright said that they didn’t want to participate. I didn’t press the issue, and despite that, I was happy to see that the vast majority of the men were open to talking about testicular cancer and self-exams. Shows me that things are slowly changing for the better, which is my goal in April, the designated month for testicular cancer awareness.

If a man said he didn’t know how to do a self-exam or how frequently to do one, I told them how to do it and to repeat monthly, and sealed the deal with an ABSOT bracelet. I didn’t have my fake testicles with me, but one person had two Dum-Dum lollipops, and, well, one thing led to another. Just add it to the growing list of foods I have reimagined as testicles.

I’d say that I definitely grabbed the moment by the ball(s) and used Relay for Life to spread some awareness about testicular cancer.

Relay For Life is to remember the fallen

When it comes to cancer, it’s not just all about celebrating the survivors and talking about balls. Unfortunately, there is a somber side - those who we lost to cancer. A big part of Relay for Life is the luminary ceremony. I didn’t purchase a “In Honor Of Justin Birckbichler” bag and I dissuaded others from doing so, since I am still here, and I wanted any money to go to remembering those who are no longer with us. (My mom did end up suggesting a bag to remember Lefty.)

Grandpa's bag
As I’ve said numerous times, my Grandpa was the first real experience I’ve had with cancer and my first close family member who passed away. He’s a big part of motivation for what I do with ABSOT and his mantra of “Just tell me what I need to do and I’ll do it” was what kept me going during chemotherapy. When I was buying luminary bags for other colleagues, I purchased one for him too. Later that evening, I set it out on the track along with the hundreds of others, and all the participants began the silent remembrance lap.

While other Relay for Life laps were fun and filled with laughter and pumped up music (though there was a distinct lack of TayTay), this lap was quiet, with soft music playing in the background. My mom and I walked the lap together and went we returned back to our area, we stood in front of Grandpa’s bag, just staring at it.

“I miss him every day,” I said as I wrapped my mom in a hug.

“I do, too. He’d be so proud of you,” she whispered back.

We stood there for a few more moments and I reflected on all the lessons he taught me. I know how to tie a tie because of him. I can golf (albeit, not well) because of him. I have a stronger resolve because of him. I remember calling him on the phone driving to and from college, just to talk. I truly miss him every day. Despite all the good I try to do with cancer awareness and the positive changes in my life I’ve made since facing my own battle, I would trade all that away in a heartbeat if I could just have one more moment with him.

As I sit here drafting this on the verge of tears (and by verge, I mean there are some welling up), I can’t help but think of the scrolling screen of names that followed the silent lap. Sometimes, there were multiple different first names that shared one unique family name. I can’t even begin to imagine how they feel, losing so many to cancer.

My future plans with Relay For Life

At the end of the day, both literally and metaphorically, I was not interested in the amount of money that was donated at Relay for Life. While the American Cancer Society does a lot of good with the money it raises, there’s a picture that’s bigger than the research, patient support services, and funding. To me, it’s about celebrating the cancer survivors, fighting back against cancer and remembering the fallen.

This was actually my mom's idea...
She's learning the way of the ABSOT
Next year, I’m not sure if I want to be team captain again. The woman I “took over” for did an incredible job being the de facto team captain, and I think my time could be better spent elsewhere.

I want to help with the survivor team. As I went on and on about Tammy in the beginning, I couldn’t help but think about how it would be great to give back more. I plan to talk to her at our wrap up meeting and see how I can get more involved.

To those who have been impacted by cancer, check out where the nearest Relay for Life is for you. It’s more than just raising money and walking laps… it’s truly an experience.

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, April 16, 2018

BOB02: Rob Harvey - Guinness World Record Run Attempt

Rob Harvey was Raising Testicular Cancer Awareness By Attempting to Break the Guinness World Record for Fastest Journey on Foot

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 Rob Harvey, who is raising awareness for testicular cancer by attempting to break the world record for Fastest Journey on Foot from Lands End to John O’Groats, which covers 874 miles. Enjoy!

