Thursday, September 29, 2011

A chemo port sounds luxurious. Why can't you just use an ice pick and a rusty garden hose?

Guess who's got a port now? I'll give you a hint...he's got two thumbs, one ball and cancer.

Had a busy day at hospitals today. I started out at Mary Greeley, getting baselines for hearing and pulmonary function before heading back to the office for a solid 45 minutes of work before my surgery to have my port put in. You know what makes surgery even more fun? Having your insurance company not give you a clear A-OK on the procedure before starting...that's just a running kick to the nut. (Half-metaphorically)

I got a call last night from a nurse in my surgeon's office telling me she was fighting with my insurance company because they still hadn't given pre-approval for my port to be "installed." (Makes me sound like a robot). She said she'd get it taken care of this morning, and 1 hour before I had to show up for surgery she called back letting me know they had given her an answer of "maybe," but nothing definitive. "So, it's up to you at this point," she said. Great. How expensive is this? "Very. The device they're putting in you is two grand by itself, not to mention surgery and anesthesia."

A quick call to my HR head went unanswered...she was in a meeting. Another quick call to her secretary informing her, politely, to find her got her on the phone.

"I have cancer and start chemo Monday, for which I need a port. Our insurance company apparently believes this port is a luxury. Should I just skip the chemo and try to ride this out with some amoxicillin or something?" Ten minutes and a phone call to the national HR and I'm given the green light. "You do what you need to do to get better, don't worry about it," she said. Our HR head is actually pretty awesome.

I head into surgery, where I'm briefed by the nurses. I should use this opportunity to say how cool the nurses at BCH are (Boone County Hospital, for all you laypeople). Yesterday, one of the nurses called to confirm and mentioned, "I'm a cancer survivor myself. You actually interviewed me and wrote an article about me last year for Relay for Life. Maybe I should interview you tomorrow." Was that a cancer burn? I believe so.

They asked me to wear a button down shirt with no shirt on under it so the surgeon could get to my chest with ease. I found out quickly that they must have done this to mess with me, because as soon as I got there they made me get in one of those ridiculous gowns. I'm not sure why I thought it would be any other don't often see television shows about surgery where the patient is on a table with a button-down shirt spread open like Scott Stapp.

More paperwork, questions about allergies, and an IV is started on me. I show her my veins, figuring she'll be impressed with how bulgy and visible they are through my pale skin. She is impressed. Win.

Lauren's hanging out with me in the room when my surgeon shows up, rocking jeans and a polo. He's visibly angry and starts going off on a tangent about how much my insurance company sucks and how I deserve so much better than that and compares the entire experience to beating a dog. That's no joke...I laugh genuinely, but I'm scared. I think about every time I've tried to assemble something when I'm pissed off. I'm not sure I want a pissed off surgeon's hands inside me trying to get a plastic tube into my vein. If it's anything like when I tried to put together my barbecue grill, he'll get to the end, notice an extra piece lying on the table and say, "To hell with it, it should still work." (Although, to be fair, my grill still works marvelously)

My surgeon calms down and begins joking with my wife and I like he did a couple days earlier in our meeting. He's hilarious and just a genuinely nice guy. He leaves, and returns five minutes later. I was at the hospital two days earlier taking photos and writing an article on a radiology doc that shaved his moustache for charity. One of the surgery nurses remembered which shoulder I had my camera bag on and suggested I get my port put in the other side of my chest. This is why small towns, and the hospitals they have, are awesome.

The nurse comes in and grabs my IV so I can shuffle past the entire nursing staff wearing a stupid gown and socks. This is exactly what a dog must feel like being taken on a walk.

I get to the surgery room and, like my orchiectomy (read: half-neutering), it's packed. I'm put on a table, given the good anesthesia, and just like last time it's like all of a sudden I'm in recovery.

When I had surgery to remove my cancer-infested ball, they gave me pudding. Now, getting a port put in me, they brought me pork chops and mashed potatoes. This is the greatest thing ever, and I tell them that. There must be a pattern here...lose a ball, get pudding. Get a port, get pork chops. I assume if I'm ever castrated I'll be given a "Fun Size" Hershey's bar, and if I'm ever given a prosthetic hip I'll get filet mignon.

