A man smiles for a photo while sitting in a barber chair
"Because of Movember, I was more aware of testicular cancer."Image by: Daniel Jahangard
A man smiles for a photo while sitting in a barber chair
1 April 2024

Brian’s story: Going to the doctor might save your life

5 minutes read time

When I first got involved with Movember

I first got involved with Movember 12 years ago. I’ve always enjoyed the moustaches, being active, playing sports, being healthy, and hanging with the buddies. When I first joined it wasn’t for a deeper reason than rocking the goofy moustache with my buddies for the month. But as time went on, the mission took on deeper meaning for me. I recognized that men’s health needed to be brought into the light and wanted to raise more awareness. While Movember was about the camaraderie of team building and the fun of our annual Barbell Bash, at the end of the day, it’s a great cause, with a great message behind it. As I’ve gotten older, and with education from Movember, you start to learn that cancer effects young men, which really hits home. It can impact anyone at any time.

How testicular cancer changed my perspective

I’m in the fitness and health space, so I used to think it was my duty or job to be a role model that promotes cancer awareness, cancer prevention, healthy lifestyle and balance with the buddies. When I was diagnosed with testicular cancer, it sort of led me to shift this message. I wanted to show how it’s not necessarily the end of the world, and how you can still live a healthy, active lifestyle, all while looking out for your health.

Because of Movember, I was more aware of testicular cancer, and my risk as a young man. I was aware of how important it was to do self-checkups and early diagnosis, but I didn’t have any immediate family history, so it still came as a shock.

I knew something wasn’t normal just based on irregularity in size, which led to some discomfort. I knew I wanted to handle it right away. As an athlete, I’ve always been in tune with my body. I knew how things were supposed to feel or not feel. So, I knew something wasn’t right and that I had to go get it checked out.

My experience going to the doctor

I was working in professional hockey at the time. When I called in to say I wasn’t coming in that day, I brought up what was going on and that I needed to go hear from a doctor. Everyone was super supportive. They didn’t jump to conclusions. The locker room was a safe space to talk about our lives and our health. I got a recommendation from my boss at the time to go to his urologist. That day, I skated before the appointment. I don’t think I had lunch either, but I don’t think it would have mattered. The doctor gave me the news that I had testicular cancer and some future steps, but I don’t remember it at all, because the room just went dark. When I came to, I was on the bed, and the doctor ran me through what came next: a biopsy, surgery, and chemotherapy.

It starts to get blurry now when I think back on the specifics of chemo.I just remember feeling out of place. Here I am, I was young and fit. I had just taken my first professional strength and conditioning job in the American Hockey League, and a month in, I get diagnosed and have to take a leave of absence. I tried to keep a smile on my face – I’m sure many of the folks there had it way worse and had been dealing with it for much longer.

Going through a cancer diagnosis

During that time, I tried to stay in good spirits and brush it off as best I could. I still trained. I have a Google doc that I created at the time that showed what I did each day for my workouts. Some days were good, others I shaded brown when I just didn't have the energy to exercise. I was glad that it had happened to me, and not say, my parents, because of my age, health, and survival rate.

But as I’ve gotten older, I realize how serious it was and how much worse it could have been for me and my loved ones. I’ve grown up since then and have become more comfortable sharing my experience thanks to Movember and its resources. I’m just super grateful that I was able to get through it and for the next chapter in my life to begin.

I really pull from that experience, even in the mundane moments. For example, if I don’t feel like training, I think back to when there were days during treatment that I wanted to work out, but I couldn’t. I’m very grateful for my fitness and for the ability to move my body and express my athleticism. Whether it’s at work or in my personal life, my experience has taught me that I can do hard things and that I have survived worse, I tell myself, “It’s fine. You’ve got all your hair, a healthy body, and the sun’s still gonna rise.”

My message to other guys

It’s not really in my personality to be like “Look at me! I did this! Rah rah rah!” about cancer. Because that’s not how you feel when you have it. Cancer doesn’t deserve that.

But I am passionate about starting conversations about health. Knowing what's normal and going to the doctor are both critical to being a healthy young male. In addition to scheduling annual check-ups at the doctor, having a support system that consists of friends and family is so important. Having that baseline and being able to notice if there are irregularities is key so that you know to talk to someone and go to the doctor. It might feel difficult, or you might not like it, but it's going to pay off in the end, right? Or who knows, it might save your life.