Testicular Cancer Had Taken a Testicle, and Chemotherapy May Render the Other One Unusable
At the post-op appointment, Dr. Dumont strongly indicated we should look into freezing sperm for later use. He advised, “I think you should seriously consider it. Whatever you think you want will change. People change as time goes on.”
Mallory and I weren’t even married yet, but our ability to have children was potentially slipping away. We had to make a choice fast, as I knew once chemo started, there was no changing our minds.
This was not an easy decision to make; and it was made harder by the brevity I had in making this choice. As I’ve previously shared, I had already grappled with losing a testicle. I was physically less of a man, but not entirely. One thing that helped me get through this was that I would still be able to father children if I so chose. One of the defining traits of man throughout history has been the ability to father children. Any remnants of feeling like less of a man after surgery and chemo would be expounded if I wasn’t able to have kids.
Initially, I wanted to just say screw it; let’s get on with chemo. Mallory and I discussed various options. Maybe I wouldn’t be infertile after. Maybe we could adopt kids if I was rendered unable. My cousins are adopted, and you would never know the difference. We did agree there was something special about being able to have our own genes within our own child.
I still didn’t know if I even wanted kids, but I did not want testicular cancer to take that option from me.
My “life plan” didn’t include kids for at least the next three years. I’ve always been told I am a good teacher because I don’t have kids and can dedicate more time to my classroom because of this. There is definitely some truth to this. Would my classroom teaching suffer if I eventually had kids? Would my own biological children not get the best version of me after being in the classroom all day? I know these are common questions all teachers must face, but most don’t have to make this decision in about two hours, under duress of cancer and imminent chemo.
All things considered, we decided to freeze some of my sperm for future use on Tuesday, November 8th, the day after the post op appointment. This was kind of funny to me, as we had watched Star Trek: Into Darkness the prior evening, and a large subplot of that movie is about freezing people to continue their livelihood.
When I met with the doctor for the consultation, he said that in a lot of cases, fertility will return after the chemo. In most cases, sperm counts will increase in the 24 to 36 months following the end of chemo, and in nearly half of men, the levels will eventually return to normal. The clinic would do testing on my sample from today, and six months after the last dose of chemo, I would return. They would compare levels and see if my body had begun reproducing sperm. Not only would I have to check if they were moving, I would have to have them screened by another clinic to see if they were still working.
The less said about the actual donation the better.
It was an awkward experience to say the least. While the goal of ABSOT is to bring men’s health issues into a more mainstream conversation, I don’t think this is a part of my story that anyone wants to read.
I also had to have more blood drawn to test for STDs. I had a test done back in 2014 and had only been with Mallory since then, but apparently my word didn’t count for anything. So they took more blood, adding to the hospital had taken before the surgery. In addition to being diagnosed with cancer, recovering from surgery recoverer, and and becoming a newly-anointed chemo patient, I was adding human pincushion to my repertoire.
In total, it cost roughly $2,000 for them to store my sample for 5 years. Quite the steep cost for something that may be rendered useless if my sperm production capabilities were restored. However, it was still better to be safe than sorry. As I left the donation center, I once again marveled at how quickly everything had happened. To this point, it had only been twenty days since my first call.
Cancer was forcing me to make decisions that I thought were years down the road in the matter of days.
A self exam is how most cases of testicular cancer are detected early. Click the image for video directions or click here for a larger version
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