So now I'm the $2,000 man with a port leading directly to my vein, sitting conveniently under my clavicle just under the skin like a weird lump. Man...I've got one nut, a lump under the skin on my chest and I'll be bald in two weeks from chemo. It's a good thing I locked down my wife when I did.

Tomorrow I've got one last meeting with my spermatologist, a meeting with my oncologist to finalize everything, and the chemo starts Monday. Five days of poisoning myself, throwing up and sleeping 14 hours a's going to be just like college, only with less sleep.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

It's a waste of some seriously great veins for me not to be a drug user

Nothing ruins a good day like thinking you’re going to get drugged up and then having those hopes dashed.

I went in for an appointment at Boone County Hospital to have my port put in (so I thought) only to be told that it was a pre-op meeting and I would have my port put in Thursday. I guess that makes a lot of sense, considering they usually tell you not to eat anything 12 hours prior to the surgery and I had a loaded double omelet sandwich from Hardees a mere 5-1/2 hours ago. I doubt they would have liked discovering my stomach contained a double omelet sandwich halfway through.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with chemo, a port is essentially like a frequent flyer for needle users. It’s implanted under your skin so that for people that need chemo frequently (like this guy now), they’ve already got this thing there that they can hook up to without searching for a vein like an 80s rock star. To test the waters with my surgeon to gauge his level of seriousness, I decided to float a needle drugs joke.

"Yeah, with as pale as I am, it's just a real waste of God-given visible veins that I'm not a heroin user," I said with a straight face.

My doctor cocked his head, a slight smile on his face.

"You're telling me," he said. "Not only are you pale, but your veins pop out a bit. I saw you come in here, and I just started drooling over your veins."

We both started cracking up. This surgeon is awesome...he almost makes me feel bad I'm only having a port put in and don't have anything seriously wrong I need operated on. (Just cancer...dammit)

So the next few days are a bit hectic. Thursday I have baselines for lung function, kidney function and hearing in the morning followed by surgery to put my port in at noon. Friday I head back to the spermatologist (P.S....they don't like being called that) for sperm freezing (a topic I will never talk about with anybody), a final meeting with my oncologist Friday to make sure we've got all of our ducks in a row, and the chemo party starts next Monday and runs all week long. Boo yah.

The support I've gotten so far with those whole nut cancer thing has been pretty awesome. I've received several cards from former fraternity brothers, including one from two of the people I respect more than nearly anybody, Christ and Maggie Hatch (Check out her blog...she and her husband are much cooler than I: ). Among the cards I've received was one from a guy in town I did an article on this past summer who included a yellow Livestrong bracelet and a very touching note, as he is a 20+ year cancer survivor.

I've somewhat made fun of the bracelets in the past because they're trendy (or were 5 years ago) and I view them as somewhat of a form of slacktivisim...feeling good about helping a charity without really doing anything. Based on the note I received from this cancer survivor, who went out of his way to explain to me its meaning, I've somewhat changed my mind on them and have started wearing it. Feel free to mock me for my flip-flopping.

Since I lose my hair Oct. 17 and will officially start wearing beanies full-time, I've utilized the full range of scientific tools available at my disposal to prepare you all for the awesomeness of bald Greg. Enjoy before and after renditions:


That's Photoshop mastery, people. I'm available for freelance work.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Yeah, you're going through chemo, but it's the same kind as Lance!

"You know, this is the same type of chemo treatment Lance Armstrong had," my oncologist said with a hint of pride in his voice.

Since being diagnosed with testicular cancer, every single doctor I've seen has gone out of their way to mention Lance Armstrong with me as if I'm desperately seeking a one-nutted hero to relate to. They tell me "This is the same type of cancer Lance Armstrong had," as if I was given some sort of an honor. "This is the same treatment Lance Armstrong took," as if I'm being served the fanciest meal at the fanciest restaurant. "Your testicle is the same size as weight as the one they removed from Lance Armstrong's sack," said my surgeon.

