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!

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

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.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

BOB08: Nancy Balin - The Family Jewels Foundation

Nancy Balin Raises Testicular Cancer Awareness Through Her 'Family Jewels Foundation' in Memory of Her Stepson, Jaimeson Jones 

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 is a special edition, featuring the the first female member of the Band of Ballers, Nancy Balin. She founded the Family Jewels Foundation in honor of her stepson. Enjoy!

My journey as a passionate testicular cancer educator started on January 15, 2005, when my stepson Jaimeson Jones was diagnosed with late stage, poor prognosis testicular cancer at age 14.

Nancy and Jaimeson in his junior/senior
year of high school
He had had symptoms of pain and swelling in his testicles for upwards of a year, but he was “too embarrassed to tell mom.” We had his course of treatment managed by Dr. Einhorn at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis. He went through four cycles of BEP chemotherapy in Seattle and then multiple life-threatening surgeries in Indianapolis, including an RPLND (Retroperitoneal Lymph Node Dissection - a surgery to remove affected lymph nodes). Thankfully, he was declared in remission by age 15.

Over two years passed, and he had not had a testicular cancer recurrence.

Due to this, his surveilling oncologist (not Dr. Einhorn) began saying, “If it hasn’t come back by now, it won’t.” The doctor was so convinced of this that he actually missed the recurrence when it happened, after 4 ½ years of remission when Jaimeson was 19. When we saw some college pictures of Jaimeson, we knew he didn’t look right. It turned out that one of his markers had risen into the 80s. He went through four cycles of BEP again, high-dose chemotherapy with stem cell rescue, and multiple additional surgeries. But this time we couldn’t beat it, and Jaimeson died on October 7, 2010 at age 20.

It's a well known fact that many Uniballers are
former/current runners
When he knew that he was dying, Jaimeson asked us to give his college savings to his two younger sisters for their schooling. His request inspired me to endow a scholarship in his memory at his college, Washington State University. This scholarship was to be awarded to a student who had had a sibling with cancer. Almost as soon as the papers were signed, we had our first scholar! Since then, we also have endowed a scholarship in Bothell, Washington, where we are from, and currently we are helping put three local students (who have had a sibling with cancer) through college.

As the years have passed, I have become even more “ball(s) to the wall” with testicular cancer awareness.

I am very active in teaching boys and young men about the symptoms of testicular cancer and the importance of both monthly self-exams and medical provider testicular examinations. Although Jaimeson had a sports physical seven months before his initial diagnosis, the family practitioner he had been seeing for years did not perform a testicular examination. (Editor’s Note: Sadly, the study I ran found this to be common. When I talked to the Cleveland Clinic about possibilities of why, they said that doctors are just asked to do too much nowadays.)

Given that one of Jaimeson’s cancer types was non-seminoma, which doubles in size every 10-30 days, that massive oversight and the resulting loss of seven months of diagnosis and treatment time has haunted me ever since.

Now, I find myself “talking testicles” all the time. 

My heartfelt motto is “I couldn’t save my own boy, so I’m trying to save yours.” Whether it’s the Boy Scouts, various Chambers of Commerce, retired folks (Don’t forget, they have grandsons and nephews and sons and sons-in-law), Rotary clubs, local employers, school health classes (still working on that), or anywhere else that boys and young men (and their families) gather, I lead the charge for helping young men to learn about testicular cancer.

I'd like to make a reservation for one
(to clarify - I mean one testicle, not one person)
I bring Nut Notes (“Check Your ‘Nads, Lads!”, “Too Chicken to Check Your Nuggets?”, “Swelling is Telling!”, and more), Nut Sacks (bagged peanuts), informational brochures, self-check-reminder shower cards, and my tongue-in-cheek humor and driving passion to keep other families from going through what my family experiences every single day.

Ever seen a Nut Hut? I take this mobile self-check station on the road to many of my talks and fundraising events, and the Family Jewels Foundation (the charity I founded) recently won “Most Imaginative” for our float, featuring the Nut Hut, pairs of balloons and blown-up rubber gloves (get it?) in a popular local summer parade.

I also have developed two annual events to help this mission. Every March on the second Saturday (Jaimeson's birthday is March 14), I put on the Family Jewels Pie-K, so named because of Jaimeson's Pi(e) Day birthday and the fact that we are the #only5Kwithapietable. On March 9, 2019, we will put on our 9th annual event.

A newer event is coming up fast on November 10, when I will put on the Family Jewels Kenmore Ball Crawl. At this fun, family-friendly event, three local craft breweries donate taster trays of their brews, and people receive testicular cancer info, “Nut Sacks,” and other swag in their swag bags.

Because of Jaimeson’s needless and tragic death, I am absolutely compelled to educate about testicular cancer.

This disease essentially was cured 15 years before my boy was born. I am so driven, in fact, that I left the government-lawyer career I loved in order to talk testicles full-time. There is a glaring gap in education about testicular cancer. It doesn’t have national prominence or its own “Pinktober” like breast cancer awareness does, and this omission is further exacerbated by young men’s sense of invincibility and their embarrassment about these sensitive body parts. Most of my Nut Notes are funny, but there is one that isn’t: “Don’t Be Embarrassed to Death.”

Be sure to check out the Family Jewels Foundation...
and check out your family jewels!
What can young males do to take charge of their own health? Make sure you have a medical provider do a testicle exam annually. Check your own testicles every month, and see a urologist right away if they hurt, have lumps or bumps or have either shrunk or grown since the last time you checked them. Most importantly, please don’t wait! People who love you are counting on you to take care of yourself, and this includes making sure your testicles are healthy, too.

Remember, “Smooth and Round is Healthy and Sound!”

Be sure to connect with Nancy Balin by visiting her at WWW.FAMILY-JEWELS.ORG;;;; Until next time, Carpe Scrotiem!

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.