2013

Welcome to a blog that chronicled everything that happened during my 2nd bout with testicular cancer.

If you’d like to read this blog from the first post of diagnosis / before chemo and during chemo, click here.

I like to post something annually to give other cancer patients and their caretakers (i.e. family & friends) there is hope & life after cancer.

2013 is no exception. I’ve done all the hormone testing, x-rays, and CT scans. I’m all clear once again. I’m confused about when I can go for checkups only once a year instead of twice. I thought that was 2013, but my doctor tells me after that. Sometimes I consider just not going anymore at all for followups. Statistically, I’m good. Of course, statistically, I should of been good / cured after my first bout with cancer, but it came back. So maybe I’ll still sacrifice that entire 4 hours of my life once every 6 months, just in case.

Our son is here, he’s over 5 months old. I said in the 2012 update my wife was pregnant at the time. I tried getting her pregnant for several months with no luck before we discovered I was “shooting blanks”, or AKA no sperm. I had no sperm probably because I was shooting testosterone, but the surgery to take out a testicle, radiation therapy, and chemo therapy all could of repressed sperm production as well. So the drug that’s experimental in men, but proven in women for fertility (chlomid) helped me out, wife got preg, and son born.

bouncerChristmasTree

This is our first child. We are old parents, both 35 when he was born. Cancer delayed our plans to have children, twice. It took a long time to recover plus there was that 20% chance of having cancer a 3rd time looming over my head for a couple years. But that magical 2 year mark came and went, and the percent chance of cancer a 3rd time is less than 1% now.

We might be old parents but being a father has made me  the happiest I’ve been in many years. He’s a lot of fun, a happy guy, and very healthy (thank god).  It’s impossible to explain really to anyone who hasn’t had kids how great it is. He can be screaming in my ear for a diaper change and I don’t care how loud he yells in my ear, because that’s my son. My parents moved back to Michigan to help us and my sister / bro-in law with their newborn as well. I missed them.

I recently got shoulder surgery. There was bone rubbing on bone, so an ortho doc shaved down all that bone. It’s amazing how trivial surgery like that is to trying to survive cancer. It’s like whatever, I come in to hospital, joke with staff there, get cut up, get home, find it easier to get out of bed than anything ever with cancer. Pain was temporary. I couldn’t lift my arm at first at surgery but I knew it’d get better slowly. It was all really trivial because it’s hard to find any challenge more difficult than cancer.

My mom  survived breast cancer. She had to have surgery twice on the one breast to make sure everything was removed, then radiation. She has to take hormone pills. I think this is common of all women breast cancer survivors. I mean I have to shoot testosterone because I no longer produce enough, so hey something in common between the two cancers.

I’ve come to the realization I’m never going to completely drop the anxiety. For example, I’m interested in survival prepping. Yes I did this before all those shows got popular or hurricane Sandy hit. I dehydrate food, have well tuned bug out bags, hoard water from CostCo, drive a 4×4 SUV as my primary vehicle, and so on.

But the survival prepping is an echo from having to fight to survive cancer. The fight never ended for me, just a new target on a new field. There were so many rules and gotchas and struggles to survive cancer. I cannot turn that off like a light switch. Therefore that energy gets put into survivalism. Cancer permanently changes people. I’ve accepted there is no going back, finally.

Feel free to Contact Me if you have any questions about cancer, fertility post cancer, anxiety, or life in general. I still get roughly 1-2 emails per month asking questions.

It’s the least I can do to help others.

Take care,

- Jeff

2012 Update

Welcome. If this is the first time you’ve been to my blog, please let me suggest reading my first very post about my 2nd bout with testicular cancer in 2009, and subsequent posts in order.

I write an update every year to basically let people know I’m A) still alive and B) there is hope for yourself or your loved one with cancer.

This will be the best yet update I’ve written.

Summer with wife was great. I worked out alot. I got rid of fatigue and anxiety. I can do multiple pullups in a row. I shoot clay targets for fun with a shotgun. All of this is far cry from when I was dying & going insane in the hospital.

I was diagnosed with hypogonadism. Something caused it, but between getting chopped up in the testicle area, radiation, chemotherapy, and having low testosterone to begin with, it’s hard to say what. In a nutshell, hypogonadism means you’re not producing enough testosterone.

Guess what? Anxiety is a symptom of low testosterone. Amongst the inability to produce sperm, fatigue, weakened immune system, migraines, and more. When I shoot testosterone to get my body to the normal levels it should of been at with another testicle my anxiety / PTSD goes away.

I’m bolding that above in case anyone else falls into this trap that I have. I mean if you lose both testicles testosterone is obviously an issue…but turns out “low T” can also be an issue if you lose one. Or get radiation. Or chemotherpay. Or whatever. So anyways I bolded that in case you find yourself having some of the same mental problems I once found myself having.