OK, that last one was made up. (Mine was way bigger)

I can get why some people may be given hope being told they're receiving the same treatment Lance Armstrong was given. They're freaking out thinking that chemo is going to mess them up physically or mentally, and it's nice to have a pseudo-celebrity to point to and say, "Look at that dude. He's healthy and got to date Sheryl Crow."

That's great, but I'm just not that into Sheryl Crow. And for someone who's about to go through chemo, this is strange to say, but I would never put poison like Michelob Ultra in my body.

The guy's healthy, he's famous and the organization he's founded has raised millions for cancer research, which is admirable (although don't get me started on those rubber wristbands). But it's weird when doctors talk about him as if he's their son who just bought a respectable chiropractic clinic in downtown Cleveland. Taking the same chemo as Lance Armstrong doesn't give me confidence...a 95+ percent cure rate does.

I had my oncologist appointment on Friday, and I'm shocked I wasn't given a dayplanner rather than the lengthy sheet a nurse handed me. This week I have a port put in my chest to make receiving the chemo easier (I was hoping it would be in my head like in the Matrix), I have tests on my lung and liver function to obtain a baseline to make sure the chemo doesn't mess with that, and I meet with my oncologist again just to make sure everything's good to go. I also have to find time to get to a spermologist (probably not a real word, but talk to somebody about freezing sperm) to get that taken care of. Lauren not only shot down my ice cube tray idea I talked about in my last post, but also using a cylindrical bag like an Ice-E-pop, so apparently I have to go the clinical route. When I told my dad I'm getting this taken care of this week, he offered, "Do you want your mother and I to come up for that?" I almost rolled me car into a ditch I was laughing so hard.

After giving me all the scary stuff first (chemo can mess with your liver, chemo can mess with your breathing, chemo can mess with your white blood cell count...just like Lance Armstrong!), my oncologist reassured me that he's never seen any of that personally (a great sign, considering he's been doing this forever) and started doing the paperwork to get everything set up.

While he was doing paperwork, my wife and I peppered him with wife asking him the technical questions, and me asking him questions about how much time I can expect to miss at work, if I can work through being tired safely and other similar questions. It wasn't until I told him I have to complete 32 hours of clinicals for my EMT class by December (around the same time my chemo treatment ends) and asked if I should wear a mask while in the ER and on the ambulance when he stopped typing and peered at me amused over his glasses.

"You're a pretty active guy, aren't you, Greg?" he asked with a knowing smile. I agreed with his assessment.

"Well, you're going to have to slow down," he said. "You don't want to burn the candle at both ends."

It was with that statement that I realized that chemo might be a little bit more than being bald, dizzy and throwing up now and again (essentially living the life of Billy Corgan, I assume). I'll be interested to see how this all works out.

So...chemo starts Oct. 3. The first week I'll have two-hour treatments each day, followed by two weeks of treatment only on Tuesdays. That's one round, and it will repeat for rounds two and three, ending my treatment after 9-11 weeks around the beginning of December. My hair falls out Oct. 17 (I'll likely shave it before then) and then everyone in town who doesn't already know will either know or think I'm weird. Likely both.

I'll update this blog during my first chemo treatment to let anyone that's curious to know what chemo feels like exactly what it feels like (while kicking it in my chemo dorm with the others. Based on their average age, I'll likely get some Scrabble going up there. Finally I can wear white pants with black socks and white shoes and use old-timey words like "hoity toity")

I had blood taken for some tests for a baseline, and if anything shows up (just like Lance Armstrong!) I'll share it. Prepare for pictures to be posted of me's going to be creepy (just like...nah, I've overused it. You get the idea).

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Most people don't like sleeping in a pile of hair

Walking through the oncology department of my hospital yesterday, I noticed that the chemo rooms were a lot like dorms for old people. My oncologist was in the process of giving me a tour, and every "chemo dorm" we passed had the door open with people listening to music, watching TV, eating take-out food and casting a wary eye to the newcomer that was checking the place out.