The beginning of my testicular cancer journey

Like most cancer patients, I never thought I would have to go through what I have over the last 12 months. Up until around 12 months ago, I was 27 and worked as a personal trainer, who was in good shape. I hadn't had to see a doctor in close to 10 years. I pretty much had the mindset that I was immune to illness and my body was a machine.

I thought I knew my body in great depth, so I figured I would instantly know if something wasn't right. Turns out that this assumption was VERY wrong.

My testicular cancer journey began one night after a shower in July 2017. My girlfriend, who was getting ready in the same room, pointed out that my right testicle was significantly larger than the left. One look down and a quick feel and it was obvious to me that I had not picked up that something was going on down there! The testicle was almost completely solid and visibly larger than the other.

My first thoughts

I thought about all the things I had done recently which could have been the reason for this abnormality. A few weeks before, I had completed a skydive so one thought I had was that the harness had bruised me and caused the swelling. I remembered that my dog enjoys climbing on me and several times had stood somewhere you don't want a dog standing. All these reasons went through my mind and gave me excuses not to go to the doctor.

"I will see what it is like in a week, and then see my doctor if things haven't changed" - that was my attitude to it. It was probably nothing; it just looked (and felt) worse than it actually was.

Luckily, my girlfriend managed to make me see sense and realize that I wasn't being reasonable, so the next day, she drove me to the doctor’s surgery to get checked out.

"I can't have testicular cancer"

My doctor examined me and told me he was referring me to the hospital. He said that I should expect an appointment within the next 2 weeks. He made it very clear what he thought it might be, but I was still in denial. I was confident the hospital would confirm it was nothing to worry about.

However, within 2 weeks, I was being prepped for surgery to remove my testicle and was told I may need chemotherapy afterwards if, after removal, they confirm it is indeed testicular cancer.

All the way through the build up to surgery and waiting for results of various blood tests, CT scans, organ functions test, and various other health assessments, I kept saying to myself, "I can't have testicular cancer. I'm fit and healthy. Cancer doesn't run in my family history. It can't happen to me."

The diagnosis

A week or so after my surgery, I was told that the test results were back and I had testicular cancer. My consultant informed me the tumour was fairly substantial in size and had "additional structures" growing on it so he was continuing my treatment in the form of chemotherapy.

This was the moment I think it actually hit me - I had cancer!

Amazingly, all other test results showed no spread of the cancer, and one dose of chemotherapy was enough to put me on the road to recovery. In the midst of the worst news I had ever been given, there was a silver lining. As of April 2018, I am in active surveillance.

The impact of testicular cancer

Testicular cancer changed my life in a number of ways. Physically, part of my body has been removed. This is still taking me some time to get used to.

The biggest impact of testicular cancer for me though is the weakening of my mental strength. I always considered myself to be mentally strong. Through my fitness training and various challenges undertaken in the past, I had the mental strength to push myself further than most.

Now though, I feel a lot weaker mentally, and I struggle with motivation. I am hoping this improves with time. I have a good support network around me, so I am confident it will.

The impact of testicular cancer on my family can’t be overlooked either. My girlfriend and my parents watched me go through the surgery and chemotherapy. While I was as upbeat as possible, I think they knew I was finding it hard at certain points. That is something they have to live with now too.

What’s next?

On September 30th, 2018, I will start running from Land’s End to John O’Groats in Scotland. One end of the UK to the other! (874 miles)

If this wasn’t intimidating enough, I have decided to make it even harder for myself. My run will be a world record attempt! I will be attempting to break the Guinness World Record for Fastest Journey on Foot from Land’s End to John O Groats. To be successful I will have to run from one sign to the other in less than 9 days 2 hours and 26 minutes. [Editor’s Note: Man, he’s ballsy. I was excited about breaking a 7 minute mile.]

I have decided to take on this stupidly large challenge to get people talking about testicular cancer. Raising awareness is so important so testicular cancer can be noticed and treated as early as possible.

