Tuesday, 20 March 2012

So six weeks before I get married, a doctor tells me I have cancer...

* I wrote the bulk of this post yesterday afternoon, Monday 19/3/12. As it stands now, I'll be going in to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital tomorrow morning at 7am, for surgery to remove a tumor which is 98% likely to be a malignant cancerous growth.

Just when I thought things were relatively stable with my health, despite today being Day #528 since I've been able to eat, this bombshell was dropped on me last week.

I'd noticed my right testicle was a bit swollen and hard over the past couple of weeks, so went to see a GP about it last Wednesday. After poking around he said he was quite concerned about it, and ordered an ultrasound the next day, which just happened to be my amazing fiance Sally's 23rd birthday.

The radiologist looked quite concerned during the scan, mentioning that with the last few younger guys with similar symptoms she'd had come in, the lump turned out to be something nasty. From the expression on her face I could tell what she was thinking...I've noticed even doctors seem very hesitant to use the 'C' word.

Went straight back up to the GP after the ultrasound with results and report, where he used terms like 'prepare for the worst', 'cancer' and 'sorry', before calling a urologist to organise a specialist appointment ASAP. All this was not part of the birthday surprise I'd planned.

So on Friday afternoon I went in to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital with my dad and Sally to see a couple of urologists.

After a look at the ultrasound images, the report and a brief physical examination, they sat me down and said there's a 98% chance that the lump is a malignant tumour...testicular cancer, to be precise.

For a little bit of context, Sally lost her mum to brain and lung cancer when she was only 15 years old, so hearing doctors telling her that I now have cancer was obviously enormously distressing. I'm not sure all this has sunk in for me yet...it's a lot to take in. I've been waking up hoping the events of the past few days were just a bad dream...it's a bit surreal.

Either way, they said it needs to be surgically removed as soon as possible, biopsied to see what they're dealing with, and then work out if I need any more treatments like chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Hopefully I've caught it early enough that it hasn't spread anywhere else, and surgery is all I need. Since I'm already too sick to eat and drink, anything more than surgery would probably finish me off, so hoping and praying the operation gets it all in one hit.

After briefing me on what would happen moving towards surgery, they sent me down to the IMVS to get some blood taken to test for cancer/tumour markers.

   I was impressed with the blood collection guy, as he actually tapped one of my veins successfully on his first attempt, something few people have been able to achieve over the years.

 Besides the unfortunate timing of the diagnosis in relation to our wedding, as mentioned above, Thursday was Sally's 23rd birthday, and she had her bridal shower on Saturday...so this news fell neatly in between those two events. And in another unhelpful twist, that night we discovered that the house that we had been planning to live in, which one of my friends had been renting for nearly 5 years, is going to be put on the market as the owner wants to sell. It was pretty much perfect for us with the size, location and cost...but now it needs to be vacated by June 1st. The wedding is April 28th.

I've been getting a disability pension for a couple of years now, but this will get cut in at least half once I get married, despite living costs going from minimal to a lot. With the ability to be well enough to work constantly up in the air, I'm getting pretty concerned about the financial side of things. So that's quite a few curve balls to be thrown in such a short time, things were already going to be tough with my gastroparesis and related issues, and getting this news weeks out from my wedding seems a bit rough. Here's a recent post I wrote about the events leading up to my surgery to install a jejunostomy feeding tube in November 2010: http://carscameraschronicillness.blogspot.com.au/2012/03/my-jejunostomy-tube-swap-1-back-story.html

On the upside, I hear it's one of the most treatable cancers, and it's relatively common for surgery to be the only treatment needed for testicular cancer, so I have much better odds of coming through this ok, as opposed to something like bowel cancer. I got a call from one of the specialists about an hour ago telling me to come in at 1:50 this afternoon for a pre-op appointment with doctors, surgeons, anesthetist, pharmacist etc.

The surgery will be Wednesday morning, where they will make an incision near my hip and pull the tumour up and out through there...which for whatever reason strikes me as preferable compared to slicing me open from the bottom. I will stay in hospital at least overnight, and if the pain has settled down enough I can go home Thursday, and wait for results on the biopsy, blood and urine tests.

*Back to present tense*

I'll be having a CAT scan after the surgery tomorrow to determine if the cancer has spread, and if so, how far and where it has gone. The tumour itself will be sent to a lab and subjected to a range of tests, to work out what type of cancer it is, how aggressive the growth is, and if I need any further treatment in the way of radiotherapy or chemotherapy.

But the results from the biopsy will take another week or two, as if the few weeks leading up to the wedding weren't stressful enough. I'm mostly concerned that some of the nasty cells have made their way elsewhere, that idea scares me a lot more than going under the knife to cut a lump out.

I would strongly recommend you steer clear of a google image search for this topic, however the Australian Cancer Council website has some good information about symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and recovery: http://www.cancer.org.au/aboutcancer/cancertypes/testicularcancer.htm

If you're a little braver, the wikipedia page has a couple of pictures along with loads of detailed information about the disease: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testicular_cancer

So after spending several hours in a waiting room at the QEH yesterday going through the pre-admission process, which involved seeing a nurse, the anesthetist, my urology specialist doctor and a pharmacist, I'm all ready to go under the knife tomorrow. I have faith that whatever happens, God will help give me the courage and strength to get over this hurdle, along with support from lots of family and friends. Your kind words, encouragement and prayers are very much appreciated.

And for the guys reading this, if any of the symptoms I've described ever come up, get to a doctor as soon as possible; because the faster you can get a diagnosis and treatment, the better your chances of beating this nasty disease.

I think my experience so far in this specific instance shows how well the Australian public health system can work sometimes; considering that I went to see a GP on Wednesday about the lump, had an ultrasound with results Thursday, urology specialist appointment on Friday, pre-op admission on Monday, with surgery on Wednesday morning. Can't get much faster than that.


  1. Believing for the best mate! Thoughts are prayers are with you.

  2. Dear Rohan... How distressing for you all!! No matter the timing. I am so sorry to be reading this.

    I can relate to the hearing of such news - when I was diagnosed with cervix cancer, and waiting for the biopsy reports... I think those were a few of the longest days of my life. My hope for you is that, like me, the cancer was caught early enough, and surgery will be all that you will need. You are young, and have so much coming up. You have such a positive mind and a strong loving heart - hold onto those things over the next while.

    I had a radical hysterectomy in 2004, and no further surgery or treatment since. In fact, this week marks 8 years since diagnosis for me!

    The doctors have organised your surgery quickly because they believe they will remove the malignancy - trust in them and trust in your heart. My thoughts are most definitely with you tonight...

    Mandi xx

  3. I don't know you mate but god bless and all the best. Nigel Grivell

  4. Hi Rohan, hang in there mate, God is immutably good.
    Meditate on Psalm 110.
    Paul Bitzer

  5. Wishing you all the best + speedy recovery Rohan

    Your determination is truly inspirational