I should probably preface this by saying I'm approximately 25 younger than the youngest cancer patients in that place, so they're right to be skeptical. They probably think I'm going to be that guy that blares rap music at full volume and calls all of them "bro" regardless of gender.

While a weird experience, the oncology department is far less depressing than I originally expected. Unlike other departments, the patients kind of run the show. They joke with the receptionists, they talk to each other and they actually walk around the department at their leisure. You know how your doctor's office has the waiting area and then the corridor of hallways that have the exam rooms and everything? That's totally fair game for the cancer patients. It's as if they're like, "I've got cancer...who the hell is going to stop me?" and just go where they please. I plan on trying that at Burger King tomorrow as I attempt to grill myself a Quadruple Whopper (patent pending).

The staff at an oncology department is kind of different. While all the patients are old, all of the staff is ridiculously young. I'm not sure exactly where the logic is in that, but they're all super friendly, which is oddly discomforting. You go to any other department and chances are you're going to hit the receptionist we're all familiar with - the "I don't care if you've been waiting for 45 minutes to see the doctor, I'm eating a sandwich and I already gave you the look when you brought your questionnaire back up that told you where you can file that." Cancer trumps that. I'm starting to learn cancer trumps a lot of things. This is going to get annoying for my friends the next time we play poker.

The only exception to the young staff rule is my oncologist, who is dry, very direct and super knowledgeable. How knowledgeable? I asked him how long I would have after starting chemo before I lost my hair.

"16 days," he said, not even looking up from the computer. My wife and I laughed.

"That's very specific," my wife said jokingly.

"I've been doing this for a while," he said. "16 days, give or take."

I only got him to smile once, when he was telling me how many men usually shave their hair once it starts falling out.

"They don't like sleeping in a pile of hair like a mouse?" I asked. He smiled and said something to the effect of "Most people don't like sleeping in a pile of hair."

That may be the greatest thing I've heard come out of a doctor's mouth, although it likely doesn't inspire confidence after telling you all how smart my doctor is. ("My doc is so smart, he knows the difference between the behaviors of humans and rodents.") Obvious or not, it's good advice, so the pile of hair on my head is going to be gone shortly...apparently Oct. 19, based on my doctor's flawless knowledge of hair.

More tomorrow...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Testicular Cancer: An excuse for people to ask about your sperm

Four people this week have talked to me about my sperm, and none of them were doctors.

That bears repeating: After making it public to pretty much everyone that I’ve been diagnosed with testicular cancer, I have had four people engage me in conversation about my reproductive byproduct, and only two of them were family members.

If you’re reading this, chances are that you may only partly know me…a former classmate, friend, friend of a friend or possibly a complete stranger. Because of this, I suppose I should clarify…there were very few occasions prior to being diagnosed with TC that I’ve engaged in conversations, even with close friends and family, about my reproductive byproducts. It’s just not a subject that often comes up around the dinner table…my parents asking if I plan on cryogenically freezing sperm as they pass the container of Tony Chachere Creole Seasoning that is more of a condiment at their dinner table than pepper ever hopes to be.

It’s not that I’m a modest individual…it’s just that I’ve never been engaged in the discussion.

“What are you doing about your sperm?” asks somebody at work that will remain nameless.

“You need to start ‘harvesting your sperm,’” my Uncle Mark, a fantastic guy that loves being mentioned in print (check that off my list), writes to me in a Facebook message.

“If you need help paying to have your sperm frozen, let me know,” my mother offers during a phone call (we don’t, Mom, but thanks for offering to give me the most awkward birthday present ever).

My favorite, however, came from one of our freelancers at my newspaper. I wouldn’t even hazard a guess as to her age, because I’m horrible at that and unless you’re working at a carnival game that requires it (in which case you always guess ‘35’), it’s never appropriate to do so. I’d say it’s safe to say that she’s over 70, however.

I told her a couple of days ago about my diagnosis, to which she gave me a great deal of advice, as she and her husband both had cancer multiple times. We bid each other adieu and hung up. Yesterday, I got a phone call out of the blue.

