By Torsten Koehler
Finding a lump was easy. Going to the doctor saved my life! I had testicular cancer in 1995 at the age of 30.
The evening when the doctor phoned to tell me it was an aggressive cancer and that they had to remove my right testis the next morning, was the moment my life shattered into a million pieces. Signing a form that says: removal of right testis was a nightmare!
I’ve been through the whole programme – my health and emotions were on a roller coaster: surgery, chemotherapy, self-destructing thoughts and depression turned me into a miserable person. Slowly I was losing my energy and I was unable to cope with my work, colleagues and friends.
I made a bucket list when I was waiting for my results after the surgery. It felt like time was running out. I wrote down places I would love to see before I died. The fear that the cancer would return was constantly on my mind. I gave up all my secure living. Resigned as teacher, sold my car and backpacked the world for two years, just to come to rest with the cancer.
A long journey – around the world and back to myself. I undertook an intensive, spiritual examination of the eternal question concerning life and death. During these two years I travelled to all the destinations that I had put on my bucket list when I wasn’t sure whether I would survive the cancer: helicopter ride over Manhattan, active volcano in Hawaii, Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco, Macchu Picchu, Great Barrier Reef, Glaciers in Chile…. Travelling to all the places on my bucket list was the best thing I ever did. Giving wings to my desire! Having dreams and aims in life and fulfilling them! My zest for life returned. I returned to Namibia and started teaching again.
The youngest guy diagnosed with testicular cancer that I met was 12 years old. When I started teaching again I thought I have to warn these boys that pass me every day on the passage. They don’t know that they are at risk because nobody talks about it. Every year I used one of my biology lessons to tell them what happened to me and that they should check for lumps once a month. A few years later a former student of mine invited me for coffee and said: “Because you made me aware, I went to the doctor in time. I’ve got testicular cancer too. I’m 16 and you saved my life.”
This incident with my former student motivated me to start the foundation “Love your Nuts - Testicular Cancer Education in a Nutshell”. My goal is to raise awareness of testicular cancer by educating communities about the ‘rarely spoken about’ cancer that often remains undetected in young adults due to the diverse society in South Africa, where cultural taboos, stigmas and lack of knowledge about the subject is plentiful.
We believe that no men would die of testicular cancer if they knew about this cancer and were aware of how to prevent it.
Boys and men die for the following two reasons:
During puberty the body changes. Boys feel lumps, but think it is part of growing up. So they think it will go away. If they knew that it could be cancer their lives could have been saved!
Men feel the lumps but find it too embarrassing to go to the doctor. If they knew that it could be cancer their lives could have been saved.
If we can bring awareness to all boys and men at an early stage in their lives, they will be saved. Knowledge and early detection is the best weapon against cancer!
What we do
We visit schools, corporates, sport clubs, events and educate males about testicular cancer (most common in the age group 15 to 40) in a humorous way. We raise awareness, especially through running and cycling events. Feel free to contact us if you like to be part of the Nuts Team and raise awareness and funds. We support testicular cancer patients emotionally by connecting them with survivors. It is easier to share your thoughts and fears with someone that has “been there” than with those who don’t understand your diagnosis.
Give wings to your desire!
My aim is to make men aware of testicular cancer and I like to encourage cancer patients not to give up! I like to encourage every person to give wings to their desire!