Video – Wyatte Durrette, Zac Brown Band Songwriter
Testimonial – Kyle Henne
Sometime in late January 2014, I noticed a discomfort that was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I had taken my wife and my mom to a local movie theater to watch The Wolf of Wall-Street. Rather than enjoying the almost three-hour, debauchery-filled, brilliantly-acted fest of a movie, I sat squirming for a position that alleviated my back pain. “I must have pulled a muscle in my upper-back,” I continued to tell myself.
About ten days later, shortness of breath joined the constant back pain. “Asthma! And a pulled back-muscle!” I convinced myself that I was having an extended streak of bad-luck that triggered these two events almost simultaneously. I decided to wait it out, after all I can always go to a massage parlor and get an inhaler if these problems don’t subside.
After two visits to my family physician, and two prescriptions for pain meds and steroids to curb inflamed muscles, my pain had worsened and I was unable to lay flat on my back without a sensation of asphyxiation. I visited my local Instacare. “Mr. Henne, I am unable to hear your left lung. Are you certain your family physician listened to you breathing?” The look in the doctor’s eyes told me that no inhaler was going to fix the problems I was having. “I don’t want to worry you too much, but you need to go to the closest hospital. I can call you an ambulance if you don’t think you can drive,” the doctor told me with grave concern written all over her face.
In what seemed like the longest twenty minutes of my life, I had driven to the closest emergency room, told them my name and my symptoms, and was laying on a hospital bed. Ten doctors must have come through my room to asked me a barrage of questions, and within 36 hours they had it narrowed down. “Kyle, it’s one of three possibilities: Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, or a Germ-Cell Tumor.” Cancer. “Will I be out of here by Friday? I have a job interview…. It’s an amazing opportunity for me and my family.” Just one of the few questions I had asked, not fully understanding the gravity of my situation.
The doctors eventually determined that I had a Germ-Cell Tumor. It’s a cancer that amounts to a birth-defect in which the cells that create your reproductive organs do not settle in their proper place, and develop into a growth that presses on the most vital organs in your chest; in my case, collapsing my left lung. Your reproductive system is completely normal, but a few straggler-cells do not make the journey and wreak havoc where they settle. They started a hyper-aggressive chemotherapy regiment immediately. I was given the “VIP Treatment, “which consisted of four different bags of fluid that last 7-8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and they treatment was given every third week to give time for recuperation.
Excuse my language, but chemotherapy is a son-of-a-bitch. Hair-loss, appetite-loss, non-stop nausea, incredible fatigue, all at the age of 27. The grueling treatment only gets worse with the creeping thoughts of “How am I going to pay for all of this?” “Why do I feel so alone?” “I hope my significant other/care givers are handling this OK.” “ I hope I am giving them enough faith in the future with or without me to allow them to handle this process.”
That’s where I began to understand how incredibly fortunate I was in this most unfortunate situation. Theboys.org heard of my situation and immediately sprung into action. They provided assistance that covered my entire spectrum of needs. They sent a pill-box to organize the dozens of pills I needed to take throughout the day, sent literature that explained what I should anticipate throughout my treatment, literature telling me what foods to eat to assist in my situation, contributed financially when money was incredibly tight, and most importantly gave me assurance that I wasn’t alone despite my inclinations telling me differently.
Never before had a group of seemingly-anonymous people given me such a strong feeling of community. Words cannot truly express the depth of gratitude I have for Theboys.org. The little things like pillboxes and literature provided such a fundamental amount of direction, and obviously, the enormous gestures like financial contributions alleviated the horrifying thoughts of financial ruin that come with the misfortune of getting sick. Theboys.org is an amazing foundation, filled with outstanding human beings. I am truly fortunate that they discovered me, and compassionately contributed to my cause.
Presently, I am out of the woods. After the extensive chemotherapy halted the growth of the tumor that threatened my existence, successful cardiothoracic surgery removed said tumor. I am now back to work, and have resumed my duties around the house. The road back to a sense of normalcy was long and trying. But it was aided by the touching and humbling gestures made by my loved ones, and a group of people that existed more as an idea, until they assisted in my greatest time of need.
Theboys.org also taught me the power of good deeds, and the power of paying-it-forward. I would love to play a role for others like they did for me. If any of you reading this have had the misfortune of contracting a cancer like mine, I will be more than willing to guide you in this process. If you need, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. My wife and I would love to share our experience if it means clearing some of the uncertainty that comes with this terrible diagnosis. You are not alone, good people are out there and they are willing to help.
This story was shared with us by Bruce K. from the East Fresno Rotary Club during the 2012 Rotary International District Conference held in Lemoore, CA.
