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Sunday, July 1, 2007

He avoided them: Testicular cancer

Dr. Sandra Scantling’s story of her brother’s legacy:

I wasn’t always an only child. I once had a brother, Stephan Wolfe. He died of testicular cancer when he was only 35.

Stephan was nearly 6-foot-4 with an enormously powerful frame. Everything about him was large—his smile, his generosity and his heart. He seemed invincible, and he was the younger sibling. He was never sick a day in his life—or so he claimed.

He was a devoted husband and a terrific brother—but he did have one tragic flaw: He was afraid of doctors and hospitals. He avoided them.

I found out much later that he had a painless swelling in his testicular area that he apparently ignored for months. In the end, this avoidance probably cost him his life.

Stephan had his cancerous testicle removed (an "orchiectomy"). His lymph nodes were clean, and the pathologist determined the cancer—seminoma--was highly curable.

He told me that he only needed a year’s follow-up and no further treatment. No radiation. No chemotherapy. He asked for my support. "It’s my life, Sandy," he said.

After his death, I learned that he had refused further treatment, insisting in his own stubborn way that he would be fine. He didn’t want to become a cancer patient—so he chose to do it his way.

He only lived three more months.

Suffering is witnessing and supporting someone you love make decisions—or fail to make decisions—that affect the length or quality of their lives. The survivor guilt is especially painful with all of the unanswered questions of "why" and "if only."

Advice to siblings: Make sure your brothers know the signs of testicular cancer; see http://tcrc.acor.org/tcexam.html.

Pay attention to change of any kind:
Any enlargement, or significant shrinking, of a testicle;
A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum;
A dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin;
A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum;
Pain or discomfort in a testicle or scrotum;
Enlargement or tenderness of the breasts.

Read a much happier story about testicular cancer, or read Dr. Sandra Scantling’s source story in the July 1 Hartford Courant.


Misty said...

I am 26 my father 48, i just found out yesterday that he has had testicular cancer for the past two years without any treatment. The last doctor that saw him said he had it in both testes, and they would have to be removed. My father lives paycheck to paycheck in a tiny town in Tennessee with very little work there, he is uninsured and cannot afford to treat his cancer. Any ideas of how I can help my father? He doesnt want to die, he would get the treatment, please help.

Ken Farbstein said...

Through the LIVESTRONG SurvivorCare program, you can call 866.467.7205 to request help dealing with your cancer experience, including:

Counseling and referrals to local resources
Help addressing financial and insurance concerns
Clinical trials matching to new treatments in development.

Anonymous said...

Always remember that even though it is not ideal - you can walk into any Emergency Room in the country and by law they must treat you as if you have insurance. My nephew died of untreated testicular cancer. If you are going to get cancer, you would choose testicular as it has the highest survival rates and is the least painful to cure. BUT you must not wait...you must do exactly what the Dr. tells you to do. My nephew was treating testicular cancer with prayer and vitamins (some quack online claimed to have a viatamin answer _ THIS IS A LIE)...my nephew ended up at age 26 have not only his testical removed but also had a colostomy bag (the tumor grew into his organs and large intestine...no food could go through...his colon burst - then he almost died but got the bag...he could not eat for a year before he died...fed through his veins. My nephew died at age 26 and what is very sad is that he trusted that God would cure him through prayer and vitamins..and it DID NOT HAPPEN. If you or anyone you know has testicular cancer...seek medical help immediately from the best hospital you can get to...not a podunk hospital...a hospital that is very well respected and do exactly what the drs. tell you to do or you will die and your death will be a very very very painful one. With treatment you should be back to normal very quickly. Best wishes.