[Editor's Note: Rob posted the following message on Twitter on September 4, 2018 - The little niggles and pains that have appeared throughout training have now got to the point where I can't run any decent mileage. I decided a few days ago that Lands End to John O'Groats is a goal that I simply can't achieve right now so I have called off my plans to do the run. I'm disappointed that I haven't quite made it to the start line but I gave it my best shot.
Thank you to everyone who has run with me, listened to me talk about running and for everyone who has supported me since I began my training - I am truly grateful. All money raised went to BallBoys charity.]

Testicular cancer is such a treatable form of cancer. 

It seems so silly that one of the main reasons it turns into a big deal is because we guys don’t like talking about it and are willing to let it grow and develop into something more difficult to treat.

98% of men who are diagnosed with testicular cancer survive for 10 or more years if it is detected early. We guys have a competitive advantage over testicular cancer, so why give that up by failing to check yourself and telling someone if something is wrong? I plan on being in that 98% who survive many years after diagnosis, and I have no reason why that won’t happen.

I got so lucky because my testicular cancer was caught early! I know I keep repeating myself on this, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to catch this stupid disease as early as possible. Do not give up the chance of being in that 98% if the worst happens. Check yourself regularly and speak out as soon as you notice anything that doesn’t seem right.

Be sure to connect with Rob Harvey by visiting him on Twitter (@RobHarvey89), Instagram (@RobHarvey89), Facebook (Rob.Harvey.89), or via email 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.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

PCL26: A Ballsy Challenge

Do You Accept These Ways to Make an Impact During Testicular Cancer Awareness Month?

April is testicular cancer awareness month, my second favorite month of the year (right after July, since that is my birthday - hint, hint). Last year, I wrote a piece about using April as a spark for twelve months of testicular cancer awareness.

If you get lucky, there will be a freak
spring snowstorm and one thing will lead
This year, I’m taking the challenge to the next level and simplifying it with tasks you can easily implement. Similar to the “making #NoShaveNovember meaningful” post, I’ve compiled a list of actionable steps you can do all year long, many without even needing to leave ABSOT (yay for laziness!)

Incorporate six ways to talk about testicles regularly

We need to talk about testicles and men’s health more regularly, but it’s not always easy to start a conversation by leading with, “Hey, I want to talk about balls!”

My all-time favorite (and among the most important, in my opinion) ABSOT post is “Six Ways to Talk About Testicles.” It’s a post that underscores the core values of ABSOT. The post shares six ways to bring up testicles in everyday conversations:
The Conversation Weaver: Find an opportunity to connect a normal conversation to something you know about testicular cancer, a patient/survivor, or anything about men’s health.

The Carpe Scrotiem: Seize the opportunity of a celebrity coming out to speak about his experience with testicular cancer.

The Question: Use or answer a question to get a conversation headed in that direction.
The Misconception Redemption: Hear someone say something totally wrong about testicular cancer? Hit them with some knowledge.

The Pun Game Strong: Testicular cancer isn’t funny, but puns are. Use plays on words with “balls, nuts, sack,” and other related terms for an easy entry point. 
The Blunt Approach: Remember that point when I said to not lead with, “Hey, I want to talk about balls!”? Forget it and do that. Their shock will give you an opening. Use it.

Share a photo a day

Each day throughout the month of April, I will be sharing a graphic with an interesting fact, statistic, risk factor, or something else related to testicular cancer across Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook (all of these accounts are linked at the bottom of this post). When these pictures come up, I highly encourage you to forward them on to the men in your life or tag them in the comments. All of the facts were sourced from reputable sites, and I’ll link to my sources at the bottom of this post. I did put my own ABSOT flair on them, of course.

But what if you’re reading this in October and the pictures are buried under dozens of pictures of me turning everyday objects into balls? I’ll do you one better, and link to the entire slideshow here. From here, you can grab your own copy of the entire thing, download each picture individually, and share as you wish.

Want to take it a step further? Make your own pictures and share them. Include your own journey, stats you find, and whatever else you’d like. Feel free to email them to me and I’ll drop them into the master deck.