In May of 2011 we exhibited our booth at the Rotary International District Conference held in Monterey, CA. While we were there Bruce K from the East Fresno Rotary Club came by our booth in the Friendship House. He loved the wristbands we distribute to raise awareness so he took a handful of the Green Glo-in-the-Dark bands to give to some teenagers that he was taking on an upcoming cross state bicycle ride later that month. While he was on this ride with these teenagers he gave each one a wristband and took the opportunity to tell them to the best of his recollection about the concerns of testicular cancer that we had shared with him and asked them to share the information with their families. A few months later he received a phone call from a mother of one of the riders. She asked if he had given the wristband to her son. He said that he had. She shared with him that her son’s younger brother had seen the wristband with not only the catchy saying, but also the website for theBoys.org printed on it and after looking at the website he came to her and shared that he thought that he might have symptoms of testicular cancer. They went to see a doctor and the diagnosis was confirmed. However, because he had caught the disease so early they were able to perform a simple procedure and he was doing well. She told Bruce that had they not received that wristband her son would never have known to self-examine and would not have recognized the symptoms to catch the disease early which may very well have cost them the life of their son.
Joe Fresta, a two-time testicular cancer survivor and founder of the Cancer Care Foundation, seized the moment and turned his vision and passion into a reality.
In 1991 at the age of 25, Joe initially found a lump on his right testicle while showering and performing a self-check. He shrugged it off for the day, however the following day the lump was still present. He immediately scheduled an appointment with a local urologist to determine what the issue might be. After the sobering diagnosis, he sought out the services of Dr. Randy Rowland (most notable for being the Dr. to assist in curing Lance Armstrong’s testicular cancer). Following his diagnosis and orchiectomy(surgery to remove testicle)Dr. Rowland scheduled Joe for a Lymphadenectomy. A surgical removal of one or more groups of lymph nodes also known as Lymph Node Dissection. In Joe’s case, he was opened from the top of the rib cage and all of his organs were removed, in order to determine where the cancer had spread to. Following his surgery Joe did not have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation. He continued with his 6 month and 3 month check-up and was through 5 years of remission until he was finally deemed cured. This is where Joe’s life changed.
13 years later at age 38, Joe was playing in a hockey tournament in Las Vegas NV. The first day after the tournament he felt a strain/pull in his left groin. He attributed his pain to the game earlier that day. Day two of the tournament Joe felt worse, the pain was so severe it hindered his mobility. Regardless, he continued on that day and finished the tournament. Upon his return home, Joe scheduled a visit with his orthopedic physician, where he was told there was nothing wrong with his groin. Although the symptoms and scenarios were completely different, Joe immediately scheduled an appointment with his oncologist, Dr. Burton Needles. It was then determined that at 38 years old, Joe had testicular cancer for the second time. He again sought out his surgeon, who now resided in Kentucky. He was told by Dr. Rowland that of all the many patients he had cared for, he had never seen it twice in both testicles. The chances of getting it twice was very rare, especially considering Joe had undergone a Lymphadenectomy. Under the care of his Oncologist, Joe underwent a rigorous regimen of chemotherapy for 4 hours a day, 5 days a week for 9 weeks!
It was during this time Joe implemented “Faith, Family and Friends” to get him through and not allow the anger to take over. Joe recalls the day of his second diagnosis where he felt exceptionally angry, he reminded himself to get back to his “Quiet Calm” a very important calming place in your mind that will allow not only the body, but the mind and spirit to heal as well. Joe’s “Quiet Calm” gave him the strength to never give up or be a victim, but to instead be a survivor.
It was at that moment that Joe realized he would turn this opportunity to do something great! Beat cancer again and be an example for others that are battling cancer. Joe was fortunate to have the means to focus solely on getting better. He understood the importance of that focus and the power of the mind, lending it to a strong positive place for healing.
Even for the healthiest person, a diagnosis of cancer can lead to financial ruin.
The thought of hospital bills and everyday living expenses can pile up quickly and bring additional stress. Joe believes that stress alone can cause people to get cancer let alone, allow the body to heal.
On New Year’s Day, at the NHL Winter Classic in Chicago, Joe sat in the stands as he watched the game and the snow falling down around them, it was in that moment Joe realized he could create an event on a local level that would raise money to assist families battling cancer. It wasn’t more than a 3 minute thought process that he knew where to go and what to do. A three day ice hockey tournament to be held at the historic Steinberg Ice Rink in St. Louis, Missouri. What is now known to the public as The Steinberg Winter Classic, a three day, three-on-three ice hockey tournament benefiting the Cancer Care Foundation directly aiding local families with loved ones stricken with Cancer.
After only 4 Steinberg Winter Classics and the addition of the Legends Of Hockey Dinner Series, the Cancer Care Foundation is nearing the $1,000,000 mark.
To learn more go to: steinbergwinterclassic.com
IN HIS OWN WORDS, MEET MICHAEL ETHRIDGE
Michael is a testicular cancer SURVIVOR and is getting ready to celebrate his six year anniversary. Around August 2008 Michael was stationed on the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. He had just returned from a three week deployment and noticed he had pains on his right side. The pains would come and go, day by day. So he decided to get it checked out. Michael ended up seeing two different doctors that couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him and just sent him home with some pain medication. December 22nd that same year came along and while Michael was working on the ship he collapsed and passed out. He woke up as he was being transported to the naval hospital by ambulance. Immediately he was confronted by a number of doctors that checked him head to toe but with no results. Once his wife, Jennifer, arrived she explained all the events that had happened leading up to this situation. He was then given blood tests and full body scans. During his scans he heard the doctors say, “Oh my God”. Immediately the realization that something was wrong kicked in. He was informed by the doctors that he had a large mass within his chest. The very next day he was set for surgery for a biopsy. During that time he contacted his supervisors to inform them of his status. In response to hearing his prognosis, ‘he was given back all his personal belonging and removed from the roster on board the ship’.
