After my treatment I had this kind of "yes" mood where I just said yes to anything sounded interesting...
Arlington Heights, Illinois
Steve is an undergraduate at the University of Illinois and a senior in the Nursing program. When Steve was a senior in high school, he noticed a mass on his testicle. Though Steve sensed there was something wrong, he was hesitant to let anyone know until he had completed his soccer season. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer in November 2007 when he was 17 years old. Steve had surgery and chemotherapy and is now considered cancer-free. From Arlington Heights, Illinois, Steve is an active member of the Other Guys, an a-cappella comedy octet and was a member of the Illini 4000 2010 Bike America Team.
When I got diagnosed, I didn’t tell anyone. I was so embarrassed. I was really afraid to scare my friends with something that I almost had no idea about.
My friends received the news really well. Now that I look back on it, I’m kind of happy I got diagnosed during high school [rather] than college. I think there’s just been a world of difference. In high school, all your friends are around you 24/7, and that’s exactly what happened...my soccer team, my dodgeball team, any of my guy friends, they all shaved their heads for me, to make me feel comfortable.
I haven’t had any remission, or recurrence, where the cancer comes back, but I have had a few hiccups along the way. About two months after I had been in remission, I found out that my left testicle, the one that wasn’t infected, was hardened. I called the nurse right away, they did a lot of tests, and found that it wasn’t malignant and it went away.
I know that when cancer comes back it comes back hard...No one likes it when they have a question mark in their life because they just heed it.
I told my dad that I was going to do this doctor search myself. And so I would spend hours and hours on the computer searching for doctors that I wanted to work with and doctors that were well known for what they did.
I had always played with medicine in the back of my mind and chemo kind of woke me up and showed me just how smart nurses are and how influential they are on doctors. That opinion of mine has only been strengthened this year from me working at Carle Hospital.
The love and the care and the meticulous inspection of my life that nurses gave me really moved me to change my major, and I think I can do the job. But I won’t walk into a room and say to a patient, “Oh I’ve had cancer, feel bad for me. I’m going to give you the best care you’ll ever have.” I’m just going to walk in and treat them with the respect my nurses gave me.
The patients are usually the ones that wind up picking up everyone else around them. I guess the patients feel like they can grasp their cancer a little bit more, feel like they have a little bit more control over it. Whereas the family, this has been foreign to them; they don’t know what’s been going on.
As hard as the experience was, now I only think of the times that were funny. But I was sick…For me to be so inactive in a life that before I was so active was frustrating. A good day was for me to sit on a couch, look outside and not feel bad.
No one should know the right thing to say to someone going through chemotherapy. No one is prepared to say the right thing to a patient who is having a recurrence or a complication happen. That was the hardest part during my therapy...To talk to people who didn’t have a prognosis, or were terminal...I became very good at seeing a person not for what is on the surface, but for getting to know the person and see how that cancer effects their and how different it is from mine.
I’ve been trying to find ways to give back to people who have cancer, who didn’t get off as easy as me. Despite the cancer having spread to different parts of my body, my prognosis was actually pretty good because I was young.
After my treatment I had this kind of “yes” mood where I just said yes to anything that sounded interesting...This includes the Illini 4000. I came to school, someone talked to me [about it] and I said “yes.”
I started to see the country as my own cancer experience. The East was really hard, until you get to Ohio, which was the same for me. My first three weeks of chemo were the hardest I had ever experienced. Then the Midwest was a little bit easier, just like my second cycle of chemo. I felt like I was in the swing of things and my third round of chemo was the West, which was a little harder, and you didn’t expect it. And then the end, which was my fourth cycle of chemo was actually really, really heard. But because of the support of my team, my family and friends, and my cancer experience, it was probably the most enjoyable and the most rewarding part of the trip.
Everywhere around the country I met someone who was afflicted by cancer.