Wednesday, March 20, 2019

PCL47: Nathan Adrian - Eight Olympic Medals, One Ball, and a New Important Goal

Olympic Swimmer Nathan Adrian Shares His Experience With Testicular Cancer and His Goals Moving Forward


Recently, Nathan Adrian, an Olympic swimmer, posted on social media that he had testicular cancer. I immediately reached out to him and he responded just as quickly! He agreed to do an interview with ABSOT to share his own testicular cancer story and his newfound mission for men’s health awareness.

ABSOT: Tell us about yourself before your shocking diagnosis of testicular cancer.


Nathan Adrian: “I am 30 years old. I have been to 3 Olympics (2008 in Beijing, 2012 in London, and 2016 in Rio) for various swimming events, winning eight medals in all. I finished up eligibility in 2011 and turned “pro” shortly after that. Life for me was eat, train, sleep, repeat for a majority of that time until after the 2016 games.

Nathan at the Rio Olympics 2016
image credit: E! Online
I don’t think I am doing a good enough job, however, to describe how much I did and still do love swimming. It almost seems like you are listening to a broken record to train all year long just for a single chance at the end of the year to go for a best time. However, it was the puzzle aspect of it all that fascinates me. How do we optimize training so we can find a way to go .01 faster at the end of the year?

Anyways, life leading up to diagnosis was going great. I was engaged in 2017 and married in 2018 so as you could imagine my life changed quite a bit, but all things for the better. We had gotten married a couple months before and moved into a new house in Oakland. We were ready to leave the craziness of San Francisco behind and I wanted to be closer to Berkeley where I train everyday.”

ABSOT: What symptoms or signs of testicular cancer led you to go to the doctor?


NA: “I actually didn’t notice anything was wrong until I accidentally hit myself and it hurt a lot more than it should have. At that point, I figured that for whatever reason my testicle was just swollen maybe from hitting it or whatever else it could have been but I needed to keep an eye on it.

So a few days go by and the pain goes away but the swelling does not. I figured, ‘Hey something is getting better I guess. I am on the right track.’ Yet, the swelling/hardness never goes away. After another week or so, I decide it is time to go in to the doctor to figure this out.”

ABSOT: How fast did things move once you got the ball rolling?


NA: “Once I was at the doctor it went pretty fast. Not quite as fast as some people that I have read about but certainly not the slowest. I was put on antibiotics in case it was an infection but my doc wanted me to get an ultrasound and an appointment with the urologist ASAP just in case. If the ultrasound went well and the antibiotics cut down on the swelling then we could cancel the urologist appointment and go on our way.

Nathan after surgery
As we all know now, the ultrasound showed a mass and the urologist appointment confirmed that it needed to get taken out but my urologist was semi retired so he didn’t do surgery anymore. He got me into another urologist he recommended and the surgery was the next week.

I think the sequence went as follows:

  • Monday - PCP appointment
  • Tuesday - Ultrasound
  • Thursday - First urologist appointment
  • Monday - Second urologist appointment
  • Thursday - Orchiectomy

After the orchiectomy, I also did a laparoscopic RPLND [retroperitoneal lymph node dissection surgery - a surgery to removed affected lymph nodes] as well just to try and cut down our chance of recurrence as much as we can surgically. The procedure took 3.5 hours instead of the 1-1.5 hours the orchiectomy took, but I have to say the recovery from the L-RPLND was easier than the orchiectomy since the incisions were only about 1-1.5 cm across, rather than the 3 inch incision from the orchiectomy. There were 4 of them, but I would take 4x1cm incisions over a 3 inch one anyday based off of this experience.”

ABSOT: How was recovery from the surgeries?


NA: “Recovery went as well as it could go. I did do the low fat diet thing which was probably the worst part of recovery from either surgery. I really thought sticking to the diet wouldn’t be a problem at all but just eating carbs and protein leave you so unsatiated! After a couple days I started feeling super cloudy in my head and needed to get MCT Oil [medium-chain triglyceride, an oil that has a variety of uses] just to get to the point where I could think straight again.

The restrictions on lifting were annoying but obviously they serve a really important purpose. I also have a great physical therapist at Cal that I have worked with for years so I had access to the weight room and all the recovery modalities available to a Division 1 football team so that helped keep my mind where it needed to be.

On the walk
Just so we are clear ‘working out’ over the past couple months would mean anything from taking a quarter mile walk with my mom through my neighborhood (and feeling exhausted afterwards) a couple days after surgery to lifting/swimming for 3 hours after all restrictions were lifted. No matter what the actual workout was, the fact that I was doing what I could to get back to normal life was what was important.

I think some of the most important lessons I learned from this is that there are going to be good moments and bad moments. When I had a bad moment I knew how to fix it and that was by getting back into my regular routine and working out. Figuring a way to progress towards my next goal. It made me feel better physically and emotionally.”

