“My Voice” by Brian Dowd

Brian Dowd and Family

One night in May 2006 while Kristy, my wife,  and  I were sleeping our daughter Caroline tried to get into bed with us. Though she did this nightly, this night stood out from all the rest. On this night she accidentally kicked me in my groin. It was not an abnormal pain, just a pain. Took my breath away for a second, but I recovered to go back to sleep.

Over the course of the next week I found myself having an uncomfortable feeling in my groin. It was annoying! My 1 hour 10 minute ride to/from work was not pleasant. It felt like I had a weight on my groin. By the end of the following week I knew something was wrong. I decided to perform a self exam. What I found was a lump on my right testicle. I knew it was not good! Like most men, I was stubborn and waited a few days to see if it went away. I was thinking it was my daughters kick to the groin which caused it, but it did not get better.

During this time I also made the mistake of not telling my wife so I knew I had to tell her. I knew I had a week off May 22-26 so I told my wife one night while watching TV that I found a lump and would need to see a doctor. The first thing she said was “you need to see your doctor” and of course, she was right. She was also a little mad that I did not tell her when I found the lump, which in retrospect she is right. I made the appointment.

I saw my doctor and explained to him my symptoms. He then performed an exam on me and said, “You have a growth on your right testicle and you will need to see an Urologist.” I asked what he thought it could be and he said, “You will need to see and speak to the urologist.” My doctor gave me the names of two local Urologists that see most of the patients in our area. My doctor told me they were the two best and I would be in good hands with either one.

I immediately went home and made an appointment for the following week. I knew it was going into the Memorial Day weekend so I purposely made it for the following Friday. At this point I knew the news could not be good so I delayed it by one week. I wanted to enjoy the holiday weekend with family and friends.

On the day of the appointment I was scheduled to go in late to work as I made the doctor’s appointment early, around 9:00AM. I saw the doctor and he gave me the same exam. After examining both of my testicles he made it very clear that I had a tumor on my right testicle. He said the tumor was large enough that he believes it was there for a while. The doctor arranged for me to get an emergency ultrasound. He told me the ultrasound will tell us if it is cancer or not. He expected to get the results of the ultrasound later in the evening and that he would call me to communicate the results.

Friday, June 2, 2006 around 8:10PM I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. As most people when they are first diagnosed I immediately thought I was going to die. That is because of my lack of knowledge about cancer and more specifically testicular cancer. You hear cancer and you think of a loved one, family member, friend, sports person, celebrity, etc. that has died of cancer. The word CANCER can be very shocking if you are the one who is told “you have cancer.”

When I was told I had cancer I was not concerned about me, I was concerned about Kristy & Caroline and how it would affect them and what would happen to them. I was also concerned about not being able to have another child. There was so much going on and everything happened so quickly.

Monday, June 5, 2006 I had a second opinion. The second opinion confirmed what my doctor had told me. After I researched (The Lance Armstrong Foundation and The Testicular Cancer Resource Center), worked with my doctors to understand what I had and my options to treat my type of cancer I decided to have surgery to remove my right testicle.

I scheduled the surgery for 48 hours later.  My wife and I explained to my doctors that we were planning to have another child and he stressed I need to move quickly and see a fertility specialist – IMMEDIATELY!  He said that I would most likely be able to conceive in 3-5 years, but with the treatments still unknown that I should bank my sperm just in case there is a negative side effect which makes me sterile.   After talking to Kristy we decided that we would wait the 3-5 years and pray for the best.  If it was meant to be then we were willing to take that chance.

I had surgery on Wednesday June 7, 2006. This procedure, which is called a radical inguinal orchiectomy, is done through an incision in the groin. It was out-patient surgery, but still a significant one which had me in bed for the following 3 days.  My fat gut meant the doctor would have to cut very deep and directly affected my ability to walk.

I returned to see the urologist on June 14th. I was healing great! My pathology reports were in and I actually had 3 tumors (2 seminoma cancer tumors and 1 benign tumor on my spermatic cord.) The doctor explained that the cancer was already starting to move upwards in my body (just a quick note: testicular cancer moves from the groin to the abdomen, lungs and brain) and it did invade my blood stream. My urologist then referred me to the local areas top oncologist* as I he would need to decide if I needed chemotherapy or radiation treatment.

The visit to the oncologist was a quick one. I had blood work; the oncologist examined me and told me that since I had seminoma cancer I would need radiation treatment. He stated over the last 10-15 years studies have proven that seminoma cancer cells are killed by radiation treatment. The oncologist told me where to go for my treatment, had his admin schedule an appointment for that same day and that was it.

In July I started radiation treatment. My  treatments were Monday – Friday (everyday) for 4.5 weeks. I scheduled the treatments around my work schedule. I did them on my way home every night around 6:00PM. The first few weeks were not bad physically. I was surprised to learn the treatments were 5-10 minutes. It was just like getting an X-ray mixed in with the occasional CT scan.

I found the treatments to more of a mental problem. It was hard going there every day knowing I was making myself sick. The people who worked at the radiation treatment facility were all great and they made it a comfortable environment, but knowing I was getting radiation treatment just stuck with me.

My final treatment was Friday, September 1, 2006. By that point my body had enough of the treatments as I was feeling nauseous throughout the final days and could be found in the restroom throughout the day. I was constantly in the restroom 12-15 times a day.  I just need to rest my body for the next few weeks.

My body healed quickly and by the time I attend the inaugural LIVESTRONG summit in October 2006 I was back to normal.

I am proud to say that today I am a cancer survivor and advocate.  As you can imagine my daughter Caroline is my little ANGEL.  If she never kicked me that night in May 2006 I most likely would not have found out I had testicular cancer. Caroline SAVED MY LIFE!

Throughout the entire process, my wife Kristy was the greatest. She did not treat me different and post surgery she did everything for me as I was in bed for a few days.  People do not realize that our spouses and children also face cancer head on while we are fighting it.  It is our loved ones that help us get through the most difficult times in our lives.  Having Kristy, the love of my life, with me everyday  and Caroline there to brighten up my day is all I needed to get better.

The best news of all is after my surgery and just weeks before my radiation treatment began Kristy and I found out that she was pregnant. The funny thing is we found out the baby was conceived after my surgery! We know the exact date!  If we would have waited 3 weeks we would not be able to have another child for over 3 years due to my radiation treatment.

February 28, 2007 we welcomed Annabelle Grace Dowd into the world. We took a chance by not going to a fertility specialist and it worked out in our favor.  Annabelle is a MIRACLE and Caroline is my little ANGEL.  I consider myself the luckiest man in the world!  I truly believe everything happens for a reason.