Age at Diagnosis: 27
Current Age (at time of profile): 29
How did you find out you were sick? What events led to the diagnosis?
I found a lump on my right testicle. Some friends asked how I found it, if I knew how to do a self exam. I said, "Don't you wash?" I mean come on guys, we all wash, well most of the time. Just don't neglect your boys! It was this tiny hard ball and I knew it wasn't normal. The brain tries to tell you, "Maybe it's nothing. Maybe it'll go away. It could be some calcium build up or something." I'm glad I didn't listen and I called my doctor to get it checked out.
What year was it? What was your age at the time?
I was diagnosed October 4, 2005. I was 27.
At what level of education were you at diagnosis?
I was a Ryerson Graduate.
Do you work? Yes, as an Actor.
What was your diagnosis?
Testicular Cancer, Stage 1 Non Seminoma Tumor.
What are your career goals?
Acting, voice over animation, and cancer advocacy.
What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?
I was preparing for the worst but hoping for the best. When I met with the Urologist and he told me it was most probably cancer I think I went into "survival mode." I just said, "Sign me up. Do what you gotta do to get this out." I think it wasn't until later that I realized how big of an impact it was to go through this experience.
How did your family react?
My family was incredibly supportive. My oldest brother is a doctor and it helped having him explain certain things to me and certainly my parents. It helped ease their mind.
How did your friends react?
I'm lucky to have a great circle of friends. They were all supportive and encouraging.
What did your treatment consist of?
Medical Side: I was very lucky and caught it early enough that the tumor was completely contained and had not spread. So I was in the best case scenario.
I had two options for treatment. The first was to do a second surgery and remove the lymph nodes that are connected to the testicles. It's really just a precautionary measure. If any cancer cells did spread that's where they would have gone. It's a pretty big surgery though because the lymph nodes are behind the abdomen so they make an incision from below the sternum to just below the belly button and they actually have to lift everything and move it to the side. Lovely!
The second option was to go on a surveillance plan whereby I'd be monitored closely over a period of five years. The first two years I would go in every two months and do an x-ray and blood test. Every other visit I would also do a CT scan. The third year I would go every four months the fourth year I would only go twice, and the fifth year I would only go once. In the event that something came back then I'd have to do some chemo. Ultimately both treatments have the same outcome so it came down to which one I was more comfortable with. I ended up choosing to do the surveillance plan. I felt confident that I caught it early and that nothing else was in my system. But I was also going through some other personal issues and because of that I didn't want to put myself through a major surgery. It really comes down to what you think is best for yourself. You can get all the opinions you want but at the end of the day it's up to you.
In which hospital(s) were you treated?
Mount Sinai & Princess Maragret Hospital.
What is your current medical status?
I am in my second year of the surveillance plan and so far I've been totally healthy.
How is life different for you now post diagnosis (physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually)?
Physically? Well I'm a little lighter down there but other than that, I'm fine. I had the option of getting a prosthetic but I thought about it and aesthetically, you can't really improve the nut sack! I mean, it's pretty unattractive to begin with. You know God got pretty lazy when it came around to the balls, "Oh I'll just put these in this sagging hairy sack, that'll do."
Emotionally? I don't think I realized how big of an impact it had on me when I found out. I tried to be strong and let everyone know I was going to be fine but I had moments of fear. Even though I was extremely lucky it definitely has put life in perspective. I find I listen to my body more closely now. If I feel tired then I take a rest, even if I have things to do. I try and respect those signals as opposed to pushing myself to the limit.
What is/was the toughest part of your challenge?
The hardest part was the waiting! Waiting three weeks to get my ultrasound, waiting for the CT scan results and the pathology test results. I thought I was going to find everything out the same day as my surgery but having to wait over a week to hear if something spread was pretty stressful. There's not much you can do about it though so I had to stay positive and hope for the best.
What is/was the best part of your challenge?
All of life's experiences and how you deal with them define who you are. This has been a major life experience for me and one that has definitely made me stronger.
What really motivated you to keep going while you were sick?
Someone gave me Lance Armstrong's book, It's Not About The Bike, and it was a real great source of comfort and inspiration. I also told myself that somehow I'd have to use the experience as something positive. Instead of asking "why me?" I asked, "What can I do with this?"
What lessons or messages have you taken away from your experience?
The messages I plan to advocate are the importance of early detection/early diagnosis. I also learnt that you never know what life is going to throw at you, but no matter what, you can over come it and turn it into something positive.
What are your thoughts and feelings about your illness now? How have they changed since before your diagnosis?
I never hated the fact that I had cancer. It became a life altering experience for me. I'm proud to be a part of this community now. I am a survivor. It is a part of who I am now.
What are some (if there are any you know of) preventative measures that people can take to lower their risk of having an experience like yours?
PLAY WITH YOUR BALLS! And never hesitate to call your doctor if you're uncertain about something.
Did you attend any support groups during your challenge?
I didn't attend a support group but I went to a therapist. At first I didn't think I needed it but it proved to be extremely helpful in putting things in perspective.
How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer?
I saw an expose on Geoff Eaton on Canada AM and that's how I found out about the organization. I think it's fantastic that its focus is on young adults. I'm excited to see how it grows.
If you are interested in connecting with Daniel Schneiderman please email firstname.lastname@example.org.