ABSOT: What is the outlook and treatment plan going forward?


NA: “I am now on the active surveillance protocol. One of the hardest things about ‘real life’ vs the training we all receive in school as children/young adults is that a lot of times there are decisions that must be made that don’t have always have a clear right or wrong answer. In this case, the choice between active surveillance or adjuvant chemo was one of those decisions.

Fortunately, I remembered my old days as a public health major struggling in one of my population statistics classes. Given my staging and pathology, the ‘right choice’ regarding treatment options is to opt for active surveillance. If you had 10,000 people that were exactly where I was at regarding testicular cancer, the vast majority of them would be over treating themselves if they were to do adjuvant chemo.

Knowing this I decided to opt for what I feel is my “right decision” to try and avoid chemo if at all possible. Please keep in mind this is all knowing that ultimately my disease free survival rate. My next scans/bloodwork are in April.”

ABSOT: As someone who has been there, I know that facing testicular cancer can be very overwhelming. How have you been coping with all of these sudden changes?


NA: “I feel like my wife and I did a great job. To walk in to a doctors appointment together and hear the words “You have cancer” is some very real adversity that a lot of people are going to have to deal with in their lives. I am proud of the way we got through it and are continuing to go through it together.

As I had mentioned before there were good days and bad days for both of us and fortunately not too many of them overlapped. We could be each other’s strength when the other wasn’t feeling too hot.

He's clearly a Uniballer... selfie game strong
I would be remiss not to mention that my mom flew down to help with recovery and attend doctor appointments with me so she was an incredible source of support and help through the whole thing!”

ABSOT: Shifting gears here a bit, how important was taking care of your health before this testicular cancer diagnosis (aside from the obvious being a world-class athlete)?


NA: “Taking care of my health was/is my job! Being a pro athlete means that you need your body to function optimally at all times. I was having three green smoothies a day, making sure I was eating enough protein before, during, and after practices. I would eat a different type of protein at night that was a little slower digesting since I wasn’t going to eat for 8+ hours. I blew the daily recommended fruits and veggies out of the water! So I guess I never really separated the two because in the world of swimming, performance and health are so interconnected that you can’t have one without the other.”

ABSOT: Why did you choose to go public with your testicular cancer experience?


NA: “I decided to go public with my story after every single doctor told me it was a good thing that I decided to get checked out as quickly as I did. All of them had stories about people waiting six months - or even longer - until the symptoms were too serious to ignore.

I was also a Public Health major at Cal so it really spoke to me that if we could get guys to go get checked out sooner we could have a higher cure rate at Stage I on a population level and less people would have to go through chemo and deal with the side effects.”

ABSOT: That’s very admirable and what really spoke to me when I started reaching out to you. What do you plan to do to keep this momentum about men’s health awareness?


The 'Gram seen round the world
NA: “I plan on speaking about it to anyone and everyone that will listen. Men’s health is a topic that is almost criminally underrepresented in our society. I recently read a paper forwarded on to me from a Public Health friend that discussed the idea that men don’t seek treatment soon enough because they correlate properly functioning genitals with masculinity.

If something isn’t functioning properly then going to the doctor is only going to help! Why bury your head in the sand when it comes to medical information? It is a human fallacy that needs to be changed!”

ABSOT: What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed with testicular cancer?


NA: “Find a way to not go through this alone, whether it is support from a family member or maybe one of the resources available online. Doctors call this a “rare” cancer which from a purely numbers standpoint is true. However, you would be surprised how many other guys are dealing with the same thing. Even in something like the swimming world I have had tons of people reach out to me saying they had Testicular Cancer, or someone they knew did and were happy to share their experience. It is not weakness to take them up on that offer.

I actually really enjoyed reading ‘A Ballsy Sense of Tumor’ as I was in the early stages of this because it was the full story (disease wise). Other blogs were the same thing. Beginning, middle, and end. The end usually consisted of clean scans and smiling faces and that is something that was really important for me to see for my own mental health.”

ABSOT: Thank you for the kind words and to the readers, I promise I didn’t pay him to say that. What do you want all men to know about men’s health?


NA: “It doesn’t make you any less of a man to have a health issue or a problem. I really believe this is one of the top reasons why so many men are reluctant to seek treatment. It could be physical or it could be mental but as I had mentioned, our society has this archaic idea that in order to be masculine you don’t need help and that needs to change!”

ABSOT: One final question, and possibly the most important one of this interview. Do you feel like losing a testicle will improve your swimming and odds in Tokyo 2020?


NA: “Now we are on to the hard hitting questions I like it! I don’t necessarily think it will improve my swimming as I was forced to take the longest break from training I have taken since I was probably 5 years old.

