#FlatBagger: surviving testicular cancer, twice
My name is Matt, I’m 36 years young from Birmingham, UK and I have the distinct honor of being a FlatBagger (a double testicular cancer survivor!)
I was 20 when I first had this disease, in the summer of 2000. I knew very little about it so I was happy to ignore the lump on my left testicle for around 9 months until I decided to get it checked out. When I first found it, the lump was the size of a pea; when I got it looked at it was the size of my middle and index finger put together. I had surgery to remove the nut, and even though I had left it for so long, it was still in stage one. I had radiotherapy to kill off any cancer cells that may have spread. I was warned, however, that the radiation may destroy my fertility, so prior to the treatment I froze some sperm, in case I wanted to have any kids in the future. I was single at the time, but when I met Corinne, who went on to become my fiance, we decided we wanted to have our own family.
After a year of trying, I went for a sperm test, and we were upset to find out while the radiotherapy had done it’s job, it had also decimated my sperm count (an average ejaculation produces over a million sperm; mine was less than a 100). So, we went down the IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) route. We had it done free of charge, seeing as I had testicular cancer. On New Year’s Day 2008 we got the ball rolling with the IVF, with Corinne very bravely injecting herself everyday for a month to stimulate her ovaries until her eggs could be harvested, mixed with my frozen sperm and two embryos implanted back into her. It was a success; Samuel and Bethany were born in august 2008, three months premature but are now very healthy.
By 2014 my fiance and I were having fun trying for a third baby when I found a lump on my remaining ball; this time I didn’t waste anytime and got it seen to ASAP (the urologist I saw said it was the smallest testicle lump he had ever examined!).Fertility was brought up, and the offer was presented to freeze some sperm for IVF. We decided against it, mainly because we already had our little miracles, but also in light of us already having children, we would be expected to pay for the IVF (around £2,700). I had an operation to become a FlatBagger and once again it was in stage one. I had a cycle of carboplatin chemotherapy. I recently came out of remission, and I am now on six monthly check up’s.
I view my cancer experiences as a gift, not a curse. It opened my eyes and showed me how strong I am and what life is about. I am now dedicated to raising awareness of this vile disease so lives can be saved!
This doesn't need to be a taboo subject left in a closet, nor do men need to go through this alone. Education and community are key elements to improving health. Don't cook your balls is a space for us to share science and experience advance the state of male reproductive health care.