Men, Mustaches, & Cancer

posted by Alex November 29, 2012



20121129-194819.jpgI was browsing through reddit and ended up reading this pretty inspirational story about a man getting that “Tom Green” cancer. It’s only reasonable we post this up since the whole Movember movement is coming to an end. Fellas, check your twins from time to time, it’s the most common cancer for dudes that are 15-35. Hit the jump and check out the story! 

Men, Mustaches & Cancer – A Personal Story
By Omar A. Duque

In July of 2010 I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. I was 34. I noticed a small lump on my left testicle while on vacation with my wife and daughter.

This month a number of guys I know have been growing mustaches to raise money and awareness for prostate and testicular cancer.

If someone you know suddenly has a mustache this month, ask them about it and make a donation if you can. Everyday doctors are developing new treatments for prostate and testicular cancer and your donation really can help save lives.

Most cancers are curable if they’re detected early. But too often cancer (and other significant health issues) goes undetected in men in part because, compared to women, men are 24 percent less likely to see a doctor. We’re just not comfortable talking about our health and our bodies. Most of my friends have never had a serious conversation about their health and many can’t remember the last time they saw a doctor.

Yet often when I share my story with other guys, after the cringing and the fear, the questions start.

They want to know how I first noticed it, what it felt like and if it hurt.

I’m not growing a mustache this month. But I do want to share my story and hopefully get some guys thinking and talking more openly about their health and their bodies.

Initially my doctors weren’t concerned. The lump was so small my doctor couldn’t feel it. But an ultrasound confirmed an unusual cell mass and the testicle needed to be removed.

The procedure is called a radical orchiectomy. The testicle is removed via a three-inch incision in the upper groin area. It’s pushed up via the inguinal canal. I had mine removed in mid July at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

The pathology report confirmed it was cancer. The tumor itself was small. Doctors said it had probably been growing for a few months.

The tumor was comprised of 100 percent embryonal carcinoma. Pure embryonal carcinoma is pretty rare and is known to be very aggressive. In fact, the pathology report showed evidence that the cancer might have already started to spread into my lymphovascular system.

Testicular cancer is one of the most curable forms of cancer, even when it’s found late. It is the most common cancer in young men 15-35. According to the American Cancer Society 8,590 new cases of testicular cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2012, and 360 men will die this year from testicular cancer.

Being told you have cancer is every bit as horrific as you could ever imagine in your darkest nightmares. Here I am, a young, otherwise healthy, health conscious and physically active guy being forced to confront the very real notion that I can die – soon. When you’re first told you have cancer, you don’t immediately grasp the statistics, the odds, the likelihood you’re actually going to survive.

Cancer kills. That much I knew. It killed my father in 1996 when he was 45 and it killed his mother in 1991 when she was only 57.

The news knocks you down, quite literally. But at some point, you get up and you start to figure out what it’s going to take to fight. Even though the doctors thought the cancer might have already started to spread, they assured me that my case was more than just treatable, it was curable.

I was given three treatment choices. After consulting with doctors at Northwestern, the University of Chicago and the University of Indiana (a center of excellence for testicular cancer) I choose the have a second, more invasive, move complex surgery called a retroperitoneal lymph node dissection (RPLND).

I had my RPLND in early September 2010. During the surgery the lymph nodes are removed via about a nine-inch incision that starts just below the breast bone, goes straight down and around the belly button and then down another two inches below that. My surgeon at the University of Chicago Hospital removed a total of 51 lymph nodes during the four-hour surgery.

I spent four painful and restless nights at the University of Chicago Hospital. I was up and walking the day after my surgery but recovery was difficult. And for almost a full month after the surgery, to prevent a possible rupture of my incision, I had to limit my fat intake to less than 5 grams per day.

About a week after my surgery my doctor called me at home to tell me the pathology report showed that all 51 lymph nodes were cancer free.

I had cancer for two months. I can say with certainty that my path was easy, especially compared to so many others who suffer from this terrible disease.

I had the very best medical teams and I was lucky enough to have health insurance. My wife and family were at my side through every step and our friends were supportive in so many ways.

Everyone can get cancer – men, women and children. According to the American Cancer Society, one out of every two men will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime.

Leading an active and healthy lifestyle can help lower your risk of developing some forms of cancer but many types of cancers are genetic or are caused by factors beyond our control.

Cancer used to be taboo. Thankfully, it no longer is.

But still too often men think it’s unbecoming to talk about their bodies and their health, especially when it relates to male-specific ailments. I don’t think so. I’m generally a very private person. And many who know me don’t know this story. But I’m telling it because I hope that by doing so, other men will have the courage to speak up and get checked out.



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