My name is Mike Craycraft and I am a testicular cancer survivor. What does it mean to me to be a Survivor? Well, as I write this, it is approaching 6 years to the day that I first heard my doctor say, “It looks like it is cancer” so I figured it was a good time to share My Voice.
June 15, 2006 was the first time I heard the doctor mention cancer but when I had felt the lump in October of the previous year I “knew” immediately that it was cancer. I am not sure if it was fear, denial, ignorance or a combination of all of them but the fact is that I delayed seeking medical attention for 8 months. Part of it may have been not wanting to disappoint others with the news. I had a friend’s wedding to attend, then Christmas, New Years and my dad’s 60th birthday. I never wanted to ruin any of these events with the bad news. Instead, I remained silent, not sharing my concerns with anyone and within a few weeks of first feeling the lump I threw a party back in my hometown in Cincinnati so that I could secretly say “good-bye” to all of my friends.
The next months were tough as I convinced myself that the testicular cancer had spread and that I was going to die from it. I took long hard looks at my life and decided that I had lived a great life filled with awesome friends and while I did not want to die, I was at peace with it. I spent those months living like I was dying. I took a last minute trip to Vail as I figured it would be my last chance to go skiing and then repeated it again a month later to Aspen. At the slightest suggestion, I landed in St. Croix for a luau with an old friend and I even satisfied my bucket-list desire to surf in Costa Rica. Finally, I decided it was time to go to the doctor.
Miraculously, after removal of my left testicle in late June, I was diagnosed with seminoma and it was still stage I. I then did a ton of research and decided to go on a surveillance program of follow up blood work, chest X-rays and CT scans. The program was rigorous but nowhere near the treatments that others have faced. In fact, sometimes it is hard to consider myself a Survivor or share my story because my ordeal was so much easier than those faced by others.
When I was going through my ordeal, I realized that there were not too many resources out there for testicular cancer patients. I decided that I would make it my responsibility to help make that change and I founded the Testicular Cancer Society to help other young men. That to me is what being a Survivor means.
Lance Armstrong refers to it as the “obligation of the cured” but to me it means being a Survivor. To me being a Survivor does not just mean that I survived cancer but rather that I am going to take my experience and make the world of testicular cancer and adolescent and young adult cancer a better place than it was when I was diagnosed. Being a Survivor means that I do have an obligation to help raise awareness, to help educate fighters and to help transition fighters into Survivors. By reaching out to strangers and helping pave the road of their journey through the cancer world means that I am now a Survivor.