Cancer kicks the curb
My name is Jason Greenspan and I am a Stage IIA Non-Seminoma Testicular Cancer survivor.
My story starts back in 2012. I was 18 and a senior in high school. I had already applied to colleges and was accepted to many of them. The one I chose was Shippensburg University. I had just finished planning for my prom. In my friend group, I am usually the one who plans everything! Planning for this was fun, but also a challenge. I already had the limo reserved, schedule made and was ready to have the time of my life! Little did I know that my life was going to change in an instant.
Testicular cancer is one of the most common cancers in men between the ages of 15 to 35, yet there is very little awareness about it.
I was at home, watching television and had a simple itch. That itch ended up being the most important itch of my entire life. I noticed something hard — something I did not remember feeling before. Clearly, something was not right. It is difficult to describe, but I had this gut feeling that it was something horrible. I never had this feeling before — ever. I went upstairs to my mom and told her. She said to try not to worry too much about it, but she would make a doctor’s appointment anyway. Within a day or so, my mom and I went in for my doctor’s appointment and he checked me. Then he said the words that I never thought would be told to me: “You have cancer.” There was so much running through my head. I was not totally surprised because of my gut feeling from earlier, but I was still shocked, to say the least. I never thought that this would happen to me. I tried my best, but a couple of tears ran down my face anyway. Without knowing about this type of cancer, the first question I remember asking him was, “How long?” I started to remember random events in my life, from when I was a child up until that moment. I wanted to cherish those memories — fearing there would not be many more.
After reading more information about testicular cancer, I quickly realized that it is actually one of the most curable cancers out there. I was lucky in that regard, but sometimes others are not.
Now I had to start thinking about my treatment. After having an ultrasound and taking many blood tests, I met with my urologist and he told me that I needed to have surgery. I had never had surgery before. I was extremely afraid. I remember dreading that day. Luckily, I was able to come home later that same day. That helped me a little, but not by much.
The morning of my surgery, I went to the hospital, got checked in and sat in the waiting room. My family was with me as well: my grandparents, mom, uncle, stepdad and step-brother. It was amazing to have all the support that I had. Luckily, the surgery did not take long. I could not wait to get home.
So now, after having my surgery, I thought that everything was okay and my nightmare was finally over. It turned out that it had not even started. After taking many more tests such as X-rays, CT scans, and general checkups, it turned out that the cancer had spread past my one testicle. At this point, I had to think of further treatment.
I had to meet with many oncologists until I found the one that would be best fit for me. The one I chose, was phenomenal. He told my mom and I, what would be happening and how to move further with my treatment. At this point, I needed to have chemo. I could not believe it. The first thing that I think of when I hear the word “chemo” is hair loss. My hair has always been the one thing that I care most about and everyone who knows me knows that. That was my biggest fear of the entire experience. Well, in the beginning, at least. I found out that I needed to have 9 weeks of chemotherapy.
My first day of chemo was okay. I remember walking in, sitting in the chair, getting hooked up and asking my mom, “This is it? This won’t be bad!” I later found out that this statement would be far from the truth. Yeah, the first day was not terrible, but that was only the first day.
The entire chemo experience is something that will haunt me forever. I would go into chemo each day during the first week, one day the second week, and one day the third week. That was considered one cycle. My treatment consisted on three cycles. On the first Friday of each cycle, I would throw up. Since I knew this would happen, it at least helped me to prepare by taking medicine, but throwing up was now my biggest fear.
Towards the end of my chemo treatment, the amount of pricks from the needle that I had each day was overwhelming. I could have up to 6 pricks on a bad day, but it was still usually 2 or 3 pricks even on a good day. Unfortunately, this happened because after having chemo for so long, the nurses were not able to get a straight path with the needle compared to before. I remember one day when I was sitting in the chair, the nurses were trying to get the needle in my arm in order for me to receive my treatment and it was so bad that it must have been at least 8 times. All I kept thinking to myself was “Why me?” That day was the only day during the entire 9 weeks that I cried at my treatment facility, at least. All I could think about was going home and having this terrible nightmare be over.
All of the nurses at my treatment facility were wonderful. They were very kind and caring people. They were not able to see me much though. Whenever I went into the chemo room, I would always put my hood from my sweatshirt over my head — far enough so that my entire head would not be visible. This helped me so I would not be able to look around, which got me sick. Every time I would see an IV bag or a person in one of those chemo chairs, my stomach would start to hurt. I joked after the fact that if I went to visit the nurses after I was feeling better, they probably would not even remember me because they were never able to see my face.
The entire cancer experience has let me meet many amazing and inspiring people. I was able to meet other cancer survivors, caregivers and other people who have been affected by cancer in some way.
The day I was diagnosed I started a fundraiser called STAMP OUT CANCER Squished Penny. I sell squished pennies and squished penny key rings. All of the net proceeds are benefitting The LIVESTRONG Foundation. The money raised will help cancer patients going through what I had to go through and what many other people have to go through each and every day. Please visit my fundraising website at www.stampoutcancernow.com.
Within a few months of finishing chemo, I joined a program called Cancer To 5K. I always wanted to run a 5K, but was never able to motivate myself enough. This program had many cancer survivors, of all types of cancers, as well as dedicated volunteers and coaches to help assist us. It was probably the best experience of my life and I now have lifelong friendships with people I never would have met without having cancer. The course of my first 5K race went past both the hospital where I got my surgery and the building where I got my treatment. To me, it was a way of saying “I won, cancer, not you.”
Once I started college, I knew that I wanted to bring awareness to the campus. So when I was a freshman at Shippensburg University, I joined the Colleges Against Cancer club. The club raises awareness for all types of cancers both through fundraisers throughout the year and our annual Relay for Life event, which happens in April. All the money raised through the club gets donated to the American Cancer Society.
For men, it is very important to perform monthly testicular self-exams. To find out more information about testicular self-exams, please visit www.livestrong.org. Sometimes there are no present symptoms and you might not have any pain. If you notice any changes or have any concerns regarding your testicle(s), contact your doctor immediately.
Let’s help cancer patients with just one penny at a time, and STAMP OUT CANCER now!