The morning of June 30, 2023 I detected my right testicle had swollen slightly. Enough that I noticed a difference from one day to the next. Not having insurance at the time due to lack of hours maintained through my union and quickly turned to any means possible to get an exam.
July 1, 2023 I visited a Planned Parenthood hoping to be seen. They set me up an appointment for that Monday July 3, 2023. At the appointment the doctor did a physical exam ruling out possible tumor markers and thought maybe hydrocele due to injury but strongly urged me to get an ultrasound.
Being that I still did not have insurance I strongly thought about taking the diagnosis and letting time tell me whether or not to be worried. My finances have been extremely strained since Covid began. Work has been slow and shows little signs of recovering so sadly every decision now is made from a place of survival week to week.
After thinking on it for the day I decided to find an ultrasound clinic and pay out of pocket. It nearly broke what little money I had to do this but I needed the piece of mind. I got the ultrasound done on Friday July, 2023.
The next morning the initial doctor at planned parenthood called me saying they had sent her the results as I directed. She told me the results found a solid mass consistent with that of a tumor. She urged me to find a Urologist as soon as possible. Remembering I did not have coverage currently, she tried to point me into a direction where I could receive some help. Little in means she did her best.
That next Monday July 10, 2023 while at work, I tried making calls both to my union and to medi-cal asking for help. I didn’t make enough hours (125 hours) a month to have my benefits as a union member and I made too much income to qualify for Medi-cal. Desperate to get help I tried to activate my cobra through my union benefits ($1299 monthly) just to get to a urologist. I was told by a representative that I’d have to pay for every back month I haven’t qualified for benefits. All together it was over $14,000 dollars just be get benefits for the month of July. Then it would be $1299 every additional month after that.
Like I said, my industry like many others hasn’t recovered from those years of Covid. I have lost over 50% of my annual income which translates to not working enough hours to have my health coverage activated on top the financial struggles from less income. A double edged sword as it were.
Breaking down at work that day, I did not know what to do. Who to call. Who could help. I just knew I needed to figure this out. I called my boss asking if I could be relieved from my duties that day so I could concentrate on making phone calls. Thoughts crossed my mind like sitting at county medical until I was seen by who I needed. It could be days if at all but at least I might be seen.
As my boss picked me up from my work site he knew something was seriously wrong. He said he could see it in my face. While he respected my privacy he also let it be known that he cared and maybe there was something he could do to help. I told him everything and how at every turn it seemed like I had no help or support and didn’t know where to turn to help me figure this out.
Himself and his wife decided to take action and help me find an insurance plan I could pay for out of pocket. Trying to get enrolled mid month was extremely challenging and ultimately did not happen. I was forced to wait until August 1, 2023 to receive my private insurance. So I was left to wonder.
It felt like living with a time bomb inside you with unknown destructive power. A terrible feeling that when unknown can make you fall into the depths of one’s imagination.
I tried to be proactive by contacting Urologist in the area. None of which would talk to me until I’d commit to cash appointments, which I did not have or provide insurance which I didn’t not have proof of yet. When scrolling through Hoag in Newport Beach’s staff I saw one doctor whose face made me smile. That’s all it took. I reached out to his office and his administrative manager heard my story and where I was currently sitting and told me he was an extremely busy and sought after surgeon but dedicated to helping. She said send over my ultrasound findings and she would convince the doctor to have a look. She called me back 10min later saying he was in surgery the rest of the day but confirmed he had them, would look at them before leaving for the day or while at home and they would have a decision whether to take me as a patient the next morning.
The next morning, she called me back saying the doctor overlooked everything that evening at home and wanted me to come in for an exam ASAP and he would be taking me as a patient. During this time I was still waiting for insurance to activate. I didn’t know whether to be grateful I had such an organized doctor and staff in my corner or terrified that he wanted to see me so quickly. As of July 12, 2023 I had a doctor in my corner but still no insurance.
