Tim Marr – My testicular cancer Experience. 2018 to 2020.
At 31 years old my right testicle was removed in November 2018 after noticing a small pea sized lump. After the operation the C.T scans and blood tests were all clear up until February 2019 when chemotherapy was necessary. I had to go through three rounds of chemotherapy and the total treatment time was nine weeks. The drugs were a combination of Bleomycin, etoposide, and cisplatin. Each three week round consisted of five days in a row of IV treatment lasting 4 hours each day. Then the second week, one day of IV treatment lasting 1 hour. Then the third week, one day of IV treatment lasting 1 hour. Each week seemed to get harder and in the last few weeks it became difficult to stay motivated. The main side effects I experienced were being nauseous a lot of the time, becoming extremely tired every afternoon, developing multiple fevers over the weeks, developing a cough and shortness of breath towards the end weeks, and becoming emotionless and not feeling myself anymore. In early 2020 more CT scans discovered that one of my lymph nodes was still enlarged after the chemotherapy treatment and I was admitted for robotic pelvic lymph node dissection on the 29th of May 2020. This operation to remove my lymph nodes was successful and I was discharged from hospital the next day.
In September 2018 I remember feeling a lump smaller than the size of a pea on my right testicle while in the shower. I was scared about going to the doctor about it and did not mention it to anyone. I just hoped it would go away. I started to compulsively check it days after and also look online. This was probably the worst thing to do now that I look back on it and I should have gone to the doctors straight away. Eventually a few weeks later the lump seemed to have gotten bigger, so I finally went to the doctor. An ultrasound and blood test confirmed my worst nightmare and I was booked into surgery to remove my testicle later that week. My recovery from surgery was quick and I was already preparing for the next stage of this journey. If tumour markers in my blood tests were elevated and CT scans showed enlarged lymph nodes, then chemotherapy would most likely be the next step.
In February 2019 I remember driving to my appointment to find out the results from my blood test and CT scan. These results would determine whether or not I would have to go through Chemotherapy. I remember thinking to myself that this next moment could be the start of an extremely challenging time in my life, something that I was definitely not familiar with.
I was listening to David Goggins' audiobook 'Can't Hurt me' on the way to the hospital and I tried to match his strong mindset. He is a truly inspirational person. I'm not sure what my mindset would be like right now if I hadn't have come across his audiobook and discovered him last year on Joe Rogan's podcast. I definitely would not have had the ability to deal with this kind of struggle with the same attitude. Devastating news like this can really be a good thing if you have a positive outlook on the situation. You can use moments like these to strengthen your mind and help you to grow and adapt. I now feel that if you choose to go through something challenging in life or if it's forced upon you like this was, then you can use the experience to your advantage.
After the news I received that afternoon I was terrified and could not stop crying but knew I couldn't be like this and needed to combat my fear and stop feeling sorry for myself because I knew that it would get me nowhere.
My girlfriend Georgie and my Mum were there every step of the way. They helped out with appointments and made the whole experience a lot easier. Georgie was there for emotional support and I’m not sure how I would have coped without her being around all the time. The chemotherapy made me feel empty and emotionless. I was not myself at all and she was there the whole time dealing with me. I am so appreciative.
That day I decided that I would not stop running long distances and organised a workout plan. I made sure to keep active everyday and eventually made it through 9 weeks of intense chemotherapy. Every single day I made the conscious effort to do a weight training workout for 30 minutes or more and also at least 20 minutes of cardio no matter how bad I was feeling. Most days I could work out for longer than the minimum I had set out for myself and I didn't have to limit the weight lifting workout. I noticed that I would get very light headed and I could handle fewer sets as I proceeded further into my treatment. I made sure to workout early in the morning before a fresh dose of chemotherapy was circulating in my body because after those brutal 4 to 5 hour days, all I could do was nap and do very little around the house. I found that by sweating and moving my body I was able to feel less lethargic and think a lot clearer. The nausea seemed to not be as bad after a good workout. I kept my normal long runs at the same distance but had to run a bit less than I usually would during the week. Towards the end of treatment I developed a bad cough and shortness of breath so running was becoming a lot harder for me. Four weeks after my last chemotherapy session I was able to run 44km’s along the Great Ocean road in Melbourne, Victoria for the marathon event with my good mate, Wes.
