Testicular Cancer (cont.)
The first couple of days on chemo were pretty easy. But by the end of the first week I felt horrible -- like burnt toast. The drugs had affected my hearing and made me feel like I was in a tunnel. The knuckles on my hands turned dark. My skin felt thickened. And I felt as if I had just smoked 100 cigars in a row -- my lungs hurt that badly. Then my hair started falling out.
In all, I did two rounds of chemotherapy, three weeks each. On Oct. 21, 1997, the treatments ended. I couldn't have been happier. Now it was time to get back to my life.
In an odd way, I feel lucky. Testicular cancer is among the most treatable ones around. But even though 95% of patients with the condition beat it and survive at least five years, according to the American Cancer Society, that still leaves 5% who don't. Men do die of this disease. And most of them are young and in the prime of their lives.
If I had waited much longer, my story might have ended differently. One key to beating this disease is detecting it early. That's why I tell everyone: If you think something is wrong, don't wait. Go to your doctor. Another key is following up to make sure it doesn't come back.
Since the surgery I've struggled a bit to get my life back in order. Sometimes I feel a little bitter that I had to go through this. But mostly I know that this experience made me realize what a gift my life is. I have a loving wife, a wonderful family, great friends, and all kinds of opportunities. And my wife and I just got the best gift possible. Our first child, a girl, is due to be born this November. (Just so you know: We conceived her the old-fashioned way.) Believe me, I'm planning to be around a long, long time to enjoy being a dad.
Erik Strand is a mechanical engineer in Plainfield, Ill., where he still enjoys playing softball.
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