The next two weeks I wrestled with every feeling imaginable. Impatience. Wanting to never know. Debating whether to tell my loved ones and friends where things were at. Admitting that I was struggling with depression and contemplating not speaking with anyone about this life changing event.
July 31, 2023 my 39th birthday. I received what felt like the best birthday present I’ve ever gotten. My insurance ID a day early. I immediately called my doctors office looking for an appointment. They were able to squeeze me in at the end of the day for August 1, 2023.
Meeting my doctor for the first time was like a light shined down on me. He physically examined me and had an ultrasound tech on standby incase he felt something that didn’t match up with the finding I provided nearly a month earlier. The next half an hour him, sister and I spoke about possibilities, treatments and what course of action he’d want to take next and what course of action I’d be willing to take. I put myself in his hands. He was confident we were catching this cancer at the starting line. He was grateful to me for moving as fast as I did and fighting hard right out of the gate to get to him. He said we would best this. Together.
Next steps were blood work and x rays for staging. August 2, 2023 I did blood work. August 3, 2023, did chest x rays.
The rest of that week was agonizing because the doctor had said blood work would tell us initially what we could be looking at as far as course of treatment.
That Friday, August 4, 2023 I woke up to an email from my doctor from his personal email saying he had a full day of surgery ahead of him but he wanted to let me know that my blood work came back clean and consistent with testicular seminoma, which means most likely contained in its early stages of growth. He said they would be moving some things around to get me into surgery ASAP. He also said as soon as he got chest x rays back he’d be reaching out but that with the blood being clean he was pretty positive the chest x rays would show the same. Later that same day I was called by his RN saying that Thursday morning August 10, 2023 was reserved for surgery.
With surgery booked and the diagnosis fairly certain it was time to tell most of my family and friends who didn’t already know. A had a birthday dinner Saturday August 5, 2023. With many friends there that didn’t know any of this had happened I struggled between ruining the night by catching everyone up or just enjoying what I romanticized as what could be my last birthday dinner. I decided to just enjoy the night with my family and friends. I spend the whole next day telling everyone what I had been going through and what was to come.
Telling everyone was very hard to do because lots wondered why I had waited so long and many were now forced to catch up to my level of optimism very quickly. Coaching everyone conversations through the dark thoughts I’d had while feeling alone in this to finally feeling in good hands with my doctor and his team was a journey with every personal I called and spoke with.
It’s a process I will never forget.
August 10, 2023 the morning of surgery. Arrival time 0530 I had a whole team beside me. My mother, sister, girlfriend, father, aunt, one of my best friends (whom we had just lost a friend months back and helped each other through the loss). The nurse was shocked at how many people showed up so early just to hug me and tell me how much I mean to them and how they will be waiting for me on the other side of this.
Laying in the hospital bed during prep listening the a surgery playlist and talking to nurses and singing songs to them from my playlist, I received over 40 text messages from co workers, bosses, friends, family telling me they were with me. I remember asking the nurse if I was a bad person because I didn’t like my playlist getting interrupted. We both had a good laugh. She said she suspected I’d be her fondest patient that day. I appreciated her smile and jokes and continuously asking how I was doing.
She asked about my tattoos and the music I was listening to. I told her I was a career musician for nearly half my life and that music had saved my life and taken me all over the world and that I was listening to the songs that had meant the most to me throughout it all.
Split my final moments before they took with my mother, sister and girlfriend. The last loved ones I may ever see were my mother and sister. They raised me and did a fantastic job at that. I may not be the perfect man, but I am always trying to be better than the day before.
Once in the operating room, all the nurses introduced themselves and said I was going to be just fine. My doctor came over before the anesthesiologist and said “Are you ready? We got this.” I replied “We do.” They all talked me to sleep.
I’m awake. I have survived.
Now I’m in recovery awaiting the next steps and the bills are piling up. I wish I didn’t need it but I am hoping for a little help. Thank you. ❤️