“Pay attention to your body. Don’t put it off. Your body is your best friend, and it’s usually right.”
Young, active men tend to view the world, and their health, through a lens of invincibility. An ache here. A pain there. All part of being young and pushing one’s physical limits, until it’s something more serious.
“I thought it was just a pulled groin muscle,” says Malachi Fisher. Easy to dismiss, thought the 31-year-old Del Rio, TX resident. A young man in his prime, Fisher plays multiple sports and is an avid boater and fisherman. He’s also a newlywed with a physically demanding job and a student working toward a master’s degree. Sore bodies and fatigue go with the territory. “Then I noticed a strange lump and firmness. And it wasn’t going away.”
A visit to his doctor and an ultrasound the next day confirmed Fisher’s suspicions. There was a growing mass on his right testicle, and his physician recommended immediate surgery. Two days later, Fisher’s right testicle was removed, and testing confirmed that the mass had been malignant.
Testicular cancer is the most common cancer among men between the ages of 15 and 34. Though relatively rare, it can be debilitating or deadly if not detected early. It is a particularly fast-moving cancer with a tendency to spread to other parts of the body quickly, including nearby lymph nodes.
Although Fisher and his physicians were optimistic early detection had saved the day in his case, he was encouraged to seek additional consultation from the experts at UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center.
“What came next just felt like a whirlwind, says Fisher.”
In San Antonio, Fisher met oncologist Javier Hernandez, MD, a specialist in male genitourinary cancers. “Malachi had a unique situation. Everyone thought the cancer had been caught quickly enough and that he was clear. Then we noticed something on his CT scans – the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes,” recalls Dr. Hernandez. “He was disappointed, naturally, but then I said, ‘Let’s do the right thing and get this taken care of right away.’
Over the following couple of days, and knowing the time-sensitive nature of Fisher's diagnosis, the team at UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson whisked Fisher from appointment to appointment. Within a week, Fisher had already begun the first of four 5-day cycles of chemotherapy.
At the same time, and at every step along the way, Fisher’s care team provided thorough information about his condition, testing, treatments, expected outcomes, and the plan for his care. “The education and resources have been great. It’s not a guessing game. That alleviated a lot of worry for me. I knew everything at the same time as my doctors,” Fisher says.
Armed with knowledge and full confidence in his care, Fisher recalls feeling his initial anxieties subside. “I remember thinking I have an issue, it’s very treatable, and I’m in the right place. What do I have to worry about?”
Fisher’s positive attitude has been bolstered, in no small part he says, by his oncology team’s ability to effectively manage the side effects of his treatment. “I lost my hair. That was a little tough. Other than that, really, I have never felt bad. Just a little tired sometimes, and my appetite has been good. I’ve been able to keep working and keep up with my MBA program the whole time. And I’ve even been able to exercise and get out on the boat, which has boosted my confidence while I’ve gone through treatment.”
The support of his family, Fisher says, has also been a great help. “My wife has been very supportive, and her parents have covered the cost of a nice, comfortable hotel when I have to go to San Antonio for treatment. That has been a big relief. It feels more like a getaway than a burden. I’m really grateful.”
As of June 2019, Fisher is expected to complete treatment and receive an “all-clear” from his physicians. The entire process, from the initial diagnosis to final testing has taken barely four months, a reminder, both Fisher and Dr. Hernandez say, of the critical importance of early detection and rapid treatment when it comes to testicular cancer.
“I am really happy with the care and concern I’ve received from everyone in San Antonio,” says Fisher. “But I know it could have turned out differently. Pay attention to your body. Don’t put it off. Your body is your best friend, and it’s usually right.”
To learn more about the family of experts at UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson, or to schedule an appointment, visit UTHealthsaMDAnderson.org or call 210-450-1000.