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Gabe's Cancer Updates
9/27/2016 Latest post:
Short story: I have testicular cancer, but I'm not going to die, I will just be uncomfortable for a couple more months whie I undergo BEP chemotherapy. The timing of this in my life is pretty great and of all the cancers I could get, this is one of the least bad.
Long version. I first started noticing something was wrong while I was rock climbing in th I felt some hardness in my testicle. I asked a doctor friend if this was an emergency and he told me to get it checked out when I got back to Vancouver. My first thought was cancer, because it felt quite hard and foreign, but I quickly dismissed that notion as improbable. I had just started climbing with a new harness and chalked the swelling up to pinching from leg loops.
When I returned to Vancouver I spent a couple weeks happily rock climbing and adventuring. Meanwhile, my testicle had continued to swell and was now about the size of a small kiwi. I was not in any pain but the size was a little inconveneint. Eventually I got my dad to examine me and after a quick inspection he promptly arranged for me to get an ultrasound the next day. I had the results forwarded straight to my dad. That night, my parents came into my room with tense, worried expressions on their faces. They told me that the the ultrasound showed a large mass in my right testicle, I later learned that most of the testicle was tumour by that point.
Although my parents seemed somewhat distraught my first response was to ask what the prognosis was and not over react. Not all cancer is life threatening or altering (many skin cancers can be easily frozen off). I was told there was a 99% survival rate but that I would most likely need to have my testicle removed (inguinal orchiectomy). Further at first presentation, the majority of testicular cancer is grade 1 (ie not spread from the testicle) so really not too serious. Anyways the point is I was pretty non-plussed by the whole situation. I was a bit perplexed by my parents concern, but hey, I get it, that's what parents do.
Next, my parents got the system moving very fast and within a matter of days I had seen Dr. Black, one of the top urologists in the city; gotten a CT scan and a chest X-ray, banked sperm in case of fertility issues and had some blood tests. The CT and X-ray showed that there was no metastasis (spread) of the cancer from my tumour (as I expected). At this point the course of treatment was to remove the cancerous testicle from the inside (without cutting the scrotum).
The orchiectomy was a day surgery performed on August 19th at UBC hospital under general anesthesia. With help and lots of drugs and I was able to get home and into bed. I couldn't really walk and had dull pain all around the incision. The next morning I woke up in severe pain. My brother was in the rom next to me, still asleep. The pain was intense, but tolerable and I though I just needed to roll over. I tried to roll over by myself and that was my first mistake. The pain exploded and I was just able to eek out a cry for help to my brother. My brother trie to help me roll and eventually the whole family was recruited to help stabilize different parts of my bed. Variably the pain moved from my obliques to around my groin depending on the position. After quite a while of struggle, trying different positions and swallowing additional pain meds I couldn't hold my bladder anymore. With more help, I peed into a bottle. Then seemingly miraculously my pain mostly subsided back to a very tolerable dull ache. And after a time it completely subsided.
That morning was easily the most painful and difficult part of this ordeal so far, but I was very content once I discovered that I just needed to keep my bladder empty. I spent the first couple days after the surgery almost entirely bed ridden, using a bottle next to my bed to pee and needing help to hobble to the toilet. Eventually my strength and independence slowly returned, After a week or so I went completely off any pain meds. This way I could use the pain to guide my activity level.
I was under strict instuction not to lift more than ten pounds or exert myself heavily. So I played lots of video games, ukulele, listend to audio books, read novels and articles etc. But after a couple weeks I was still not well enough to go rock climb or excercise, but i could walk around, and socialize. I got a bit restless, but I started to go out and see friends.
Then, the next phase began, active surveilance. Although the tumour had been removed, there was still the chance that it had spread undetectably and that the cancer could come back. No matter what happens, chemo or no chemo, I will be under surveillance for the next 5 years. Active surveillance consists of CT scans every 2 months and monthly blood tests. This whole regular doctor appointment thing threw a bit of a monkey wrench into my big adventure plans. I had planned to take the year off to travel and rock climb before starting medical school in August 2017. Now it looks like I will be spending a good portion of that time off dealing with cancer.
Anyways, although my tumour markers dropped just after the surgery (a good thing) one of them came back up on the next test. For more recent updates on my situation see my journal updates. But as off this post I am probably going to need chemo, and it's not going to be fun. But hey, its better than dying, right? ;)
Right from the begingin after that initial discussion with my parents I immediately decided not to keep any of this as a secret. I had nothing to hide and I understood that if I wanted any support then I had to tell people. Also it would have been a huge pain and pretty awkward to hide. So I started slowly updating people on my situation. People seemed pretty surprised by my relaxed manner towards the whole situation, but my perspective I pretty much knew this was not life threatening so there was no need to panic.
I made this site so I could easily share what was going on with me without having to tell the whole story repeatedly.