“Greg, I couldn’t sleep last night. This is a delicate subject, but I just kept thinking about your sperm.”

Join the club.

“You’re young and while your sperm counts usually return after chemo, it would probably be a safe bet to look into freezing some so you can have kids down the line.”

I assured her that my sperm was now a “Top 5 priority” in my life, thanked her for losing sleep over them (plural? Yeah, plural.), and hung up the phone. Apparently just hearing one side of that phone call left a lot of questions.

“Who was that?” my sports editor yelled from across the room. I told him. “What did they want,” he yelled back.

“She couldn’t sleep last night thinking about my sperm,” I yelled back. The office went quiet. Nobody asked a follow-up question, and I didn’t offer any explanation. Sometimes the key to being a good newspaper editor is having your staff wonder what makes your sperm so special. Write that down, quote that and attribute it to me…it will be in a leadership book someday.

To cut down on the amount of time I spend during my day talking about my sperm with people that would have previously blushed asking me where the bathroom is located, I’ll put everyone’s minds at ease: I will be having my sperm frozen to ensure that Lauren and I will have kids in the future. We checked into it, it’s amazingly reasonable in its pricing and I’ll be doing it before I start my chemotherapy.

Always a bit…cautious… (read: cheap) with how I spend money, however, I’m passing on that option and doing it myself using an ice cube tray and our not-so-spacious freezer. Feel free to stop by my house anytime for a nice, long talk about my sperm. I’ll have margaritas ready.


By the way, got a call from my Doc yesterday, and my tumor markers are way down. My HDG normalized and is now undetectable (it was at 11). AFP is now 12 (was at 23) and LVH is 118 (was 193). If you're like me, those numbers mean nothing, but apparently it's good news. If you're like my parents, that news prompts your first question to be "So you don't have to go through chemo?" Nope...still going through chemo. Nice try, though.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Testicular Cancer - A Journey (and other overused metaphors)

Well, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about my “cancer thing,” so in order to share information with long-lost friends and avoid the awkward phone calls with very little information (“Old buddy from college? It’s Greg. My tumor markers dropped a little! OK, I’ll see you at VEISHEA in five years!”) I decided to start this blog and share my overly personal experience of losing a testicle to cancer. Just imagine…before blogs, this would have taken hundreds of overly-personal Christmas cards.

Anyways, it was August 15 when I first noticed something was amiss. I was sitting in a city council meeting when I noticed that one of my testicles was hurting (that was a fun sentence to type knowing fully well my grandmother will likely read this…HI NANA!). I’m not one to put off pain because I’m scared of hospitals at all. I’ve got health insurance, so I’m going to use it if there’s anything I’m worried about, but this situation was unusual. I had rode a horse the day before (the first time I had done this since I was small enough to be lifted on top of one), and not being used to being jostled up and down, I figured I had landed weird while the horse was galloping and had bruised one of them. “I’ll give it a day,” I thought.

The next day I noticed a fruity sensation. This was entirely attributed to the Fruit Stripe gum I was chewing, however, and the pain in my testicle was gone. I completely forgot all about the pain and my reference to a chewing gum popular in the mid-90s and went on with my life.

It wasn’t until two weeks later that the pain returned, same testicle. I made several jokes with my wife, including a few about it being cancer, and made the same promise: if it’s still there tomorrow, I’ll get it checked out.

The next day the pain remained, so I called up a local physician. I hadn’t been to the doctor since moving to Boone except for a physical for the fire department, which was paid for by the city. When I inquired about returning to the doctor I saw that day, I found out my insurance didn’t cover that provider. My wife, however, had received a tetanus booster from a doctor that did accept our insurance – Dr. Mehlhaus.

