Jay Elwell, testicular cancer survivor, wrote Rotten fruit About his experiences
Welcome to the Bunch of ballers! In this series on ABSOT, I cede control to other testicular cancer survivors and patients who have inspired me with their advocacy and awareness work during and after their diagnosis. This month's feature is dedicated to Jay Elwell, who wrote a book about his experience. Enjoy!
At the age of twenty-nine, I found a lump on my testicle. Later, I started to feel pain there. It was soft at first, then he grew strong enough to cause concern. I managed to put it back on long enough.
On April 20, 2012, I was diagnosed "vaguely" with testicular cancer. I say "vaguely" because my doctors couldn't tell me for sure what it was, but something looked really suspicious. There was indeed a lump on my left nut that shouldn't have been there and that was unanimously confirmed by all health professionals involved. No one could or would tell me what it was, just because they didn't quite know for themselves. The only guarantee was that it had to be removed in a hurry.
For someone as deep in anxiety as I was / am, this was a less than ideal way for me to hear my initial prognosis.
Within a week of this half-hearted diagnosis, I was sedated and put on a stretcher to be skinned. My bullet was removed from her scrotal area and I was sent home to recover. It all happened so fast. I was numb. I never even managed to properly explain to my parents what was going on. They found out when my wife told them in the hospital waiting room. She told them everything we knew, which admittedly wasn't much. I probably had cancer and that was it. I felt so overwhelmed with guilt and confusion for putting them through this.
The first few days after the surgery were really bad.
I was miserable. Dumping was almost impossible for the first few days. I almost prayed for the diarrhea to be released to help ease the discomfort of any tiring bowel movement. I felt so bloated and uncomfortable, like I was ready to pop out of every orifice anytime.
The incision was made just above my groin and just below my stomach. This surgical entry point quickly became problematic. I never realized how much these core muscles are used for the routine and simplistic tasks of everyday life. Walking along the living room to the kitchen for a snack was suddenly laborious. (Editor's note: I feel this 100%.)
I felt like Andy Dufresne in the rain after escaping those shit-filled sewers of Shawshank Prison once I got to take a full shower for the first time. It was gloriously dark. I remember thinking about how much we as a species potentially take for granted as I reveled in the warmth of the water.
The days got easier as they went on. I felt decent and finally got back to work. It lasted about a week.
Shortly after I returned to normal, my life was turned upside down again when I picked up that ringing phone.
The voice on the other end of the call told me that it was indeed a cancerous tumor that had been discovered. It was also non-seminoma - a rarer variant of the malignancy that was historically a bit more adventurous when it came to systematically spreading its obscurity in my internal plumbing.
I should have been better informed. Once it started to feel easy, it should have been my first omen.
A meeting with an oncologist (who was also a moonlight beekeeper, which I have always found fascinating for some reason) took place shortly after that call.
During this visit, he outlined the three treatment options available to me.
The first option was to just watch and wait. To be honest, it was very attractive at first, but I know myself and what I am. Knowing a little trace of what it might still be in me was something I couldn't live with.
The second option: invasive surgery targeting my lymph nodes that would see me pinned up and dissected like a frog in a high school science class. I had just experienced the first major surgical event in my life and I couldn't bear the thought of having another one, especially since it didn't have the chances of success that I was looking for.
Finally, a few sets of an aggressive chemo cocktail designed to eliminate all the cancerous remains in me have been proposed. Never in a million years would I have imagined my twenty-nine-year-old body sitting in an oncologist's office, flipping through various brochures and weighing the real pros and cons of cancer treatments. It was too unreal. I already felt sick.
I chose chemotherapy and everything was happening too fast.
The chemo was an absolute whirlwind. The process was mean and relentless. Secretly, I wanted some sort of manual or guide where I could reference my ailments when I needed them. (Editor's note: this is why I created "What to expect when you expect chemo".)
Is this feeling of fog normal? Is this fever dangerous? Is it normal to have hemorrhoids during treatment? Until then, I saw cancer as something that only the old had to face and the very young born tragically. It wasn't on my radar as something that could affect me at this very point.
I felt betrayed by my body and devastated by the idea of my own eventual mortality. For some reason I felt ashamed when I started to lose hair. I can still almost feel those terrible waves of nausea that I didn't know my stomach was capable of in the first place. It was a lot to deal with in a very short time.
I've kept it all way too long. I never really managed to talk about it in a real and honest way. I kind of felt like a failure even all these years later. Everything was a punchline for a joke that wasn't very funny to me, but I felt the need to present it in a certain "manly" way. I was in a mess for a long time until I got the idea to write my book, Rotten Fruit: My Testicular Cancer Adventure.
I wrote Rotten fruit to help me move past this chapter of my life that just wouldn't end.
I started writing this in March, just as the realities of the pandemic began to emerge. I was mad with anguish, aimlessly and all agitated for it all. I decided to turn something negative - my environmental and past experiences with cancer - into something positive that could do good not only for me, but also for anyone willing to give me a chance.
This book was my healing process. I take you on a journey with my voice, foreign to most, to tell the reader what thrills me and how my anxiety has shaped me over the years. I am talking about some physical and mental aspects of what cancer can be. It's not everyone's story, but it's mine and my only hope is to help someone who is going through something similar.
Once I held my own story in my hands, I was finally able to turn the page on my own.
The only thing I regret is not finding my outlet sooner. I implore anyone who is going through the same thing to find their own way to heal. Talk to someone. Join a support group. Don't be afraid to heal and know that you are not alone with any thoughts that may go through your head. It's never too late to ask for the help you might need.
Our stories all start the same way. It is up to us as survivors to eliminate them in the right way.
