by Justin Birckbichler
There is something magical and special about the holiday season. However, in December 2016, instead of hanging ornamental balls from the tree, I was in the thick of completing chemotherapy to battle the cancer that had spread from my testicles to my lymph nodes.
My battle with cancer isn’t the only history of trying times in the holiday season. In high school, I struggled with pretty severe clinical depression. One of my lowest points during my struggle with depression was around the holidays in 2007. I was angry, sad, apathetic, and just all around down. I was in therapy and on anti-depressants to help and eventually came through a stronger person. However, the holidays were something that helped me rally and keep on living.
by Justin Birckbichler
I was diagnosed with Stage IIB Nonseminoma Testicular cancer in November 2016, at the ripe old age of 25. Along with surgery and chemo, I encountered the burden of the emotional journey that a cancer diagnosis includes.
Much to my wife’s chagrin, I’ve never been one to talk about my emotions. Blame it on society, my own stubbornness, or whatever other factor you want to point fingers at, but when it comes to my feelings, you’re not going to get much from me beyond “I’m fine.”
Together with Young Adult Cancer Advocate Extraordinaire, Pat Taylor, we wanted to publish a new series this November to help raise awareness about Testicular Cancer. Our goal was to educate testicular cancer patients, survivors and caregivers about the post-treatment quality of life issues that may arise, of which many men might not be aware. If there is a stigma around this issue, we want to open it up and shed some light on it!!
We thank all the writers who took the time to write about their personal stories for the greater good – not an easy task!!
Please send us your comments and we’ll be sure to pass them along to the writers.
Table of Contents:
An Interview with Scott Slater by Pat Taylor
Oh Testicular Cancer, How I Hate Thee by Dan Duffy
An Interview with Connor O’Leary by Pat Taylor
Where’s the Light? by Nick O’Hara Smith
The Perfect Storm by Mike Craycraft
Cancer Survivorship – The Fight After the Fight and All of its Firsts by Steve Pake
A Caregiver’s Perspective by Jenna Jackson
A Ballsy Sense of Tumor by Justin Birckbichler
by Pat Taylor, AYA Advocate, CKN Editor
Connor O’Leary was a nineteen year old professional cyclist competing in Europe when he discovered a lump on his testicle. As an advocate for AYA cancer awareness since my own daughter was diagnosed with cancer in 1997, I was stunned at how little I knew about testicular cancer and the men living with it. I needed to learn more. I needed to go to the source. My editor, Karen Irwin at CKN agreed and the idea for the TC Cancer Series was born.
Connor was one of the men I invited to join me for breakfast in Denver, Colorado while we were attending Stupid Cancer’s CancerCon 2017 Conference, to discuss the short and long term effects of living with a testicular cancer diagnosis. When Connor told me, “Nineteen year olds don’t want to talk about their parts to their mothers,” I knew that Connor would offer an important perspective to the series. What follows is my interview with Connor, testicular cancer survivor and Chief Mission Officer for the Testicular Cancer Foundation.
by Dan Duffy, Survivor, Advocate, Author
“I cheated with my cancer.”
A friend of mine said that to me once, feeling that she somehow didn’t really go through cancer because hers was caught so early, with no chemo or radiation necessary.
“So the double mastectomy doesn’t count?” I asked, needling her. (Cancer patients can do this to each other.)
by Nick O’Hara Smith, Writer, Director, Advocate, Survivor
We men are primed to expect. We expect to be healthy, fertile, strong and pretty much invulnerable. We can do crazy things, dally with danger and head for the extreme with that same expectation that all will be well.
That was me in 1988 when suddenly I found a tiny lump on my right testicle. Four weeks later, I lost both of my precious testicles, (thankfully a very rare occurrence).