Balls…nuts…’nads…men have many words for that nether region of the male groin. It’s a sensitive area – too much pressure applied or a swift kick produces more than a fair amount of pain. Guys are very protective of this area and as a rule don’t talk about it much.

This month, however, the taboo needs to be lifted. The reason? April is Testicular Cancer awareness month. In fact, the first week in particular is Testicular Cancer awareness week. If you’re into colors, TC’s color is royal blue or purple, depending who you ask. It is especially important to our family because a member had to deal with this very issue nearly two years ago. Our son had some discomfort, found an enlargement, and went to his doctor to get it checked out. A visit to a urologist came after, followed by a procedure known as an orchiectomy. Then…the waiting; a few weeks later, lab tests would confirm what we feared most: cancer was indeed present.

The good news? We caught it extremely early; three cycles of chemotherapy over nine weeks wiped the cancer out, and it has not returned. There is more to the story, but that story is not mine to tell. Suffice to say, God granted the strength for our son to endure the treatments while going to college classes full-time.

I tell you this to encourage, to caution, yea verily to adjure: Men (young men in particular), do not grow lax in watching for the signs of this disease. Just as women must do regular self exams in the prevention of breast cancer, men must check themselves “down there” in the prevention of testicular cancer. They say TC is a young man’s disease, while prostate cancer is an older man’s disease. This largely holds true, but it is not exclusive based on age. There are two primary types of TC and the age range is mostly 15 through the mid- or late- 30s. The slightly more serious type is at that lower end of that scale; our son had just turned 19 when he received his diagnosis. But, just to show that there are no hard rules, we also came in contact with a man who was in his late 40s when he heard the word cancer applied to him.

Testicular is one of the more treatable types of cancer if caught early! There was another young man receiving chemo at the same time as our son. He was only a year older, but was experiencing harsher side effects and struggles because he delayed pursuing diagnosis and treatment.

Men, know your body. There is an English gentleman (cancer survivor) who has a website called “Check ‘Em, Lads!” where he talks about stuff you need to know. In a nutshell: know what feels normal. An unusually large size, particularly if accompanied by pain when palpated, needs to be checked further by your doctor. It often is only a swelling called a hydrocele, and that is easily treated. If something is suspected to be cancerous, though, it needs to be treated before it spreads, particularly to the nearby lymph nodes.

So whatever is your term-of-choice for the testicular region, do not be embarrassed, do not be neglectful. Your own life might be the one you save.

As always, dear reader, I leave you the admonition: support arts education, study to show yourself approved, and always be kind and helpful to others.

Blessings, Sheldon

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