Testicular cancer – Olympian reveals how to handle diagnosis and treatment

Swimmer Nathan Adrian is no stranger to challenges – there were plenty on his way to swimming in three Olympics and winning eight Olympic medals. But in December 2018, at age 30, he encountered a new challenge: a diagnosis of testicular cancer. “Life, like swimming the 100m freestyle, can hit you hard and fast because you can’t always see who or what may be chasing you,” he posted on Instagram after the diagnosis. The cancer was caught and treated. Here, Adrian shares what it’s like to go through diagnosis and treatment and what every man should know about testicular cancer, the most common type of malignant cancer in men in their 20s and 40s.

I’m used to operating in small increments of time. A single hundredth of a second determined the color of my medal and my position on the podium. Speed, power and strength are my priorities. Dedication and determination light the way. But when I was diagnosed with cancer, the clock wasn’t mine, and it wasn’t at the end of a queue. There were no gold medals and no cheering crowds. No amount of hard work could change what I was facing. And nothing happened as fast as I wanted.

In 2018 I noticed that one of my testicles looked different – it was harder, swollen and painful. And it wasn’t excruciating pain. It was right, on a scale of one to ten, maybe five or six. Really, something you could easily overlook. But since the swelling and hardness didn’t go away after about a week, I knew something was wrong. I went to the doctor and he wanted to send me that day for diagnostic tests.

I was only able to have an ultrasound the next morning. Ultrasound technicians are smart enough, but they’re not allowed to read ultrasounds for you. You can just watch them. They look at the ultrasound, take their pictures and you try to read their eyes while they say, “I can’t tell you. I had to wait for the radiologist to read, then call my doctor. That afternoon, on my way to swim practice, my doctor called me and said, “It’s a vascular mass.

I was diagnosed with cancer.

Wait, wait and move on

The first thing I did? Practice. I have a one-sided mind. I want to accomplish what I have decided to do. After that, everything seemed so long, like such a wait. I had to see a specialist, determine treatments, schedule surgery and wait for lab results. Wait, wait and wait. And all the while, I always had the 2020 games on my mind.

Cancer really knocks you down a few notches very quickly. I felt like I was in a certain place, and it worked on swimming. I was stressing out about playing in the water. It sounds so stupid now, but when you’re in it and when you do it, it’s the most important thing in the world. You worry about how many hours of sleep you’re getting and whether it’s going to slow you down. You think about your protein intake and your nutrition. We are taught and trained to really care about these marginal things because they really add up. My gold medal in 2012 was one hundredth of a second. (Read more about Adrian’s life and swimming here.)

And just like that, none of it mattered. I was so thorough and took such good care of my body, and then it gave me away a bit. After the operation, I was back to square one with my training.

I usually swim or train for five hours a day. And here I’m just sitting at home recovering, twiddling my thumbs, feeling like I’m wasting my time. Nothing is more anxiety-provoking than having the impression of stagnating.

Around this time, a buddy and I decided to invest in owning a swimming pool. It was a lifesaver to focus on that. I felt like there was growth in my life, because it wasn’t happening in the pool. It’s so important to recognize that there are just some things in life that you can’t control.

In swimming, I can’t control what other people are doing in the other lanes. I can only control what I do. When I was 13, there was another kid that I used to run over all the time, and I don’t see him for maybe a year. Then all of a sudden he’s there and he’s got a full beard and those massive biceps.

All in one year. And, of course, I think how unfair that is. He destroys me in the water. But he was good. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me. These kinds of moments and lessons are really, really important. And that’s how I felt about cancer.

Your mind matters too

I didn’t want to spend time wondering why I had cancer. Who chose me to go through this? I didn’t want to sit and wonder how this happened to me. This is what happened to me. And I had to stay in the present. I just took it step by step. That’s what I had to do. I took care to spend time with the people I loved, to just be present with them. This company was so important. Otherwise, I would go to dark places. I recognized him. As a man, you have to remember that mental health is really, really important. I had to grow up or move on somehow. Moving forward has to be a specific thing for you. You need to know your values ​​and what fulfills those values ​​in a healthy way.

Your mental health is your physical health, and your physical health is your mental health. Everything is connected, your nervous system and your muscular system. Everything works together. Keep moving forward, even if you don’t feel like it on some days. I had those days. Do something to help yourself, whether it’s mindfulness meditation or simply taking times out of the day to take stock of how you’re feeling today or if your body is tired. How did you get there and what can you do to get to a place where you want to be? It may be in your job performance. It can be in the weight room, in the pool, or whatever is important to you.

Nathan Adrian competing in 2021, years after diagnosis.

Andy LyonsGetty Images

What every man needs to know about testicular cancer now

You have to know your mind and you have to know your body. As we navigate Testicular Cancer Awareness Month in April, get to know yourself. Know when something is wrong. Don’t wait to check it out, things get much more complex when you wait.

Testicular cancer is treatable. We got here through cancer research. Thirty or forty years ago, I would not have had this result. My operation would have been much more complex, I would probably have undergone radiotherapy and I would have crossed my fingers. It’s not like that today.

I am an ambassador for the V Foundation. Places like the V Foundation for Cancer Research are changing so much in the field of cancer. I think the V Foundation is special: 100% of the money it raises goes to support researchers working to make cancers treatable.

I’m back in the pool and have a wonderful wife and one year old daughter. I never take my mental or physical health for granted – I enjoy it daily and focus on improving it in every way possible. Speed ​​helped me win gold medals. And the waiting I was forced to do taught me patience and discipline in a new way.

I keep moving forward.

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