However, I do think it’s important to note that it shouldn’t hurt it! I still have a healthy testicle and my MCB32 Intro to Human Physiology class at Berkeley taught me, testosterone production is a negative feedback loop what I lost in one testicle, the other should make up for just fine.”



A self exam is how most cases of testicular cancer are detected early. Click the image for video directions or click here for a larger version


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


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

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



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

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

BOB13: Alun Pepper - Britain's Manliest Man

Britain's Manliest Man, Alun Pepper, Works to Raise Awareness of What It Means to Live After 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 Alun Pepper, who is Britain’s Manliest Men. Enjoy!

My story starts in July 2006, when I was 35. I was watching sport on TV with a beer in one hand. The other came to rest where we men like to place it when we relax and that’s when I felt a lump.

My first thought was ‘Oh F*#k’, not because of what it might, and turned out to, be but because I was not in the regular practice of checking myself and so did not know how long it had been there.

You see, I had quite good testicular cancer awareness due to the Lance Armstrong story


I also knew testicular cancer had good survivability if caught early, but at that time I was not in the habit of regularly checking myself once a month.

Alun and his jet
I felt the lump on a Friday and on the Monday I was at the doctor. At the time I was getting ready to deploy to Iraq (as I am a fast jet aviator in the Royal Air Force), and maybe due to this I was sent for an ultrasound really quickly. All along, I tried to be well informed from good sources on the internet. Due to this research, I was not shocked that once the ultrasound had ruled out a cyst, a biopsy was required and that required an orchiectomy.

What followed was a routine operation - well, as routine as having your right ball cut off can be. At that stage, the scan showed no spread, which then made me a little surprised to receive a letter with regard to chemotherapy. Once I understood that it was a voluntary process, as a preventative measure against re-occurrence, and after consulting with my aviation doctor about the potential ramifications to my flying, I went ahead with once dose of carboplatin. The side effects from this were minimal - no matter how hard I tried to milk them to get my girlfriend to make me drinks.

All told, from first detection to being back in the cockpit, it was about 3 months with no ill effects. Although, maybe my jet now had to fly a little more left wing low to compensate for the change in the center of gravity.

Since then, I have wanted to share my experience to educate others about testicular cancer


Like a lot of survivors, I now talk bollocks whenever I get the opportunity. This initially took the form of school visits, including the famous Eton College, and has included professional soccer teams. It was in 2014, whilst reading a Men's fitness magazine I saw an advertisement for a competition to find ‘Britain's Manliest Man’. After initially scoffing at a seemingly stupid competition (a view I still hold) and turning several pages, something in my mind changed. Wouldn’t it be good if the manliest man in Britain could be a testicular cancer survivor? It could have the two-fold effect of raising awareness and showing that having a ball removed in no way affected masculinity,

The name's Pepper... Alun Pepper
So I applied and luckily my story resonated with a lot of people. With the help of an appearance on TV, I was lucky enough to win. The competition led to me becoming an ambassador for Orchid (probably the largest male cancer charity in the UK) and has given me a great platform to share my message.

However, it has also been a bit of a burden. I do feel a bit of a fraud as not only have I met many military veterans but also other survivors of testicular cancer whose experience was far more challenging than mine. In no way do I take the title of Britain’s Manliest Man seriously, however some people seem to think I have done it for personal gain or to become a ‘celebrity’.

But my aim is to have Britain’s Manliest man almost as an alter ego to try and get the message across to ‘stupid’ young men that testicular cancer in no way affects masculinity


I do challenges to emphasize what is achievable after cancer which include: one half marathon, three 100-mile bike rides (sometimes sporting the amazing naked cycle suits from the Male Cancer Awareness Campaign), climbed Mt Kilimanjaro, and obstacle course racing and martial arts training in both Japan and Thailand. All these are done on top of my job going on operations in the RAF.

During the talks many of the same questions come up. As a single guy, I often get asked if I am self conscious if I’m with a new partner. In truth, I don’t think I have met one who could tell unless I pointed it out. Besides, by the time they are close enough to count they have usually committed. I chose not to have a prosthetic testicle put in. Once my girlfriend and I had asked about ones that glow in the dark or vibrate. The surgeon thought were weren't taking the question seriously (he was right) and left.

The question most people are thinking, if not brave enough to ask is about performance in the bedroom. Here I steal a line from the wonderful Wendy Gaugh, and say it’s a lot like a double barrel shotgun... one barrel is all you need. But again I am keen to stress the lack of side effects, post treatment, for me I attribute wholey to early detection and treatment and I know others have different experiences.

I think I was lucky in that my personality and sense of humour helped get me through my testicular cancer experience with no mental health issues


This picture made me do a double take
My friends also share this sense of humour which lead to my new nicknames on the squadron being iPod (roman numeral for 1 being I) and Uncle Bulgaria (a children's cartoon character called a womble, which sounds like ‘one ball’). This banter, for me, was far more cathartic than any sympathy. I was determined to laugh at the situation, I had already bought many comedy CDs in case I needed long doses of chemo but again I was lucky.