But you know what? All of that kind of pales compared to this:

I wasn’t sure I could get my wife pregnant. I had to go on Chlomid for a couple months after getting semen results that said I was infertile. Chlomid works for guys…but is currently experimental in men. There’s nothing like seeing that image for the first time at 12 weeks.

I still get emails from my blog. Several a month. I still answer them and help where I can. Feel free to email me.

It’s possible. And it will be the hardest thing you ever do in your life.

- Jeff

Two Years Since Cancer Relapse

It’s time for my annual ritual; sit down, reflect, and update the cancer blog.
My last CT scan was in December 2010. The CT scan came back clean.
It’s tough for me to write that last sentence. There is a lot of weight associated with passing the two year mark. The relapse rate for someone who’s relapsed on seminoma is not good…sloan-kettering pegs the relapse rate to start at 15-20%. However, the relapse rate goes to less than 1% after surviving two years.

So, I made it. I’m done, I’m clean, I’m going to survive. I fought with others’ help and I survived cancer a second time. It’s confusing to be given your life back. I’m not sure how to explain it; imagine a deity tells you you’ll likely die in the next two years. What would you do? Then what do you do when the deity says, “congratulations, that likelyhood of you dying is now gone. Enjoy the rest of your life.”

I’m not being ungrateful – I’m trying to convey it’s confusing. What do you do with your life again? I guess upping 401k donations is a start. Trying to have a kid with my wife is another – which we are trying for – I’m fertile after radiation and chemotherapy. I’m not sure what else I’ll do with my life I’ve gained back. My wife and I have a longstanding agreement that I can get a metal detector at 55; she thinks its an old man’s hobby, so made me promise I’ll wait until 55. It is something I look forward to in 20 something years to hoist that thing up in the air and say “I TOLD YOU SO” out of spite :)

Volunteering – formally haven’t done it. Shame on me. Informally I still talk and try to help people who come to my blog and respond to me. That is an invitation to do so if you’re reading this, and you or a loved one are in their darkest hour. I started bringing food in more to work but I’m not sure how much that counts. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Let’s move onto mental health status. At a financial sacrifice, we’ve removed me from a constant PTSD trigger and the PTSD is steadily going away. Simple analysis, what’s more important, money and a good credit rating, or being happy? I’m fairly sure the PTSD started after my several day stint in the hospital during chemotherapy; I gained the hallmark startle response after that hospital visit. Wife and I couldn’t understand the startle response at the time, but in hindsight, that’s where I turned. I’m not on as many crazy pills anymore…removing myself from the situation I was in with constant PTSD triggers is helping a lot. I feel like there needs to be more attention drawn to mental health issues borne out of illness. That’s asking a lot to openly talk about it. It’s one stigma to admit you had a testicle removed for cancer; another to admit you had testicular cancer; and a whole nother level to be honest enough to share you had a mental illness.

Physically, doing great. Joined a gym. Believe that? I hope that gives you or loved ones hope. After so damn long and treatment twice I work out again. Two goddamn years to get to the point I could go to the gym again. Am I lucky, did I never give up, or did I just wait around long enough to get better? Probably all three.

My mom is diagnosed with breast cancer. She’s going through a lot of the same things I did with treatment. I hold back telling her how hard some things will be. I feel it’s unfair for me to be declared clean / given a new lease on life, and in that same month my mom gets diagnosed with cancer. But like I’ve said in this blog, there is no fair and unfair. There only is. Wonder if there is a common source to both of our cancers.

To all of you out there who are fighting, or have a loved one fighting…I want to let you know with this update…
It is possible to overcome cancer and have a normal life.

Believe & fight.

- Jeff, a two time cancer survior

One+ Year Since My 2nd Cancer Diagnosis

I’m still going, one year after my 2nd testicular cancer diagnosis. :)

It is a little hard to believe it’s been a over a year since I started this blog, challenged by cancer again, helped by others once again. Sometimes I stop by and re-read what I posted, remembering everything that happened. This blog is my sick scrapbook.

I kicked around the idea of never posting here again, but I thought I should give others hope perhaps by posting annually on the anniversary of my 2nd diagnosis that I’m “still going”. In other words, there is life after cancer.

Here’s an update of my post-relapse and post-treatment related status:

