April is Testicular Cancer month. It is a disease that is surrounded by all kinds of stigmas, and yet it is the most common form of cancer for men between the ages of 15 and 35. Hugo, one of our other ambassadors has shared his personal tale of triumph, but Mike has his own, unique story. A clinical pharmacist by trade by only 22 years of age, and living in South Florida, Mike had a successful life. Then, he found a lump.
He had laughed it off, as many teenage boys do, when his doctor told him to perform self checks for testicular cancer, but it ended up being this self check that lead him to finding his disease. He was diagnosed in 2006, and for a 7 month period, lived convinced that it meant the end of his life. He lived as though he was dying, methodically planned options for the inevitable end, things he could do for others, and legacies he could leave behind. He even threw his own send off party in his home town in Ohio, without telling anyone what the true cause of the get together was.
This period of emotional turmoil was brought to an end when he was told his condition could be solved by a simple removal procedure. "It was almost a let down," he joked, "I was tempted to ask the doctor if I could get some of my money back from living like this was the end." His journey helped him realize how few resources for testicular cancer there were, and how many people must feel as confused, and alone as he had. He created a kind of support group on Myspace (back when that was a thing), asking different people their needs, and finding out those that weren't being met. Then, in 2008 he began the Testicular Cancer Society. It took off further upon his relocating to Cincinnati in 2010. For individuals that are interested, there is information on how to identify the cancer, and precautionary measures that can be taken. For those diagnosed with the disease, the Testicular Cancer Society helps them navigate their reports, and understand their condition medically. The organization is also able to refer people to experts and provides a place for support.
The Testicular Cancer Society also spotlights people with testicular cancer and survivors, offering a platform for them to share their stories. These are distributed on their site and on social media and act as a therapeutic way for people to come to terms with their experience. You often hear of heart-wrenching cases of childhood cancer, or identify it as something people are diagnosed with as they get older. Young-adult cancer patients are somewhat of an overlooked age bracket, and as a result it can feel isolating. People often don't know what to say or how to deal with it, so the Testicular Cancer Society provides the world largest forum on testicular cancer. With over 10,000 members, it allows those diagnosed to have a safe space to talk with others who understand, and to have their questions answered.
Mike says that the Testicular Cancer Society is not afraid of competition, they work well with others striving for the same goal, and often refer those interested to additional organizations such as Imerman Angels.
"This is a disease that is diagnosed in 24 guys a day," Mike stressed, "it is about creating awareness- the more people talking about it, the better. The the information is out there, but people are not aware." The Testicular Cancer Society doesn't have the financial backing to accomplish some of their plans for growth, but there are improvements that will hopefully come in the future. These improvements primarily center around reaching people. "We need to increase the conversation, encourage self exams, and fight the stigma," Mike urged. He said the biggest thing he would love people to take away from him sharing his story is a sense of understanding.
He told a story of a Jimmy Buffett concert he went to, everyone listening from their boats on a lake. There was a particularly dingy boat, piled with people, and one of his friends pointed out a "hillbilly" trying to fish off of it. Instead of poking fun with his friends as he once would have, he saw taht man as doing exactly what he wanted to be doing at that moment. He realized in that moment how cancer had effected his life- it had softened his outlook.
He hoped that the Testicular Cancer Society acts as a platform not just for the regurgitation of stories, but for the inspiration of others. They want to spread feel-good stories that can be shared. "The positive stuff is out there," Mike said, "it is so easy to get involved with the negative." He hopes patients currently struggling with testicular cancer can find happiness and inspiration in communities sharing positive stories such as Boomcast, "that was my biggest interest in the app. Promoting our organization for health sure, but more so for people struggling with their diagnosis to find a little peace."
If you are interested in learning more about testicular cancer, how to perform screenings, or interested in getting involved, visit Testicular Cancer Society here. This is the most prominent form of cancer in young males, and it's time it is talked about- to protect ourselves, our friends, and our families.