I will always look back at this part of my life and think if I could do all these things throughout this exhausting treatment then why can't I do more now while I'm healthy? This was life changing news and my mind is stronger for it.
One thing that I found helpful throughout this experience was avoiding researching other people's negative experiences with this type of chemotherapy because I did not want to get depressed about what might not even happen to me. I have now read many stories about how bad some people had to suffer through their treatment and I did experience many of the same side effects as them but I feel lucky to have been able to keep active throughout. I would say the best thing to do during this treatment is to keep exercising, working up a sweat and eating healthily. Working out was the greatest tool in dealing with side effects and there is substantial evidence and research suggesting how beneficial it is to keep active throughout.
If you keep your mind in a positive state and have encouraging people around you then you can get through this kind of chemotherapy a lot easier and even end up with some invaluable life lessons afterwards.
In December 2019, after CT scans my doctor discovered that one of my lymph nodes was still enlarged after the chemotherapy treatment and I was admitted for robotic pelvic lymph node dissection on the 29th of May 2020. At the start of the new year in 2020 I decided I would train to do a 100km run before my surgery. My mindset was much stronger after chemotherapy and I knew this would be an achievable challenge now. On the 4th Of April 2020 I ran around Braeside Park until I reached 100km’s in 12 hours and 38 minutes. I donated $10 for each km I completed to Peter MacCallum Cancer Foundation.
Now that I’m currently recovering from surgery, I plan to complete a 100km run in November this year to raise money for Movember. The plan is to run at Lysterfield lake park. Everyone is welcome to get involved and it doesn’t matter how far you run. You can nominate an amount for each kilometre you complete or you can just donate a set amount. If you feel like donating on behalf of my run then I would be very appreciative!
Donate to my Movember challenge -
First day of chemo VS Last day of chemo
Update - 30/06/2020
It is now a little over 4 weeks since my surgery to remove my lymph nodes in my abdomen. The surgeon recommended that I stick to a no/low fat diet for the first 4 weeks to reduce the risk of a rare complication called chylous ascites. There is a small possibility that fluid rich in lipids could leak into my abdominal cavity and that would require me going back to hospital to have a drain inserted into my abdomen to remove the fluids. Eating fatty foods could cause this so I have stuck to the diet and so far it has been horrible. I have lost 10kg, I feel weak and I have absolutely no energy. Any food that I eat causes a bloated stomach and there seems to be no relief. Doctors have told me to just give it more time and my digestive system will get back to normal. I was also told that I'm having such a hard time breathing because my bloated stomach is pushing on my diaphragm.
After a lot of research into the carnivore diet I have decided to start today. The goal is to be able to eat without getting bloated and reduce my IBS symptoms, which seemed to have gotten much worse.
Many of the research articles I was looking at can be found here - https://meatrx.com/category/research-articles/
Update - 20/10/2020
It is now 16 weeks of being on the carnivore diet and everything feels great. I have zero bloating and IBS issues now. Training has gone to plan and my body has become adapted to fuelling itself from the animal fat I consume. I have also noticed that I have a lot less inflammation in my knees and general recovery after long training runs is a lot easier. I don't plan on changing anything for the big run planned in November.
4 weeks after surgery VS 16 weeks after surgery
Update - 23/11/2020
I'm happy to announce that on the 20th of November I completed 100km's at Lysterfield Lake, Melbourne, VIC. I started at around 8PM and ran / hiked through the night until 8AM the next morning. I would like to thank everyone for the generous donations and support!