If October is about Breasts, November must be about Balls
Whether you have breasts or balls’, checking them for lumps is a must.
I have just spent a month blogging about breast cancer awareness, but today I would like to bring awareness to testicular cancer. Even though I am a woman I am intimately aware of this particular cancer as my husband is a two time survivor of testicular cancer. He was 31 years old when he discovered it (I was 26) and when a round of antibiotics did not remove the problem they told us he would need surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. We were stunned and naive enough to wonder “Do people our age get cancer?” That would begin a course in education that would span a lifetime. We are grateful that it was caught early. And while he has had a second round (the left one wanted to know where the right one went) there has been a lifetime of living, raising our daughter, walking her down the isle, and watching our grandchildren be born and raised. While he lives with some side effects from the radiation he incurred during his first round, we are growing old together. And it’s a good life.
There is a plethora of information about a woman’s need to do routine breast checks and mammograms, but little awareness is brought to men to check their balls. Men don’t want to talk about it and women don’t know how to talk to their men about it. But it’s a discussion that should start when men are in the teens and continue on.
Here are some interesting facts:
- 90% of the time, testicular cancer presents as a lump in the testicle.
- Other common symptoms include unexplained swelling/pain/aching/feeling of heaviness of the testicle and lower back/abdominal region or breast pain.
- Average age of diagnosis is 30, 6% occurs in children and teens, 8% in men over 55.
- Another risk factor of testicular cancer includes an undescended testicle.
- Because it usually can be treated successfully with early detection, a man’s risk of dying is low. All information provided by the American Cancer Society.
We must discuss the need to be self-aware and teach our male children, grandchildren, friends and family members how to do “Ball Checks”. It just might save their life.
And I cannot think of a better way to showcase this than with a little story written by Justin Birckbichler. Justin is a survivor of testicular cancer and passionate about men’s health and spreading awareness about testicular cancer.
In a unique style of writing that is informative, humorous and blunt; Justin tells the story of Lefty and his twin, Righty and how they go about caring for each other and their “father”.
Please take a moment to read A EULOGY FOR MY TESTICLE BY Justin Birckbichler. In doing so, you might secure that the ones you love remain alive and well for a long, long time.
Gone, But Not Forgotten – In Memory of Lefty, My Former Left Testicle
Friends, family, readers, social media followers, and other distinguished guests, we are gathered here on this 28th day of October to commemorate and remember our dearly departed Lefty the Testicle. He was taken from this Earth three years ago today, and it’s high time we reflect upon his life.
Lefty started from humble beginnings. Back in 1991, he was born as one set of nearly identical twins. While he was slightly smaller than his brother Righty, this disparity in size was reported to be normal and the two of them were constant companions in life.
Last known family portrait of Lefty, Righty, and Justin
Throughout his formative years, he was well-protected from blows and strikes, thanks to the good efforts of his father, Justin. As Justin tried out various sports, he was always sheltered from any direct impacts through the use of an athletic supporter. While direct impacts to him did not cause his impending cancer, it was still of vital importance to protect him.
It was in his teenage years that a practice began that would eventually save the life of his family.
On the advice from his pediatrician, Lefty began a practice of regular, monthly self-exams. While in the shower, Lefty would place his index and middle fingers under himself with his thumb on top of his head. Firmly but gently, he examined every inch of himself for changes in size, shape, or swelling. He also encouraged Righty to do the same. The brothers would repeat this process monthly.
This practice would prove vital. While testicular cancer incidence rates were relatively low at his birth, by the time he was in his mid-twenties, they had doubled. Why this has occurred is still a mystery, but it further solidified the need for these regular self exams.
It was when Lefty entered his twenty-fifth year of life that the problems began. Late that year, in October, he discovered a lump on himself. While he knew that 50% of testicular cancer cases occur in men from ages 15-44, he couldn’t believe it was happening to him. After all, the average age for diagnosis is 33, and Lefty had never been ahead of the curve.
While there was no family history in his predecessors, he also knew that most testicles who develop this disease have no history.
With a heavy heart, he spoke with his brother about his testicular cancer suspicions.
Righty recalls the conversation:
Lefty: “I found… lump.”
Righty: “Does it hurt?”
Lefty: “Nope, but I did some research. It doesn’t have to be painful for it to be a problem.”
Righty: “I see. Do you want to talk to Dad?”
Lefty: “If you’ll come with me.”
Righty: “You know we are inseparable.”
No one knew the irony of Righty’s last statement.
After that conversation, they spoke to their father, Justin. Though he wanted to be like the 65% of men who tend to wait as long as possible to see their doctor if they have any health symptoms or an injury, Lefty urged him to call a doctor.
That call would change the course of Lefty’s life.
It was discovered that Lefty was cancerous and needed to be removed immediately. Within a matter of days, Lefty was facing the end of his life. Though he would be missed from this Earth, he knew it was a noble sacrifice. While testicular cancer is aggressive, it is extremely curable once the cancerous testicle goes to the ‘giant scrotum in the sky.’
Three years ago, the brothers embraced for one last time. Righty asked him if he had any last words, to which Lefty quoted Alfred Hitchcock:
“One never knows the ending. One has to die to know exactly what happens after death, although Catholics have their hopes.”
And with that, Lefty was removed from his home.
While we will never know what exactly happened after Lefty’s death, we do know his legacy.
He is survived by his brother, Righty, and his father, Justin. Righty has continued to carry on Lefty’s monthly self-exam as a tribute to his fallen brother. While rare, testicular cancer does afflict the second testicle in roughly 2% of all survivors.
After the surgery, Justin had to endure chemotherapy to get rid of the cancer that had escaped from Lefty and traveled through his body. Now in remission, Justin works to ensure that all men are aware of this disease and how important early detection is for favorable outcomes. He will forever mourn the loss of Lefty, but he will make sure his sacrifice was not in vain.
Please join me in a moment of silence as we celebrate the life and times of Lefty. Place your hands upon your sack and remember his mission.
A self exam is how most cases of testicular cancer are detected early.
A self exam is how most cases of testicular cancer are detected early. Click the image for video directions or click here for a larger version
Want to learn more, check out Justin’s website at
Want to work with Justin? Click here to learn more.