Tons of people have pivotal moments throughout life, but few 20-year-old kids get life-altering circumstances that change the direction of your entire life. Cancer changed everything. Not all of these changes were bad, in fact I frequently find myself thanking God for killing "Rupert" (righty). However as each year passes, it’s crazy to think just how much changed because I got sick.
In June of 2015, while showering, I found a lump... As a 20-year-old kid, I had far more important things to deal with than my health, so I ignored it for three months. Until it grew. I finally decided to get my business checked out by the nurses at the university health clinic. I had two ladies fondle me for a minute in the least sexy way possible and finally told me I’d need an ultrasound. After three more tests and MORE fondling, I found myself waiting in a urologists office with my mom and dad.
A bright-eyed resident came strolling in and introduced himself as Dr. Doolittle and got upset when we laughed—C'mon! Strike 1 ❌
He proceeded to sit down and explain that I had an infection that was DEFINETLY caused by an STD—Strike 2 ❌
I audibly laughed (my mother was NOT laughing) and told Doolittle he was full of it. He kept insisting, but finally said he’d have the doctor come in and take a look. After the most uncomfortable five agonizing minutes, the real doctor came in, looked at my charts, and diagnosed me with testicular cancer in 10 seconds—Strike 3 Doolittle, you suck! ❌
It only got better from there... We learned that not only did I have testicular cancer, but I had it on both sides (which they say isn’t supposed to happen). Further testing indicated that the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes around my heart and lungs because I waited SO DAMN LONG TO DO ANYTHING. The doctor said that had I waited another month, I would have had terrible back pain and my organs would have started to shut down one by one. Neat… I was in surgery 72 hours later to remove my entire right testicle. RIP Rupert.
After the orchidectomy, I was quickly off to chemotherapy for the *best* (sarcasm) three months of my life. I tried really hard to look sexy for all of the cute nurses while sitting there slowly dying. Spoiler: my attempts to flirt did not work. After four cycles of chemo, things finally started to look up. My lymph nodes were shrinking, my doctors were kicking ass, but there was still the ole left nut to deal with.
Before I went to get a part of my only remaining ball “lopped off” (yes, those are the actual words the surgeon used), I went to a sperm bank. I had no intentions of having a child anytime soon (reminder, I was only 20), but everyone insisted it was important to bank for the future just in case. After another lovely life experience with my dad, I was brought to a tiny room where a smiling nurse told me I had “no specimens” and was infertile. It could have been caused by the cancer, or I could have always been like that, there was no way of knowing. I walked out of there confused but mostly unbothered, as I wasn’t really thinking about having kid back then. Really I just didn’t want to be murdered by my own balls.
After the second surgery, the doctors determined that not only did I have cancer on both testicles, but I had two different types of cancer... I was a statistical anomaly! The second type doesn’t respond to chemo, so the only way to be sure I didn’t have any cancerous lymph nodes was to take 'em all out! In May 2016, I had an RPLND [Retroperitoneal Lymph Node Dissection--say that 10 times fast!] The recovery sucked, but I was told "congrats, you're disease free!". By then I was 21, still pretty young.
I was healthy again, but I had no idea just how much that whole year would shape the rest of my life.
While I was going through chemo, I had to move home for treatment and leave my fundraising job on campus I loved. I missed that job more than anything. When I finally got back, my entire career aspirations had changed. I loved everything about fundraising. During treatment, and still to this day, my family utilized the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation and other non-profits for support. This grew my love for the nonprofit sector even more, leading me to move to Iowa for my first big-boy fundraising job at the University of Iowa. A couple of job changes later, I'm still fundraising and loving what I do at the Riverview Center.
Cancer led me to re-evaluate my convictions, my drive, and what was important to me, which led me to my beautiful wife. She has always been there supporting me as a friend, throughout both my health crisis and my career crisis. Each day she continues to help me grow and this re-shaped my perspective. Without cancer, there was no new career, no Iowa, no Alissa, no new family. That stupid little lump on my ball propelled me to where I am now: happy, healthy, in love, and on the verge of starting my very own family.
I have always wanted to be a good dad. My dad is my hero. I want my kids to look at me the way I look at my dad. Ever since the lovely trip to the sperm bank, I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy. Alissa has always wanted to adopt. Honestly, I have not. I just wanted a kid by any means necessary. Navigating the whole adoption process has been hard and very eye-opening. I never expected as many hurdles as there are. I definitely had no idea how much it would cost.
We get frequent emails with these perfect kiddos waiting for a home, and it's absolutely heartbreaking. So many kids needs homes, but there is so much red tape involved. It can be frustrating receiving those emails. But when I look at those smiling kids, I know we’re on the right path. Alissa hates the phrase “everything happens for a reason”... but at this point, cancer has a solid track record of leading me in the right direction.
For the last few years, I've done a facebook fundraiser for the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation during the week leading up to my birthday. April also happens to be Testicular Cancer Awareness Month.
We have decided to take a break from fundraising for TCAF this year to focus on our adoption fundraising. This was tough call, because our family and friends have been so supportive of all of our adoption fundraisers lately. If you would like to make a gift to this wonderful organization, visit their website here!
P.S. Dudes, check yourself! Do NOT be like me and ignore lumps or changes in size, shape, or texture 👇👇