Health & Medicine

How I overcame my fears and saved my life from cancer

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Gabe Ortiz during his last week of chemotherapy.

Credit:

Robert Padbury

I had ignored it for weeks, thinking maybe it would clear up on it’s own. I’d been feeling a pressure in my groin for a month, and when I examined myself, there it was, a slightly elevated bump the width of a pencil eraser on my testicle. But the bump kept growing. The truth is, I was embarrassed. I was scared. I was stupid, I now tell myself.

When I finally worked up the courage to talk to a friend about the bump, he almost snatched my phone away to schedule a doctor's appointment for me. I knew he was right, as difficult as it was to admit. But that phone call, when I finally made it later that day, was the call that probably saved my life.

The tumor was so aggressive that within a two-week period that month, I went from a consultation with a urologist, to surgery, to starting a nine-week course of chemotherapy to treat the cancer cells that had spread up to the lymph nodes in my abdomen. 

Cancer is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. Cancer wants to test every fiber of your being. Cancer wants to break your spirit. Cancer wants you to live every day in fear. 

But thanks to aggressive treatment, my doctors feel positive about my prognosis. I responded well to the weeks of chemotherapy, and will continue to monitor it through regular blood tests, scans, and surveillance.

As I told more and more people about my diagnosis, I was surprised by how many men we all know who have been affected by testicular cancer, and simply don’t ever talk about it. 

But, we have to talk about it. When you’re going through something as scary as cancer, there’s no greater comfort than hearing about others who have made it through the storm. A glimmer of hope is a million times more powerful than any fear.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “testicular cancer is the most common cancer in American males between the ages of 15 and 35. Regular testicular self-examinations can help identify growths early, when the chance for successful treatment of testicular cancer is highest.”

Self-exams are easy, take only a few minutes, and can be done yourself in the privacy of your own home. You can even ask your doctor to make testicular exams part of your regular check-ups and physicals, too, if that makes you feel more comfortable and safe. You can also get your partner to check. 

If you sense something is wrong, trust your instincts and schedule an appointment with a medical provider right away. The worst that could happen is you’ve overreacted. And the best that could happen is you’ve taken the first step to saving your own life, too.

I’ve made it through the storm, and so can you.