Be sure to communicate with Jay by visiting him at @ jayelwell82. See you next time, Carpe Scrotiem!
Do you know someone (or even yourself!) Who supports CT awareness and would be willing to share their story? Leave their name, contact and why they should be in this Google form and I will contact them and / or you!
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September 23, 2020
About six months before I turned 50, a friend tried to convince me to enter a physique contest. He had just turned 40, and was thrilled to be in the over-40 category because there were fewer guys for him to compete against. He said to me, “Kirk, you can win the over-50 category. There are only a few guys who enter. But, you have no lats or traps—most older dudes don’t. Work on your back and you got it in the bag ! ” I wasn’t too excited to enter a competition with “no competition, ” but I was pretty peeved to hear him say I had no lats or traps. My back was better than that. Although I had no intention to enter the competition, I started doing more single-arm dumbbell rows to work my back. Now, a few years later, it’s one of my favorite dumbbell exercises. Importantly, I’m not trying to break any records when it comes to weight here, like I might have in my younger days. Quality reps at low weight is the bigger focus.
There are variantes of the exercise where you see guys use a bench for support, using a hand or even placing a knee on the bench. These have their merits ( although MH fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C. S. C. S. would rather you not put a knee up ). However, I mostly do the version with no assistance from the bench with both feet on the ground as points of contact. This version works your traps, rhomboids, rear delts and rotator cuff muscles, but you also get some core work, something you greatly need as you get older. Remember, though, that the way do the exercise is subjective to your own abilities. If you need some extra support for balance, don’t hesitate to put a hand down.
to set up for my preferred variation, pick up a light dumbbell, especially to start. Stand with your feet in a parallel stance about shoulder-width apart. Hold the dumbbell in a neutral place at your side, as if you would for a hammer curl. Place your free hand behind you, with the back of your hand on the small of your back ( you can also extend your off arm out to balance ). Next, bend over by pushing your butt back and hinging at your waist, with your knees slightly bent. There should be no rounding of the spine, and you should keep your gaze down at the floor in a neutral neck position. Lastly, as you’re hanging onto the dumbbell with your arm pointing to the floor, squeeze your shoulder blades together so your shoulders lock in place and don’t slump.
From this starting position, use your back to sweat the dumbbell up without twisting your spine. Pull up as high as you can, pause for a moment at the top and squeeze your shoulder blades together even more. Then release by lowering the dumbbell back to the starting place. tera control my pace, I usually sweat up for 2 seconds, squeeze at the top for 2 seconds, then release back to the starting place in 2 seconds.
By doing the dumbbell row unilaterally ( one arm at a time ), you’ll feel yourself being pulled off balance. You must fight with your abs and obliques to maintain balance and stability, which is why I love this exercise so much. Although you won’t be able to load up with as much weight as you would using the bench for stabilization, the extra core work you’ll get makes this version well worth putting in your arsenal of exercises. Try 4 sets of 8 to 10 reps during upper body workouts to get started.
We all know that it’s common for men to skip the doctor until they become sick, injure themselves or are faced with a serious health problem. And a majority of men will postpone seeking care for a few days to see whether they feel any better. It’s the whole ' if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it ' line of thinking.
But there are steps the men in your life can take today to improve their vitality and help prevent health problems down the road. Of course, there are some things that can’t be changed, such as family history and age, but every day choices can have a big effet on their current and future health.
Eating a diet that’s low in fat ( less than sept percent of calories should come from saturated fats ), cholesterol, and salt, and packed with fresh fruits and vegetables ( two cups of fruit per day; three cups of vegetables per day for men up to age 50 and two and a half cups for men aged 51 and over ), whole grains and fiber can help improve your health, prevent heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.
Try to get 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week. Taking a walk, jogging, swimming and mowing the lawn all count. But don’t be a weekend sports warrior. Start slowly if you aren’t normally réactive and gradually build up. No time ? Research shows that even bermuda bursts of physical activity—as few as 10 minutes of intense activity several times a day—can help men improve their health. Talk to your doctor about the right exercise program for you.
It’s important to maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight, especially around the waist, can be on your body. Carrying too much body fat forces your heart to work harder and increases your probabilités of heart disease and stroke, even if you have no other risk factors ! So, try to curb weight gain as you age.
Tobacco smoke contains more than 4, 000 chemicals and is a known cause of cancer. Smoking also increases the likelihood of high blood pressure, heart disease, lung problems and other health problems. And if you think chewing tobacco is safer, think again. Not only is chewing tobacco a known cause of cancer ( carcinogen ), it also contributes to gum disease and tooth loss and may be linked to fertility problems. And, few could argue that chewing and spitting is attractive to a partner. If you smoke or chew, talk to your health care professional about ways to quit. Consider nicotine replacement therapy products that include self-help programs, if appropriate.
Whether it’s pulling out the weed whacker, going for a bike ride or grilling with the neighbors, safety is key. Here are just a few examples : Take care when moving heavy objects. It’s easy to strain yourself when lifting boxes, furniture and other heavy items. Use your knees and legs and not your back for leverage. And ask for help, if you need it. Wear appropriate protective gear for your eyes and ears when using leaf blowers, lawn mowers and other machines at home or work. Excessive exposure to noise is the most common cause of hearing loss. Wear a helmet when you ride a bike or ski and throw on reflective clothing if you go for a run after dark. When grilling, never leave the grill unattended, especially when small children and pets are around, and keep a fire extinguisher handy. The grill should be at least 10 feet from your house or any building. to protect your skin, avoid prolonged exposure to the sun and apply ( and reapply ) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater that provides protection against UVA and UVB rays.