AP Strong: Senior recalls third year since diagnosis of testicular cancer

By Maddie Palmersheim

It was Dec. 6, 2013, when current senior Adison Pace entered the doctor’s office for what he thought to be a typical sports physical, but during his regimented routine, his doctor noticed what turned out to be testicular cancer.

At the young age of 15, the idea of cancer seemed surreal to Pace. Even more so, being diagnosed with cancer caused a mess of questions: What does this mean? Why me?

“My mom picked me up from school. We went to the doctor for what I thought was going to be a routine sports physical. During the appointment, the doctor said he noticed a lump on my right testicle. He originally said it would be fine, but the only word I can use to describe how I felt was scared,” Pace said.

For a few moments, Pace sat in a pile nerves waiting for his mother to re-enter the room and for doctor to give further instructions.

Pace said, “I vividly remember her saying, ‘You look like you just saw a ghost.’ I didn’t have time to answer before the doctor came back in. Everything went so fast.”

For the following hours, Pace would be taking ultrasounds and tests to determine whether or not he had cancer, and if it had spread.

Pace said, “After the tests at the ultrasound office, the original doctor called my family and asked us to come back. Nothing was said, but it finally set in that something was wrong. I knew the doctor wouldn’t be calling us back to say everything was fine.”

Despite the plethora of nerves exerted from both Adison and his parents, the wait for results left everyone in silence anticipating the confirmation of an answer they already knew.

“As soon as the doctor came in, he cut right to chase. ‘We got the results back. It does look like this is testicular cancer,’” Pace said.

While the results set a new reality in for Pace’s parents, it only caused further confusion for the young teen.

Pace said, “My mom was sitting to my right, and she immediately started crying. I felt sick to my stomach. My dad to my left started asking so many questions. I sat there absorbing their reactions. I was confused. It didn’t make sense to me at the time. I didn’t understand what it meant.”

Despite poor news, the doctor was quick to identify positive light onto Pace and his family.

“More results came back, and they said it has not spread. We all joined in for a group hug. I remember the doctor interrupting everyone. He said, ‘You caught it as soon as you almost humanly possibly could. You should seriously buy a lottery ticket, and though it doesn’t look like it right now, this is probably the luckiest day of your life,’” Pace said.

Amongst the chaos, Pace soon had tucked away the thoughts and returned back to everyday life as he prepped for his Friday night basketball game with his teammates.

“I was supposed to be back to school and then to my basketball game later that night. My phone had been blowing up with messages, and I told my teammates the appointment was just taking too long. Eventually I received a call from one my friends asking me where I was. I knew I needed to tell him then and there,” Pace said.

Support from Pace’s teammates united them as a team that night, but also left Pace feeling in an unusual placement he was not familiar with.

Pace said,“Before I arrived back at school, all these texts started rolling in and telling me to stay strong. I arrived back at Peet during my middle of my coach’s pregame talk. As soon as I entered the door, everyone started clapping. After the talk ended, I remember huddling up for a quick prayer led by my friend.  In real life, I felt uncomfortable, but I felt like they didn’t know how to respond and neither did I.”

For the following hours of the night, Pace decided to leave all thoughts behind and become present with the game and his team.

“I decided I was going to try to focus on the game and not what I had happened previously. I needed a quick break from reality,” Pace said.

Pace’s ability to push thoughts aside would soon be interrupted as he and his family would be meeting doctors and preparing for surgery.

Pace said, “The next few days I had to go up to Iowa City to schedule surgeries and talk to the doctors. The four days were a complete blur. The surgery did go well, but it all felt pretty surreal.”

Despite a successful surgery, potential cautions remained for Pace and his family.

Pace said, “After the surgery the doctors told me we caught it early, but they said that there was vascular invasion, which means it was starting to spread. They said there was a 70 percent chance I was cancer free. However, they said that it could come back in another place where it wouldn’t be as easy as ‘cutting it off.’ My options were doing chemo or lymph node surgery to prevent the spread of cancer in other body parts. Otherwise, I could risk my chances.”

The answer to whether or not he should take the intense precautions left Pace and his family in a difficult place. The correct solution did not appear definite for Pace.

“It was something that we had to talk about for a long time. We definitely did research on it and talked to doctors who could help make a decision. We decided not to do chemo or further surgery, but monitor. It started with blood work every six weeks and scans every three-four months. Today I do blood work twice a year and scans twice a year,” Pace said.

Though there remains a small chance that Pace’s cancer could return, maintaining a positive outlook is the only thing concerning him.

Pace said, “I am not worried about it coming back. I came to realize that if it should come back, there is nothing I can currently do. Why would I worry about it? If it came back, I am just going to have to deal with it, and it will be OK.”

Amongst an unusual experience for Pace, the important lesson of change he learned will carry with him as he continues throughout life.

Pace said, “You never know when everything is going to change. Cancer could come back tomorrow, and life would be different. Or you could get hit by a bus, and everything could be different. Worrying about things you can’t prevent causes you to lose being in the moment and present.”

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.