  • I finally shook my fatigue. That didn’t happen until late November 2009, several months longer than it should have to lose the fatigue caused by chemotherapy. I am working out again, on Wii. Whereas typical home chores used to tire me for a couple days, that is no longer the case. I finally got around to cleaning up and organizing my entire basement over the last week, moving heavy stuff, assembly, repair, and so on. The basement sat in a mess for over a year because I wasn’t capable of doing anything myself.
  • Fertility? Unsure if I am sterile or not. Will be tested in April 2010. Cyrogenics lab told me they usually don’t test anyone until over a year has passed since radiation therapy or chemotherapy – because it takes your body that long to repair itself. Little confused because the cyrogenics lab told me watch out because my sperm would cause mutant babies, whereas my oncologist said I’d just be sterile. Still plan on having kids.
  • Every CT scan’s & X-ray came back clean. No lumps found.
  • Regarding PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder. Don’t enjoy writing about it. It’s lessoned in intensity. Via time and drugs. I don’t know if / when I will completely get rid of it. Think of it as being on guard like you were in a shady bar or 3rd world country with a fat wallet…only all of the time, and when you don’t need to be on such a high level of alert. I used to get migraines…I had to take prescription medication to get rid of the migraines…since completing chemotherapy I can solve any headache with standard store bought non-prescription medicine. Therefore I know something in my brain chemistry changed ala chemotherapy. Heck my oncologist told me it was possible.
  • My promises. I’m working out. I eat a piece of fruit once a day, my diet is better. I haven’t volunteered. Shame on me for the latter. I did pick who I want to volunteer for, Michigan Humane Society. I don’t know why I’m dragging my feet I need to call.

Well, cheers, here’s to one year down.

Done (My Last Post)

I don’t see a need to write anymore about my experiences with cancer at this point.  I quit (this blog)!

Thank you for reading & all of your support!

I don’t see a need because the side effects, physically, are minimal.  It’s mostly about recovering from fatigue.  Sometimes I am short of breath or breath heavy.  That’s a combo of having a lower hemocrit to carry oxygen in my bloodstream plus there may or may not have been some damage to my lungs to the chemotherapy.  I believe it to be the lack of oxygen in my blood.

The problems I’m having with mental health are not entirely attributable to my relapse on testicular cancer, but are aggrivated and amplified because of my relapse with testicular cancer.  Issues from my youth are amplified to the point that I have problems dealing with them on a daily basis.  Logically I know the emotions and thoughts are irrational, but I cannot suppress all emotion via logic.  Most days I win, some days I don’t, take the good and the bad.

However, everyone has problems, no one is perfect, and no one has a perfect childhood.   If you wait in life to do something because everything isn’t perfect (say buy a house, start a new job, start signing karoeke, whatever!) you will be waiting the rest of your life.  Nothing is perfect, nature isn’t perfect, life isn’t perfect.

I’m not waiting until my life is perfect to stop writing about my trials with testicular cancer a 2nd time.  I’m ending it now.  I will be moving on in my life.

Although I am no longer actively posting here, please always feel free to contact me via this link or the “contact me” link above.  You can ask me any question you like!  I want to help!  Or just shoot the breeze.

It’s time for me to do everything I said I would.  It’s time for me to not squander my 3rd chance at life :)

If you’d like to read my blog from the start of when I first discovered I relapsed on cancer, click here.

Out of things to say

I started writing some status here, but most of the important stuff is done.

Fatigue better, still there, but getting better.  Hair back.  Back hair, too!  D’oh!

About time to end this!

Good.

Puking Stopped!!!

Knock on wood I don’t puke again tomorrow after writing this, but my puking’s stopped for the past several days.  Turns out all I needed to do was take my anti stomach acid pill (aciphex) twice a day instead of once a day.  Angela had a good point: she thought since I wasn’t drinking soda pop for a few months, when I started drinking soda pop again it created more acid and therefore I’d wake up in the morning with a tummy full of acid that made me want to hurl.

Either way, good news.

Fatigue is still here.  I can’t gauge well when it’s going to kick in.  I can mow the lawn, weed wack, load / unload camping gear, but not necessarily all in the same day.  I’m OK most of the time, but if I take a four mile walk, I’m fatigued for two days, have to let Angela drive me home and fall asleep in the car.  Huh???  I don’t get it and it’s still sort of frustrating but it keeps getting better.  Just understand I’m not 100%, I can’t always keep up with you (anyone) anymore, even when it’s something lame like staying up past 10PM. Please excuse me.  I used to be able to pound back beers stay up to 2AM get up the next morning and shovel the driveway’s snow.  No longer.  A few months from now I’ll probably be that guy again.

I’d like to do more physical volunteer work but instead I give digital support & encouragement to other testicular cancer patients on the internet.  Will do the more physical stuff later.

I am realizing I missed out on a lot of stuff in people’s lives that mattered to me over the last few months.  Friends & family.  Big gap of I don’t know what happened to you for a few months.  Big gap of stuff I missed.

I’m getting over post traumatic stress disorder, with help.  The feelings are not as intense as a couple weeks ago.  I still scan for threats, I still see threats where none exist, I still jump to loud noises, but I am a lot better than I was 2 weeks ago. I hope some of that is illustrated by my writings here.  I now value mental health over physical health, would rather have something wrong physically if given the choice!

Today I started acknowledging there is really a chance I could have cancer a 3rd time.  I invite you as a fun mental exercise (this is not sarcastic) to think some about what it would be like to know you could get cancer a 3rd time, but mostly how it would impact your daily decisions in life.



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