This leads to something that is a new subject all in itself…small-town life. When I had my fire department physical, I was holding a urine sample when I passed my next-door neighbor, who thanked me for the cookies my wife and I had made for them a few weeks earlier (tip: if you don’t own a snow blower, but your neighbor does, learn how to bake). It also turns out that I’m in Rotary Club with Dr. Mehlhaus (typing that sentence, I feel like a 90-year-old telling a story that they are making purposefully long). Eating lunch every week with a person that you make an appointment to look at your testicle is difficult, but I’d heard good things about him, he was a very nice guy in Rotary and I had a high opinion of him. To summarize, living in a small town is funny...chances are if you're holding a container of urine or having a bulge on your nut examined, you're going to run into someone you know, so modesty is something you learn to live without.

My opinion of Mehlhaus being a decent guy nearly changed when I was led to his Iowa Hawkeye-filled patient room. I felt like I was being recruited and wondered silently if any patients were offended by this. I reminded myself that Iowa State didn’t have a medical school and waited for the doc. (Note: Despite his Hawkeye allegience, I now view Mehlhaus as the best doctor in the world)

Mehlhaus showed up and we spent about five minutes shooting the breeze about a recent bond issue, which was cut short by him asking me to drop my pants…an odd conversation shifter. He inspected, had me pull my pants back up, and immediately hopped on the phone trying to set me up with an ultrasound at BCH. Apparently everything in the city was booked up that day because he left the room and spent 15 minutes on the phone, using his skills of negotiation to get something set up.

He came back in the room and didn’t mince words: he was worried. It was either very severe epididymitis or testicular cancer. He told me if it was epididy-whatever I’d take some pain medication and they’d monitor me. He said if it was testicular cancer, survival rates were 95-98 percent and I’d have surgery. He said he had set me up with someone he knew in Des Moines and wanted me to drive down there now. Not in four hours, not tomorrow…go get in your car, tell people at work not to expect you today and leave.

This was an unexpected turn, but I nodded along with him as if I was given a cancer diagnosis all of the time. I asked about the epididymitis, as if he were a mechanic telling me my car had either a chipped windshield or a blown transmission and I had responded with, “Oh man, does it look like the crack has started to spread at all?”

I thanked him, left, ran home to swap cars with my wife and share the news, which I actually gave her over the phone on the way home. I stressed the high survival rate, told her not to worry and met her at home looking for my iPod. She asked if I was in shock, and I told her not really…I fully understood the risks, and I absolutely did. I was more concerned with making a 45-minute drive to Des Moines without my 160 gigs of music (as usual, on any given day, 98% of my music is crap, but I have to skip through it all).

I stopped at work and gave them the news, which is not easy. Telling a newspaper staff that the person who usually does all of the layout, writes a couple of stories (I had two I was in the process of writing for the next day) and alters the photos that instead of doing that today, he’ll be leaving, eight hours before deadline is…tough. Obviously the possibility of cancer is a flawless excuse, but I still felt bad.

I showed up in Des Moines and was told to meet my urologist. I showed up at the lobby, was given my sign-in stuff and delicately asked a question to the clerk. “I need to use the bathroom. I assume, with this being the urology department, you’ve got, like, 50 of them. Can you point me to one of them?”

They only had two, but one was unoccupied. In there, with it being urology, I noticed a tray of urinalysis cups. A sign prompted visitors to leave a urine sample if they could. “Wow, just like a fancy hotel,” I thought to myself. “Why not?”

I left the bathroom, and my urine sample in the metal cabinet, and went back to the paperwork. I had filled out quite a bit of paperwork that day and was getting tired of it all. This paperwork was ridiculous…all questions focused on my urination habits. Do you have trouble urinating? Nope. Get up frequently at night to urinate? Nope. Reason for visit? Cancer. Allergies? “Cats, but I do not ingest these orally,” I wrote.

A nurse came out and got me and we went through the routine – she takes my height, weighs me, I make the same stupid joke I’m sure all patients make about how the patient questionnaire I’m holding must weigh 10 pounds, and I’m led to a small room.

My urologist was awesome. He checked me out, said the same thing Mehlhaus told me, sent me to an ultrasound tech in the same building, and it was there that I started to get slightly nervous. I walked into the ultrasound tech place, signed in, and sat down amongst a crowd of about 25 people. Not two minutes later, a nurse came out for me…not a good sign.