Band with the Band of Ballers

This is a new mission with ABSOT, and one I hope takes off quickly. With the exception of my Healthy But Affected features, ABSOT has been primarily discussing testicular health only through my voice. However, I’m just one man with one experience (and one ball.) As I’ve been working on opening up lines of communication about men’s health and testicular cancer awareness, I’ve had the privilege of meeting and talking with some incredible men who have grabbed life by the ball and made the best of their situation.

In essence, my vision for Band of Ballers is to give a platform for other Uniballers to both share their story and highlight what they've done post diagnosis to spread awareness about this disease. There has already been one Band of Ballers feature, written by Ken Lane in March, and I’m looking forward to sharing April’s in a few weeks. For now, this is going to be a monthly feature, but if it goes well, it may become more frequent.

How can you help? Share the posts as they’re published. It’s more than just me who has a mission and a desire to speak about men’s health and get the ball rolling. Follow and reach out to those individuals who are featured. Together, we can make a difference.

I’ve got a skeleton list of people to feature thus far. 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!

Take part in #Takea2nd4theBoys

In Ken Lane’s Band of Ballers feature, he shared about the new campaign to #Takea2nd4theBoys. The premise of #TakeA2nd4TheBoys campaign is simple: you're more likely to remember to check yourself if you have a reminder. Using the link below, you can automatically add this as an event on your Google calendar. Because the majority of men have two balls, the 2nd seemed to be the best date as any for a monthly self-exam. (I assume this means that my hashtag needs to be #Takea1st4TheBoy.) It also takes just a few seconds to perform a thorough exam. Even if you don't have Google Calendar, manually adding this recurring reminder can save your life. Add your own self-exam reminder to your Google Calendar here!

Honestly, I think it’s brilliant. We’re super connected to our phones, and by having a recurring calendar appointment on the second of every month, we’re more likely to remember to do a self-check. In the April 2017 post, I shared how we can learn a lot from women. They have a similar campaign - #FeelItOnTheFirst, founded by Nalie Agustin. This can be our movement.

Share Ken’s page or the ABSOT #Takea2nd4theBoys page with all the men in your life. I literally mean all. It’s as simple as taking one click to add it to your Google Calendar or setting up an appointment on your phone. Include directions in the description so you never forget how. See below for written instructions in the following point.

Simply, talk, text, and tweet about self-exams

Alternatively, share this infographic or
the YouTube video below
This last point is probably the easiest. Simply put - talk, text, and tweet about men’s health regularly. (You can also do other forms of communication, such as email, Facebook, Instagram, and whatever other newfangled apps you kids are using these days, but I’m a big fan of alliteration.) We all have men in our lives - brothers, fathers, husbands, boyfriends, friends, teammates, and random people we meet on the street (or in an Apple Store when you’re stuck there for five hours and give the tech an ABSOT bracelet--but maybe that’s just me).

Make a point each month to choose one of those guys you know and mention men’s health with them. Follow up every month from there. By the end of the year, that’s twelve men you’ll have spoken to. Task them with doing the same. This is starting to sound like a bad word problem, and I’m writing this on a snow day, so I’ll spare you the math - that’s a whole lot of guys (and roughly twice the amount of testicles)!

Make sure whatever you do, you include directions on how to self-check. According the Testicular Cancer Society, only about 42% of surveyed men know how to perform a self-exam. Self-checks and early detection are critical. Do what I do and keep the following self-exam instructions as a note on your phone or on Google Keep. Copying and pasting (copy pasta is my preferred term) is a heck of a lot easier than rewriting the same thing over and over.

How to do a testicular self-exam: 

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 each testicle between your fingers. Any weird lumps or bumps should be checked out by a doctor ASAP.

Last year, I ended with a call to action, and it feels like a good thing to do again this year. Next year, I’ll just show up at your house, presumably. Choose one of the five options (or make up your own) I mentioned and commit to doing it once month, every month (kind of like a self-check!)

Check in here on this post in the comments below and let me know how you’re doing. Tweet or ‘Gram me about your action steps. Shoot me an email. Or totally leave me in the dark - that’s fine, too, as long as you’re following through.

This month helps us crack a tough nut of a conversation, but we can’t afford to drop the ball for the other eleven months of the year.


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.