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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Move over, Avengers. There's a new superhero crew coming through.
I'm rather on the ball with raising testicular cancer awareness, but at the end of the day, I am just one man, with one ball and one blog. Allow me to introduce you to the first three members of my version of the Justice League - the Band of Ballers.
Kyle first discovered two small lumps (about the size of two peas) on his right testicle while innocently adjusting himself sitting in his parents' hot tub. He had no pain or any other symptoms. Four days later, he saw a general practitioner, who sent him for a scrotal ultrasound (as he says: "It's exactly as awkward as it sounds") and to see a urologist.
Just 10 days after finding those lumps, he had a right radical orchiectomy. One dose of carboplatin chemo, a lot of follow up scans and blood work, and five years later, he is free and clear.
He was frustrated with the lack of cancer awareness, so he founded CHECK 15: The Monthly Cancer Awareness Day. On the 15th of every month, his group releases a new cancer awareness video.
In his words: "Comedy sketches. Parodies. Music videos. We've now been doing it for the past 55 months straight, including Fifty Shades of Grey, Jurassic Park and Miley Cyrus' Wrecking Ball. If it's a pop-culture touchstone, we've probably turned it into a cancer awareness video."
He's attempting to harness the power of social media to inform the masses and disguising that information with a healthy dose of humor. While laughter may not literally be the best medicine, it certainly helps ease the tension and make the subject more approachable.
Thomas, AKA Mr. Ballsy, had some abnormalities in his testicle for over a year, but had no health insurance. Though it was hard, it didn't hurt and had no "lump." Out of nowhere, he got horrible pains in my lower abdominal that eventually landed me in the ER. Long story short, he ended up in Bellevue Hospital in New York City, where he was diagnosed with stage 3 testicular cancer. Nine years later, he is all good and cancer free, with a son and a beautiful wife to-boot!
As he says: "I realized I had a bigger purpose and second chance at life. I knew then that I needed to dedicate my life to helping people who were in same position as me. I waited too long to take care of my health, and I hope by sharing my story, other men don't make the same mistake"
He's definitely done that. Thomas has pushed two giant balls across two countries, Canada and United States, in hopes of raising awareness for testicular cancer. He has also developed a first-of-its-kind, cancer fighting superhero awareness comic series called Big Ballsy Comics. His goal for this series is to bring light to a tough subject matter, through the storyline of a ballsy team of cancer survivors that fight to stop the cancerous queen from populating the world with cancer and taking over.
During one of his routine testicular self-exams, inspired by a PSA he had seen as a young man, Ken noticed something weird: his testicles were the same size and had no growths, no protrusions or pain. While this doesn't inherently sound odd, his right testicle used to be significantly smaller. Now, it was identical in size to his left… and much firmer. He had an ultrasound and it came back as positive for cancer, but it was a non-aggressive seminoma with no sign of malignancy in the spermatic cord. His orchiectomy a few days later went great and showed that the chances that it had spread were extremely low. He still had standard surveillance via CT scans, chest X-rays and blood tests, and would not require any additional treatment.
A PSA had saved Ken's life and he began his own campaign -#Takea2nd4theBoys.
His words on the campaign: "It simply seeks to make it easier for men to remember to take just a few seconds to perform a monthly testicular self-exam in the shower. Because most of us are rarely more than 10 feet from our smartphones, keeping a calendar is easier than ever to remind us of tasks we need to accomplish. The second of every month was chosen simply to add a sense of consistency to the campaign. This allows men to remind their friends about performing a testicular self-exam."
At the #Takea2nd4theBoys page, there is a link that will create an event on someone's Google calendar to remind them to perform a testicular self-exam as well as information about how to perform a self-exam.