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Scanxiety

Waiting on a scan is sometimes the hardest part.
PUBLISHED April 15, 2018
Justin Birckbichler is a fourth grade teacher, testicular cancer survivor and the founder of aBallsySenseofTumor.com. From being diagnosed in November 2016 at the age of 25, to finishing chemo in January 2017, to being cleared in remission in March, he has been passionate about sharing his story to spread awareness and promote open conversation about men's health. Connect with him on Instagram @aballsysenseoftumor, on Twitter @absotTC, on Facebook or via email justin@aballsysenseoftumor.com.
“Your scans are perfectly clean. There is still no cancer in your body on this scan.”

I had my second follow up scan after being found in remission from testicular cancer on Saturday, June 10, 2017. In the morning, I ingested the barium solution (which wasn’t half bad, to be honest, since I went with the mocha flavor this time) and headed to my scan. While there, the nurse asked if I was experiencing any new pain or symptoms.

I had been experiencing some slight discomfort in my scrotum, but was pretty sure it was due to anxiety stemming from my scan. Nonetheless, I’ve learned that less isn’t more when it comes to medical issues, so I shared that information with the nurse.

“Is the pain in your right or left testicle?”

“Well ma’am, I only have one…”

She blushed and apologized profusely. I simply laughed and thought back to the initial CT scan in November when they asked me if I had ever been diagnosed with cancer, two days after my diagnosis. I’ve now become accustomed to being the Uniballer.

The scan proceeded as expected.

However, my mind was racing afterwards. When would I get results? The day prior, the oncologist office had called and said Dr. Maurer needed to reschedule since he was going on a trip when my appointment was set. (I later found out that it was a surprise getaway for him planned by his wife; that man definitely deserves a vacation!)

They said he couldn’t see me until July. That wasn’t going to fly with me. I was not about to wait a month to get results. My anxiety about recurrence tends to flare up most often when I know a scan is imminent. I feel pain that might not be there, and I get trapped in a dungeon of despair. Thoughts of having to go through chemo again flooded my mind. I began making mental lists of what I would need to do if there was a recurrence: contact my boss, shave my hair that had just regrown how I like it, change summer plans, and stock up on Joe Corbi’s frozen pizza kits.

My thoughts were quickly escalating. I didn’t want to be like that for a month, so I pressed the issue of getting to hear from him sooner. Dr. Maurer could just call me with results. I would still be happy to come in in July but I wanted to know ASAP.

On Monday, June 12, I got a call from the oncology office saying they had a last-minute opening at 4:30 and they asked if I wanted it. Um… Yes. Yes I wanted it.

I arrived at the clinic and were shown to a room. I’m pretty sure I’ve now been in all the exam rooms at the clinic between all my various appointments. Dr. Maurer shortly came in and said the quote that opened this post. I was still in remission. What a weight lifted off my shoulders, but I still feel it’s wise to stockpile more Joe Corbi’s.

He showed me my scan. While lymph nodes were still detected on the scan, none were of abnormal size and the nodes are a normal part of a body. He pointed out different organs to me and even said there was a decent showing of muscle. Thank you, P90X.

The next topic of discussion was my medical plans going forward. Most excitingly, I could get my port out! This is a huge win for me, as it was really uncomfortable and annoying (especially when taller students give me hugs and slam their heads into it) and I just wanted it out. Additionally, I’m would have bloodwork done in October and a next set of scans in December. What a great Christmas present.

Dr. Maurer asked me how I’m doing, as I continued assimilating to real life. That’s one thing I really always like about him - he treats me as a person first, and a patient second. I told him I was doing better, but have been getting anxious over the past week about my scans. According to him, this is a normal part of the process and gets better with time.

Thus ends the story of scan numero dos. Although it’s a pretty straightforward and boring story, I will take that over a tale of recurrence (even though I already had some blog titles worked up, among them “Lightning Strikes Twice” and “Guess Who’s Back”).

In the sage words of the wise American prophet Ariana Grande, “I got one less, one less problem.”
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