A man, holding his baby, walks on the beach with his wife, toddler, and 2 dogs
Mo Bro Chris Ho and his familyImage by: My City Photos
A man, holding his baby, walks on the beach with his wife, toddler, and 2 dogs
5 April 2023

Chris’ story: What testicular cancer taught me about gratitude

Chris Ho
5 minutes read time

It was the Fall of 2013 in Vancouver, I remember those days as if it were yesterday. I just proposed to my fiancé that June, my fiancé was running her own dream business and I just entered into a new exciting career in technology sales. We had just moved in together in a downtown apartment living the young, hustling life in our early 30’s And then there was that shower I took, one evening in October that changed everything.

“That feels…off,” I thought to myself as I showered, soaped myself and felt a little bump sticking out alongside my right testicle. I’ve felt bumps, body pimples, cuts throughout my body in the past and thought nothing of it. Most resolved on their own, but this bump felt a bit different. More pronounced and hard to the touch. I didn’t worry at first and went straight to Dr. Google. A cyst, herpes, or a cancer tumour were the results that came up. “It’s probably nothing,” I thought, but I still made an appointment with my new found family doctor to get things checked out.

“It’s probably just a cyst, but let’s get you an ultrasound anyways.” I felt a sense of relief after hearing those words and also a sense of accomplishment. I remember the ultrasound technician examining me in their room, deadly quiet and spending what felt like eternity examining this ‘cyst’.

Shortly after, I received a call from my Doctor. saying he’d like to refer me to a urologist to chat over my results. He didn’t share with me anything else and said this doctor would be able to go over the results in more detail. Back to Dr. Google I went and looked up what a urologist was.

“Probably still just a cyst,” I thought, as I headed into my appointment to meet my urologist for the first time. As I entered the room and we shared small talk, he quickly moved towards examining me. After 5 seconds of examining my testicle he uttered the words – I’ll never forget – “Oh that’s cancer alright.” I almost dropped to the ground after hearing those words. The next thing I remember was sitting beside the booking clerk, scheduling my surgery in the next couple of weeks.

What followed was a successful surgery in October of that year to remove my right testicle. Recovery was quick and I was back at it with a sense of relief. I went in for my first abdominal CT scan in November and I was called back into the urologist that December to see how things were after my surgery.

“We found another lump. It’s big. It’s wrapped around your right adrenal gland and we think it might be a cancer spread. We’ll have to remove your right adrenal gland, possibly your right kidney and parts of your liver. If we don’t get this out soon, you will die.”

That was our Christmas of 2013.

What followed was another successful surgery and luckily they were able to take the tumour and right adrenal out, while saving my kidney and liver in my body. Even better news followed a few weeks later after a call from my Doctor told me the tumour they took from my right adrenal gland was benign.

Since then, my life changed forever in my eyes. Prior to this, the only reference I had about testicular cancer was hearing about Lance Armstrong and his ‘heroic’ journey through cancer. Only to learn that he had waited far too long before seeking medical help to address his tumour. In regards to my physical health, I completely changed the way I approached my life. I paid attention to the things that I ate, the things that I drank and put exercise at the forefront. I’m now 2 years sober and more clear than ever before. This wasn’t to say I didn’t prior to this experience, but it became more of a central piece in my life.

The biggest change in my life came around my mental health. During these years I saw several therapists, was hypnotized twice, met with spiritual counsellors and coaches. I even became a certified coach in the process. More importantly, I spent a lot of time learning more about myself. Specifically how to deal with my emotions and how to communicate, most importantly with my partner, who stood courageously by my side all those years. I continue to focus on my inner work and try to get better, each and every single day. By learning how to deal with and embrace my emotions – honouring those that serve me, and quietly letting go of the ones that don’t. I continue to self reflect, meditate and journal as part of my daily practice to this day.

Unfortunately, cancer came back, although this time it arrived at my dad’s doorstep. In November 2016 I remember getting a call from my dad asking for me to come over to have a chat. There he told me he had stage 4 lung cancer and was already under treatment. This was the first time I saw my dad cry. I came home shortly after to share the news with my wife. After we embraced and let our emotions settle down, she then shared with me that she was pregnant with our first child. The circle of life in its purest form. My dad passed away in April of 2018, shortly after meeting his first grandson.

At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, cancer came knocking on my door once again. After another routine ultrasound check up they found that there was another lump growing on my remaining testicle. I was then whisked away for surgery to remove my last testicle, shortly after my partner and I decided to try for a second child. Now, on full testosterone replacement therapy, along with other steroids to balance my remaining adrenal gland, I was back in a healthy place. In 2021, through the sole courage of my wife and the science of IVF, we were gifted our second son in December of 2021.

When looking back at my story, I can’t help but feel a sense of gratitude and appreciation. Prior to this I made the mistake of assuming we know how our story on this planet is going to end. We don’t and every day we have is exactly that, a present. With that I learned that while we are here on this planet it’s up to us, and only us to take care of ourselves, physically and mentally. This means daily check ups when things are off or seeing a professional when your mind isn’t feeling quite right. There is so much that life is waiting to give you. It’s up to us to make sure we’re in the best shape to receive it.

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