Matthew Sears, diagnosed at 13

In middle school we had cancer awareness days – science classes focused on how cancer develops and subjects like that, but no one took it as a realistic possibility. Phrases like “Find the Cure!” and “Check Yourself” were being thrown around, but as an eighth grader, I didn’t take them very seriously.

I vaguely remembered my dad having thyroid cancer when I was around 4, so I ended up actually checking myself after one particular science class taught me just how quickly and easily cancer can form and spread. And I did find something…something that worried me. I had no idea what it was, and that freaked me out. That “something” was on one of my testicles—such a fun discovery.

I watched it for a while, making sure it didn’t grow too rapidly, and it didn’t for a while. But when I noticed slight growth every now and then, I was faced with a tough choice: I either had to talk to my parents about a possible testicular issue or run the risk of whatever this thing was getting worse or spreading.

Eventually, I gathered the gall to approach my parents about it. It was like 11 at night on a school night and my mom was falling asleep on the couch and I just popped next to her and muttered:

“So I think something is wrong with my testicle.”

She jolted awake and began interrogating me, asking specific questions about my problem and such. My dad eventually got involved too. The absolute number one thing an adolescent male doesn’t want to do is be questioned by his parents about his groin late at night.

We made our way to our family doctor’s office the next day to get it checked out. He didn’t think it was anything since apparently he couldn’t find it, but sent me to get an ultrasound to ease our minds. These kinds of check-ups continued and I continued to be checked out by different doctors and “experts.” By then I felt like half the state’s medical staff had seen me naked.

Every single appointment I just waited for the doctor to say “Well everything checks out, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you and you’re just being paranoid.”

After many doctor visits I ended up in the care of the urologist at a Boston hospital. One final ultrasound was done (Thank God!) and he noticed an abnormal flow of blood into the lump in question and ordered more extensive testing.

The next day, he told us that the tumor I had was possibly cancerous and I needed to have it removed. I watched on as my parents both started crying. I felt no urge to cry, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it didn’t hit me yet. The urologist asked if I wanted surgery in a few hours. I thought he was joking, so I started laughing. He, however, did not start laughing. We turned down his offer and scheduled surgery within the next week.

The time leading up to that was strenuous. I told no one.

The deal with this surgery was that they were going to go in to take the tumor out, test it for cancer while I was still under and sew me back up. If the test came back negative, then awesome, I would basically walk away from all of this without any major problems or scars. But if the test came back positive, then my testicle would have to be removed.

I was out for about eight hours and when I finally regained consciousness and control of my body (even before I opened my eyes) my arm went as fast as it could towards my groin and counted “1, 2!” I smirked and opened my eyes. Negative, no cancer!

Boy, was I relieved. The weight (both emotionally and physically) was gone. I could rest easy knowing there weren’t cancerous cells lurking somewhere in my body.

Unfortunately, this feeling of comfort and relief was shattered.

It was about a week after I had fully recovered and was enjoying the last month or so of eighth grade. This made it especially difficult getting the call from the urologist saying that they messed up. I did have cancer. It was such a rare type of tumor, only 1% of testicular cancer patients have it, so they didn’t recognize it.

This tumor, if it ever came back, would be terminal.

The doctors gave me two choices:

  1. Keep my testicle and run the risk of it coming back and turning malignant and thus terminal like the doctors said it definitely would.
  2. Get it removed.

Jeez, if any decision was ever actually “life-changing,” this was it. I chose to have it removed.

I went through that whole hospital thing again, but this time I only counted to one when I woke up.

Gradually, I began to reflect on the whole situation and it made me grow as a person. I became proud of this weight I lugged around and eventually just cast it off. I’ve realized it has actually made me who I am today. I grew stronger knowing I can go through such a tough a situation.

I learned that life is precious and fleeting. It gave me motivation and confidence to know I can get through anything in life and that I can conquer and obtain my goals. It introduced me to the medical scene, which I fell in love with, as I will go into a pre-med track in college. My parents and I have an amazing relationship now, I can talk to them about anything and they fully trust me, and my decisions.

Symptoms

  • lump on testicle
  • slight lump growth