My name is Justin Birckbichler. I am a pretty average guy who relocated to Virginia after living in Pennsylvania for 22 years. I am white, in my twenties, slightly above average in height and weight, have brown, spiked hair and blue eyes, and have a tendency to wear sleeveless shirts and shorts year round. I've been a fourth grade teacher since 2013 and love working with kids.
In October 2016, I felt a suspicious lump on my testicle while performing a routine self-exam in the shower. Best done during or after a shower when the scrotum is relaxed, a self-exam is a quick and effective way to catch testicular cancer early on. Just place your index and middle fingers under the testicle with your thumb on top. Firmly but gently, roll the testicle between your fingers. Any weird lumps or bumps should be checked out by a doctor, like I did just a few days later.
After a few medical tests and doctors’ visits, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer, at the ripe old age of 25. While cancer definitely sucks, I decided to approach my diagnosis and impending journey with a humorous and positive attitude. This dedication to humor was so important to me that it led to my creation of my testicular cancer awareness site, A Ballsy Sense of Tumor.
Anyone who has faced cancer can tell you that a diagnosis includes a ton of medical imaging, whether it’s X-Rays, CT scans, PET scans, or any other sort of acronym for radiation penetrating your body for a look at what’s under the hood.
I was very fortunate that I was able to do all of my medical imaging in the same facility. Normally, visiting that sort of place would be a buzzkill, but two of the funniest moments of my cancer journey occurred in nearly the same room at the office.
About a week after my orchiectomy (the surgery to remove the cancerous testicle - certainly not a ball of a surgery), I had my first set of images taken to stage my cancer, which had been confirmed a day earlier. Still recovering from the pain of surgery, I was wheeled into the intake room and asked a series of medical history questions.
The nurse asked, “Do you smoke?”
“Do you drink?”
“Any history of diabetes or heart disease?”
“Have you ever been diagnosed with cancer?”
I paused for a moment before responding. After I felt there had been enough dramatic wait time, I replied, “Yes, yesterday I was.”
She looked a little taken aback and apologized. I said there was no need for this, and she commented that I seemed to be taking it well. It all went back to the mindset I had adopted. I could have admonished her for not looking closely at my chart, or laughed it off and realized I literally only had one chance to do that ever.
A few months later, I returned to the facility for another set of scans. This set was after I had completed chemotherapy and was in remission status.
While there, the nurse asked if I was experiencing any new pain or symptoms. I had been experiencing some slight discomfort in my scrotum, but was pretty sure it was due to anxiety stemming from my scan. Nonetheless, I’ve learned that less isn’t more when it comes to medical issues, so I shared that information with the nurse. “Is the pain in your right or left testicle?”
Again, I felt a dramatic pause was needed. I also had to verify that the nurse wasn’t the same one from before. “Well ma’am, I only have one…” She blushed and apologized profusely. Again, it didn’t bother me. I’ve become accustomed to being the Uniballer. I simply laughed and realized that now this imaging center has given me two great stories to tell.