Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help in Your Mental Health
Next, I tried eTC Express, an online therapy program designed specifically for testicular cancer survivors.
Within the program, there are six modules in total: Foundations, After Treatment, Changes, Being A Man, Significant Others, and Moving Forward. While some of the modules were more applicable to me, I still had access to them all.
Each module has a variety of tasks, with some reading of texts, videos, and audio files. The modules focus a lot on putting “tools in your toolbox” to deal with the new life you're now facing. Personally, I think they should have called them “skills in a sack,” but maybe their pun game isn’t as strong. Some of these tools include mindfulness, worry postponement, challenging unhelpful thoughts, and many more. This was more helpful since it was geared right to what I needed, but it still wasn’t enough.
At another clear follow-up scan, I asked if I could go on antidepressants. I knew from previous experience that I respond well to these medicines and they helped balance me in 2006. After a few adjustments and weeks of waiting they paid off and I began feeling like myself again.
Whatever works for you, go for it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. No one will “judge you” for admitting you’re not feeling yourself - you did just face cancer.
Set Yourself up for Success in Your Long-Term Health
Prior to facing cancer, I was already admittedly out of shape. I was pleasantly plump, to put it nicely, but the combination of maintaining a sedentary lifestyle for the duration of chemo, the steroids that added pounds, and a trip to Hawaii ballooned me up to a record high weight of 215 pounds. Honestly, when I looked in the mirror, I was ashamed of my bloated and flabby body, lack of endurance, and a pitiful amount of strength. I decided to make fitness a priority, so I joined a gym and found sticking with the new habit wasn’t too difficult.
I go directly to the gym after work, which helps me keep the positive momentum going. In the beginning, I found if I come home from work and sit down, I was less likely to get back out there. Now, since I actually looked forward to working out, it doesn’t matter when I go, but I still find the consistency is key.
Since making these changes and improving my diet in August 2017, I’ve shed over forty pounds, dropped over ten percent of my body fat, increased my running stamina, and nearly doubled my maximum lifting stats.
Yet, why I exercise is much more than just the physical benefits. While I am exercising, I often think about what I’ve been through and what kind of person I want to be. It’s an intense moment - both physically and in the reflection aspects - which dovetails nicely with the aforementioned outlet finding.
Physical fitness is a great idea, especially in the case of cancer survivors, since the American Cancer Society recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week to lower risk of cancer.
Even if you don’t kill it at the gym day in and day out, make it a point to incorporate more healthy choices into your lifestyle. You just beat cancer; let’s not add obesity, heart disease, or diabetes to the mix.
Share Your Story However You Are Most Comfortable
In my case, I go ball(s) to the walls with running a public website and various social media platforms dedicated to my journey and newfound mission of testicular cancer awareness, but you might want to do it on a more one on one, personal level.
In either case, it’s important for two reasons. First, you can be the support for another potential cancer survivor that you may or may not have received when you went through your own battle. There is something so powerful and uplifting to meet someone who has “been there” and made it through to the other side.
The second reason is more critical on a larger scale. Testicular cancer and men’s health are not talked about enough in society. According to a 2016 study by the Cleveland Clinic, only three in five men actually go to their annual physical, and just over 40 percent go to the doctor only when they have a serious medical condition. 53 percent of all the men surveyed reported that their health just isn’t something they talk about.
My hopes are that sharing my story from beginning to end with an open attitude will stimulate more open discussion and bring a larger focus to men’s health in general. Knowing someone who is going through cancer can help make it more real to men who might not otherwise be concerned about their own health.
In summary, I want to be a catalyst to start talking about testicles and men’s health in everyday conversation. I want men thinking of me and examining their testicles (hopefully not at the same time, but whatever works).