This approach lead my Commanding Officer to write that my approach was the bravest thing he had seen outside of combat. Whilst this statement was flattering, it was also ludicrous. Bravery to me is when you are scared and have a choice not to do something but do it anyway. When we are ill, there is no choice.

I still use a lot of humour in my awareness work, which isn’t to devalue people who have had more difficult experiences but to make the talks hopefully more memorable. After all - knob jokes are a staple of British humour.

I still do talks whenever I can, brief all RAF graduating officers, and am reaching out to professional sports teams as through them I can reach many more people to share the importance of testicular cancer awareness. I have given a talk to English Premier League winners Leicester City and hope one day to talk to Manchester United and the Oakland Raiders when they visit London. I usually try and get a signed ball, to replace the one I lost, for a feature on social media I call #newballsplease.

Finally, be careful what you wish for - I remember one day saying I would give my right bollock to fly jets.

Be sure to connect with Alun by visiting him at @alunpepper or Al Pepper or Uncle Bulgaria – Britain's Manliest Man.

Know someone (or even yourself!) who is supporting TC awareness and would be willing to share their story? Drop their name, contact, and why they should be featured into this Google Form and I’ll reach out to them and/or you!



A self exam is how most cases of testicular cancer are detected early. Click the image for video directions or click here for a larger version


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


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

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



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

Thursday, February 14, 2019

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

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


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

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


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

Just place your index and middle fingers under the testicle with your thumb on top. Firmly but gently, roll the testicle between your fingers. Any weird lumps or bumps should be checked out by a doctor ASAP. When you get out of the shower, be sure to look for signs of changes in shape, color, or swelling.

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

The price of a self-exam? Free.

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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



A self exam is how most cases of testicular cancer are detected early. Click the image for video directions or click here for a larger version


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


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

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



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

Monday, February 4, 2019

BOB12: Dan Duffy - The Half Fund and Half Book

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


Welcome to the Band of Ballers! In this series on ABSOT, I’m turning over control to some other ballsy testicular cancer survivors and patients who have inspired me with their work in advocacy and awareness during and after their diagnosis. This month’s feature is all about Dan Duffy, who wrote the Half Book and began the Half Fund. Enjoy!

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

“Wait, what?” was all I could muster.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

And then, October 21, 1996 happened.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

“How low?” I asked.

“Zero.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had so many questions and no good answers


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

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

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

“Want constitutes a good one?” I asked.

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

Mind… blown.

And that just scratched the surface


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

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

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


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

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

Only tears.

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

“Ball,” I said.

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

“Go have it checked,” I said.

“But…”

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

“But I don’t have a urolo…”

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

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

Almost.

Be sure to connect with Dan by visiting him at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or via E-mail. Until next time, Carpe Scrotiem!

Know someone (or even yourself!) who is supporting TC awareness and would be willing to share their story? Drop their name, contact, and why they should be featured into this Google Form and I’ll reach out to them and/or you!



A self exam is how most cases of testicular cancer are detected early. Click the image for video directions or click here for a larger version


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


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

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



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

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

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

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


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

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

Take care of your mental health


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

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

Don’t be discouraged in the bedroom


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

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

Continue to be proactive about your testicular health


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

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

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

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


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



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



A self exam is how most cases of testicular cancer are detected early. Click the image for video directions or click here for a larger version


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


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

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



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

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

BOB11: Jon Barr - Here Be Barr on YouTube

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


Welcome to the Band of Ballers! In this series on ABSOT, I’m turning over control to some other ballsy testicular cancer survivors and patients who have inspired me with their work in advocacy and awareness during and after their diagnosis. This month’s feature is all about Jon Barr, a travel vlogger, who shared his testicular cancer journey on YouTube. Enjoy!

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

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


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

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




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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Be sure to connect with Jon by visiting him at www.twitter.com/herebebarr, www.instagram.com/here.be.barr/, and www.youtube.com/herebebarr/. Until next time, Carpe Scrotiem!

Know someone (or even yourself!) who is supporting TC awareness and would be willing to share their story? Drop their name, contact, and why they should be featured into this Google Form and I’ll reach out to them and/or you!



A self exam is how most cases of testicular cancer are detected early. Click the image for video directions or click here for a larger version


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


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

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



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

Monday, January 7, 2019

PCL44: A Look Back on 2018

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



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

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

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

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


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

Quite the ballsy headline, no?

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


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

Looking towards 2019 in the testicular cancer awareness space


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

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




A self exam is how most cases of testicular cancer are detected early. Click the image for video directions or click here for a larger version


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


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

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



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