I threw on the gown, laid down and looked around at all the maternity pictures of mothers with their babies as the tech put ultrasound gel on my nuts. I’m sure it was awkward for the both of us, but it gave me a chance to leaf through the latest copy of Parenting magazine while she went over my testicles with something that looked like an airport security wand. I resisted the urge to ask her if it was a boy.

From there, she left, leaving me in the room for about 15 minutes and I was sweating a bit. It wasn’t until this point that I started thinking about how this might be somewhat serious and asking myself if Mehlhaus and my oncologist were simply telling me the best odds and not the most practical odds of beating this. Fifteen minutes in a room normally reserved for people excited to find out the sex of their baby when you’re facing a diagnosis you’re still unsure of is an eternity.

When the tech came back in and told me to go back to my urologist, I was nervous. When I got back to the crowded urology department, signed in, and my urologist came into the waiting room to get me himself, I knew.

Sure enough, there was a mass. The urologist was 90% sure it was testicular cancer, and said there was a 10% chance it was just a mass. Surgery was scheduled, I was given no options on time, I was to show up for surgery the next day at 8:30 a.m. I immediately called my wife, who understandably was freaking out, but kept it together very well in front of her daycare kids. Next I called my parents and brother to let them know, which is an interesting experience. “Hey, mom? What’s going on? Oh, really, Amy’s doing good in cross country? That’s awesome! Anna’s doing well also? That’s great. Anyways, not a big deal, and I don’t want you to freak out, but I’ve got what looks like testicular cancer and I’m having surgery tomorrow.”

Obviously, my parents freaked out. Anybody hears cancer and they think the worst, but I honestly wasn’t all that worried at the time. I had asked questions, and based on the odds and the state it was in, testicular cancer to me was like the Detroit Lions of cancer (post-written edit Sept. 27: I'm starting to regret typing that looking at their record so far this season). It’s this reason why I don’t really look at myself as “battling cancer,” a term that’s used a lot these days. It’s difficult to describe, but being a huge fan of metaphors, it’s like when top clothing designers do a line for K-Mart. “Is that Gucci?” “Technically, yes.” That’s how I feel with my testicular cancer. “You have cancer?” “Well, technically, yes.” That might be the most non-heterosexual metaphor I could throw out there, but I preceded it with a football reference, and I only have one testicle, so cut me some slack.

My favorite part of this was telling a couple friends, who reacted exactly how I needed them to react in that circumstance (and I knew they would). Robson told me it sucked, but now I could make “I would give my left nut for…” statements with more validity. Vize matter-of-factly asked me if I had heard of the song “Half a Man” by Stephen Lynch. This is precisely the reaction I needed…the last thing I wanted was sympathy or people acting as if I’d been given horrible news. The odds are unbelievably high…do you tell somebody going in to have their appendix removed, “I’m so sorry, you’re going to be OK. You’re in my thoughts and prayers.” It’s a sweet thought, but not entirely appropriate.

Hanging with my wife the evening before surgery is an odd experience. I felt like my left testicle was on death row, but I didn’t know the best way to give it its last meal. We both joked about it (mainly me…this entire process has been hell on her, as it would be for me if she was going through it), had some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and went to bed. Surprisingly, I slept like a baby that night. I’m unusual.

The next day, more of the same. Same paperwork, same joke about ingesting cats, thrown into a gown and put on an IV. Lauren had the difficult part…she had to actually be conscious through the surgery. I went into huge room with a bunch of people, debating whether or not it would be appropriate to ask if they could put a Junior Mint in my sack to help balance out the weight so I wouldn’t steer right when I walked. I felt the timing was inappropriate, so I put that one away to use later (apparently here).

They put the good stuff in my IV and told me they were starting the knockout stuff. I started to ask them if they wanted me to count to a certain number or if I should just…holy crap, I’m waking up in recovery.
My eyes were heavy and I struggled to regain consciousness. A nurse noticed and asked me how I was doing. I asked for a late checkout and where continental breakfast was…a horribly lame joke that seemed even lamer with how exaggeratedly they laughed at it.

