I answered the phone both surprised and a little worried. I didn’t get many calls from my 18-year-old son. A few texts maybe, but not usually a call.
“Mom, I found a knot in my, um, well, on one of my testicles.”
Instantly, I realized how hard that must have been for him to tell me. It was about the size of a dime, hard, and not moveable. He thought he had pulled something at work, so he investigated as soon as he got back to the camper where he was staying with his dad while on the job. He was noticeably anxious. I wanted to make him feel less nervous, so I told him it was probably nothing but needed to be checked out.
That was on a Wednesday. He came home Friday night. Saturday, we went to the emergency room. They performed an ultrasound and told us to call a urologist on Monday morning to schedule an appointment.
I called as soon as the clinic opened. The nurse was able to pull up his emergency report and ultrasound from the computer system shared with the local hospital. She said she would get a message to the doctor and call me back. She called back in less than a half hour. “Can he come now?” The urgency had me worried.
We were ushered straight back when we got to the office and completed the paperwork. We goofed off in the exam room, making faces and laughing at one another as we always did at doctors’ offices. More than once my son told me, “It’s cancer. I know it is.” I told him to stop being so negative. I thought it was his way of preparing himself for the news if it turned out to be malignant.
The doctor came in and talked with us and I stepped out so he could examine my son. The testicle would have to be removed. I was mortified. Without a biopsy? He explained that testicular cancer that is biopsied spreads very rapidly because of the structure and drainage of the lymph system. I didn’t know if I could encourage my son to have a part of his body removed without being certain cancer was involved. I told the doctor as much. He replied with, “I hope I’m wrong, but you just don’t present with a solid mass in the testicle and it not be cancer.” The surgery was scheduled for Wednesday morning.
The next day was spent praying and notifying family members. It was very hard to convince them that this surgery needed to be performed without a biopsy. My husband was especially nervous about the whole thing. My mother drove in to be there during the surgery. My mother-in-law was currently taking treatments for stage 4 colon cancer, and it was very hard to believe my son could also have cancer. What were the odds? My son made the “I-know-it’s-cancer” comment again, and I asked him why he kept saying that. “A couple days before I found the knot, I dreamed that I had testicular cancer. God told me I had it – in my dream.” That was it. That was the encouragement I needed.
The morning of the surgery, we all gathered up and prayed in the family waiting area – my husband, my in-laws, my mother, our pastor and his wife and my nephew’s mother, who just happened to be on schedule as my son’s surgical RN. My husband was visibly shaken. He had asked me to explain things to him a dozen times. He kept asking, “Are you sure we’re doing the right thing?” I could only answer with, “It’s the only choice we have.”
Just before they took our son back to surgery, they allowed us to go back two-at-a-time to see him. My husband and I went back first. He had a couple questions for the doctor. We sat there goofing off with our son, commenting on how good he looked in his new “hat”, when the doctor came in. My husband flushed red and turned pale. I thought he might faint. He stammered over his words and asked the doctor if there was any other option besides surgery. The doctor explained to him what he had said to my son and me a few days before. I watched my husband’s whole demeanor change. When the doctor left the room, my husband said, “I dreamed this.” What was he talking about? “That doctor was in my dream. You were sitting next to me, he was standing right there, and I couldn’t see who was in the hospital bed, but it was all in my dream.” My husband had never met the doctor before.
There are many other instances I could tell you about when and how God carried us through my son’s battle with cancer (the oncologist who prescribed the current treatment for testicular cancer bringing the death rate down from 90 percent to 10 percent, and who treated Lance Armstrong, called me one night after I sent an email, for instance). The right things happened at the most opportune times. My son had a very aggressive type of testicular cancer
— embryonal carcinoma. It spread very rapidly.
He was in remission for 13 months after chemo before it returned, and now he is in remission again at 20 years old. We are thankful for every second and every breath.