That one Sunday evening, some 20+ years ago…by Donnie Griffin

It was a normal Florida summer night, hot and muggy, and I was enjoying a game of 5 on 5 full court basketball and feeling great. Having played three years of high school basketball, enlisted in the U.S. Army where I jumped out of airplanes, just returning home as a Gulf War Veteran, I thought I was in the best shape of my life.

Then it happened. I got hit in the nuts, balls, nads, or whatever kids are calling them these days. I got nailed “there” with the basketball. Ok, so maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal. All guys have been hit down there before, but it was different this time. After a week of intense pain, I knew that this wasn’t going away, but I didn’t want to go see a doctor. How embarrassing, for me, a young man, having a doctor messing around down there, even if it was to see what was wrong.

The pain finally out weighed the embarrassment, and I found myself sitting in the Urologist office really just wondering when this would all be over. I was given some pills to take to see if it would help take away the pain and stop the swelling. When they didn’t work I was told that I would have to have surgery to get a better idea of what was going on.

So surgery was scheduled. And when I woke up, what I learned changed the course of my life forever. I remember hearing three words after the anesthesia wore off. Testicle, remove and cancer. Testicle? Who even uses that word? I’ll tell you who uses that word. Doctors. And cancer? What? Who? Me? All I could think was that I am a perfectly healthy and athletic young man. Athletic, yes. Healthy, not so much. They had to remove my right testicle, and things were about to get a whole lot worse.

What I hadn’t known that summer evening was that as I was running up and down the basketball court, night after night, week after week, cancer had been racing through my body for months. I didn’t have the slightest idea that I was so close to death. After all the tests and scans were run, I was told that I had stage 4 Testicular Cancer. Woah! That was a lot to digest. Had I not been hit with that ball, the doctors said it would have most likely went unnoticed, and therefore untreated. 4-6 months is about all I would have had left, and then BOOM, lights out!! No warning whatsoever. Scary stuff there.

After a major abdominal and thoracic lymphectomy, along with multiple cycles of chemotherapy, the odds were beaten and to this day I remain cancer free. 

So why tell this story, especially after so long? The answer is simple. If my story can help just one young man do self checks, there is your answer. If this helps just one young man reach out to a loved one or a doctor if an abnormality is found, well there you go. If just one young man reads this, and maybe even shares with his friends, well you see where this is going? I was the guy who never did self checks. I was the guy who was embarrassed to tell loved ones of the problem I had going on. Guys! Don’t be that guy. Educate yourself on testicular cancer and don’t be afraid to talk to someone about any issues you may be having.

Testicular cancer is most common in young males between the ages of 15 to 34. We all know males in this age range, whether a son, brother, grandson, or friend. So my hope is that you please share my story. All that talk about testicles and self checking can be embarrassing at a young age, I know that firsthand. But with that being said, cancer knows no age, race or athletic ability. So don’t be afraid to reach out, check the macho attitude at the door, educate yourself and most importantly periodically check your testicles for lumps, sensitivity to touch or anything else that just doesn’t feel right. It could possibly save your life. One thing is for sure, I would have been dead a long time ago if not for that one Sunday evening some 20+ years ago.