I was given pudding…hardly a consolation to losing a testicle…and two packages of crackers. This seemed like an odd combination, but I was hungry. They didn’t have coffee there, so I settled for a Sprite. I still feel bad for this, but my wife hadn’t eaten all morning and there were no vending machines in the lobby. She ate one of my saltines, to which I jokingly accused her of pilfering my “surgery crackers,” which prompted a nurse to bring my wife a package of them. They sat untouched, my wife embarrassed. I still feel horrible about that…I don’t think she had eaten for 18 hours at that point, and wouldn’t until we got home.

I was disappointed that they didn’t give me my testicle so I could have it stuffed and put on a keychain, but apparently they needed it for a biopsy. My wife drove me home and I slowly worked my way upstairs and into bed. Ice, Playstation, mini corndogs and Percocet got me through the next two days, although the pain wasn’t bad at all. I was off pain killers and drinking wine at my in-law’s house three days later. Four days afterwards, I was at my parent’s house in Omaha hanging out with them for Grandma's birthday.

Biopsy came back – it was cancer. However, the cancer was contained to the testicle itself – a four-centimeter long growth on my left testicle. People from Canada are gasping right now…for Americans, that’s about 1-1/2 inches long. Oh yeah…my testicle grows cancer better than teenagers grow crops on Farmville.

I went through a CT scan, which was interesting, and waited for the results. Everybody was optimistic. For the first time, I wasn’t, and I don’t know why. I think I was worried that with everyone else assuming it was done, I should be wary. Results of the CT scan came back…once again we went to my urologist who told us that I’d be going through three rounds of chemo. The odds of success with the chemo for the type of cancer I have are good, he said, about 95-98%.

So, that’s where I’m at right now. My wife and family has understandably been freaking out about this, as I believe I would be, too. If Lauren was going through this, even with odds near-perfect, I would freak out. Me, however, I’m not worried.

I’ve never seen the point of worrying about stuff like this. At this point, there’s nothing I can do about this except to move ahead. Worrying isn’t going to do a thing about this other than freak myself out, freak family and friends out and completely ruin what would otherwise be a good day. Besides, looking at this, it’s kind of a funny situation when you want it to be. I’d rather laugh about how bizarre and funny this entire process is than sit there and reflect on the process. Besides…95% odds? Chances are better that I’ll get in a car crash on the way to chemo than for my treatment to not be effective.

I look at chemo the same way I do as watching “The Deadliest Catch.” If offered the chance, would I work on one of those crab boats, without pay? Hell no…but part of me wonders what it would be like and how I would handle it. It’s the exact same way with chemo…it’s not something I would voluntarily sign up for, but I’ve always wondered what it would be like and how I would handle it. It’s completely messed up, but I’m kind of excited to get it started.

So, that’s where we’re at. I have Stage 2 K-Mart Cancer, I’m going through three rounds of chemo (which may leave me bald around Halloween…something that opens up all new worlds of possibilities for costumes) and I find the entire process oddly funny. Sure, it’s somewhat serious…any disease is…but it’s not anything that people haven’t gone through before and with cure rates as high as they are, it’s not anything that I’m going to worry about.

Going from pain in a testicle to removing that testicle within 24 hours, and then learning I’d need chemo two weeks later…that can seem either kind of scary/sad or really pretty funny. It all depends on how you look at it, and I will always look at that type of situation from a humorous viewpoint…it just doesn’t make sense to do it any other way.

So, for family and friends that have read this far, take the fun route…joke about me winning the Tour de France, tease me about being half a man and laugh when I say, “Man, it’s hot in here…I’m sweating my ball off.” This isn’t a scary situation…I don’t think people freak out about doing anything else with a 98% success rate (did you know it’s the same success rate as having Lasik eye surgery?).

Finding humor in situations where others find sadness is going to make your life a whole lot more fun. Believe me. I’m not entirely crazy, I’m only half-nuts.