He had his first surgery on December 23 2008. The surgery went well and now it was just time to wait for the results. Around December 27 the results were in, the doctor came in and explained that he needed to call his family to have them by his bedside before the results would be given. This of course terrified him. Once his family was present, the first words out of the doctors mouth were “you have cancer”. More tests were required to find out what kind, which was the long road ahead. During one of the tests he had his testicles checked via scan because no lumps were found by hand. The scan results found the needle in the hay stack that was causing the problem; dark shadows. The result was testicular cancer. By this point it had already progressed into his chest and already determined that he had stage 3 cancer which was very serious in nature. He underwent surgery January 3 to remove one testicle. The doctors believed this was the source of the problem. Surgery went well and he was in recovery within a few days.
The next step in his journey was to have another surgery to have a mediport implanted in his chest in order to receive the chemo. During this process he was awake and he was able to feel the tubes move down to his heart. He was able to feel all the tugs and cuts for the most part. He mentions that he thought it was funny to walk around with a lump on his chest, as well as setting off metal detectors. His process with chemo started in February and it was ended in July. This was a time in his life where things got hard, depression set in and his hair fell out. His children were actually able to pull his hair out in chunks, while his wife shaved off the rest. Many days went by where he found himself wondering why him, or what did he do wrong to deserve this. Between the throwing up and the days of being sick he wasn’t himself. The doctors put him on steroids for weight gain which he didn’t agree upon so he stopped taking them. So instead the doctors put them in his IV “what a bummer” he says. His chemo process went on for one week then two weeks of recovery; this process went on for months. A follow up test was scheduled. During a PET CT scan if any of the cancer was still active it would show up as something that resembled a glow. The treatment was a failure, his chest lit up. The only thing the treatment did was make the tumors and mass smaller and manageable. Michael was given two options, surgery to remove the tumors or continue chemotherapy. He chose surgery. His surgery had some obstacles. His venicava was an issue because the tumor had engulfed it. After five hours of surgery he woke with a wrap around his chest. In order to fix the problem with his venicava a section was removed and replaced with a stint.
September 2009 he was diagnosed CANCER FREE. As time went on he had surgery to remove the mediport along with having a colonoscopy done. During the procedure they found a cancerous polyp which was removed. Like I said before, and I don’t mind saying it again. MICHAEL IS COMING UP ON HIS SIX YEAR ANNIVERSARY FOR BEING CANCER FREE!
“So now that you have read my story, if you ever have a chest pain, big or small, get it checked out. All this that I went through could have been avoided for the most part if it was caught sooner. Thanks for the opportunity and life is a battle especially when you get sick” –Michael Ethridge
“As a healthcare provider, you would think that I would know what to do…” Read about our board member, Dr. Corey Lichtman, DC, CSCS
“As a healthcare provider, you would think that I would know what to do. But when I felt something that wasn’t “normal”, I went into a bit of denial, but I also knew I needed to get to a Urologist right away. Thank goodness I did, because I did in fact have TC. The point is, if you feel something that isn’t “normal” don’t be afraid to tell your parents/your Primary Care DR/Specialty DR. You need to have it checked, because you could be saving your own life! Better safe than sorry. TC can be fully cured when caught early enough.
I was 29 years old, my wife was pregnant with our first child due May. I felt something weird and had an enlarged left testicle. I was and am very active playing soccer, but playing at this time was uncomfortable. I went through some denial, about 3 months worth, but then went to a urologist. He diagnosed me right away and wanted to do surgery that day. I could’t do that as i had to move cancel patients. He ordered imaging, yes an ultrasound (awkward but needed to be done), and then had surgery a week after initial meeting. I had surgery on a friday and went to work monday. I started radiation a few weeks later for about 3 weeks in March/April. Radiation was tough, mainly because I had to work and see patients. I was always the last patient of the evening for them. I would keep my office real cold because I was real hot, in fact I remember being so nauseous that i actually would throw up between patients sometimes, quick brush and rinse teeth and keep on going. I was busy at night too working with a pro indoor football team here in san diego, so that kept my mind off everything. Nonetheless, i never got any rest like i should have, in hindsight. 2 weeks after radiation was done, my son was born!
On the children note, we actually “banked” some of my sperm before radiation just to be safe. I wasn’t sure if we were to be able to have kids after. Well, we did, in fact 20 months after my son we had identical twin girls! Eight years later, I’m clean as can be and have a clean bill of health with 3 great healthy kids!”