When I was 29, I started feeling some discomfort on my right side, in between my rib cage and hip. It started as a slight twitching pain, like I had slept on something wrong, and it didn’t happen all of the time. I didn’t think much of it—after all, I was almost 30. Getting older gives you aches and pains, right? But deep down I knew that something about this pain wasn’t right.
A few months later, that discomfort in my hip increased, along with a shooting pain that went from my lower abdomen to my right testicle. I also had a slight loss of appetite, which definitely wasn’t normal for a food lover like me. Over the next month the pain expanded to my lower back and the loss of appetite increased.
I had lost a few close family members due to various health problems in the year prior. All of the time I spent in doctors’ offices and hospitals with them made me realize that I needed to speak up and go see a doctor about this—it definitely wasn’t normal. I got a round of x-rays because of my back pain and they came back clear.
Over the next month the back pain became unbearable. It didn’t matter if it was day or night- I couldn’t sit or lay for more than two hours. On top of that, I was nauseous the majority of the day. I had reached my limit- I called my PCP (primary care physician) for an appointment. Thankfully, he could see me the next day. After a thorough testicular exam, my doctor thought that it might be epididymitis, or inflammation of part of my testicles. He wanted to do an IVP test to be sure and scheduled one for a few days later.
The IVP was done first thing in the morning and I was hoping that we would know the results of that test that same day. While there, they also decided to perform ultrasounds and CT scans on my kidneys and testicles. As soon as the CT scan was over, I was told by the chief radiologist that my primary doctor wanted to see me and my wife at 5 p.m. that day. I immediately knew that the news must be serious. At the meeting I was told that it looked like I had cancer within the lymph nodes near my right kidney. He told us to contact a urologist immediately and fortunately, we got an appointment the same day to confirm their suspicions.
The urologist’s office ordered a blood test and biopsies. He also started to work with an oncologist to figure out a course of treatment since they knew that it was likely some form of cancer. On my 30th birthday, I had biopsies done and they confirmed that I had a malignant (cancerous) tumor that was believed to have originated in my right testicle.
I couldn’t believe it—I had testicular cancer. I had never felt a lump, nor did my testicle swell up, which I thought was the surefire way to detect testicular cancer. But I learned that cancer shows up in different ways on different people, and there is no perfect checklist of symptoms. My tumor was internal and pressing on my kidney, which is why I had back pain and no lump. It took several rounds of chemo and the removal of one of my kidneys, but I was declared cancer free less than a year later.
When most people think about testicular cancer, they think about a lump. While that’s certainly true for most people (which is why self exams are so important) I’m here today as living proof that it’s not always the case. It was my back pain that caused me to see a doctor. I wish I would have gone sooner because it may have changed my treatment and I might still have two kidneys.
It’s been over 20 years since I was diagnosed and cured of cancer. My son is now a young adult and I stress to him the importance of knowing your body and speaking up if you notice a change- it saved my life. I really hope that you follow the same advice.
- pain between rib cage and hip- pain got worse and moved to area between hip and groin
- loss of appetite
- severe pain in back