November 25th, 2019

'No less of a man': Nathan Adrian

Olympic swimmer Nathan Adrian on his testicular cancer diagnosis and the importance of early detection.
Real Stories | Testicular Cancer

The way I approach life has been taught through swimming.

If there's something not going your way then there's probably something you can do about it. But with a cancer diagnosis there’s only so much you can control. That element of lost control was a lot to swallow for me.

It was the beginning of winter in 2018 and I had brushed up against myself. Most guys can attest that this usually hurts, but this hurt a little more than it should have. I realized that my testicle was swollen and hard. It wasn't normal. That's when I knew something was wrong and decided I needed to go in to the doctor.

My ultrasound came back and confirmed I had a mass that was vascularized. I got the news that I had testicular cancer. Shortly after, I went through surgery to get one of my testicles removed.

credit: getty images 

I had just gotten married. We had just bought a house. This wasn't part of the plan. But there are going to be a lot of things in life that you can control and then there's going to be things like this that you can't.

A lot was going through my mind: anxiety, sadness, fear. It wasn't hopelessness, but it was just this powerlessness. My job is to be healthy and this still happened. Fortunately for me there were a lot of people that were really, really supportive.

There is this huge stigma around testicular cancer. Men have this direct correlation equivocating their masculinity to having two testicles i.e. ‘grow a pair.’ Well, I don't have a pair anymore. I only have one. I think that the way to break that down is to do exactly what we're doing right now and talking about it

“I don't feel like any less of a man because I have one testicle.”

I don't feel like any less of a man because I have one testicle. And because I did go see the doctor when I did and did catch it early my outcome was eventually going to be okay.

We had already put in a lot of work into getting to Tokyo 2020 so there was no doubt that eventually after going through treatment I was going to at least give it a try. I still like to think that I can still improve.

There are so many people that come to me saying things like ‘man, it's cool that you're like able to show others that you can get back on it and not let this alter or change what your dreams are.’ Hopefully others can look and what I'm doing and be a little bit inspired by it too.