Being in tune with our bodies is important for many reasons. It's how we get in touch with our feelings, decipher our wants and determine our needs both physically and mentally.
The intuition that comes with knowing your body — what's normal and what's not — can be life-saving. Canadian beach volleyball player, Grant O'Gorman, knows this better than most.
Testicular cancer is the number one most commonly diagnosed cancer among young men aged 18-35. While the outcome for men with testicular cancer is often positive, early detection continues to be key. If it's caught early, it's both treatable and curable, but 62% of men who are most at risk don't know how to check themselves for warning signs. Men's health charity, Movember, is on a mission to change that.
By spreading awareness and educating men on how to self-examine at home, and encouraging them to get to a doctor if something doesn't seem right, this charity is leading a conversation that aims to change how men approach their health.
Since April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, Movember is teaming up with this young cancer survivor to spread the word.
In 2019, Vancouver-based Grant felt like a superhero. The then 25-year-old Olympic hopeful went from representing Canada at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour to being completely blindsided by a chilling cancer diagnosis.
Now, he's working with Movember to tell his story and help educate others on the risks of testicular cancer.
No matter your age or how healthy you are, Grant says it's crucial to be aware of your body and to go see a doctor if anything seems off: "You might think you're super healthy, but trust me, I was the healthiest guy and it happened to me."
In an exclusive interview with Narcity, Grant opens up about his personal journey and offers advice to young men.
Questions and responses have been edited for clarity.
Tell us about your journey with testicular cancer. When were you diagnosed and how did you find out?
"In the middle of 2019, my teammate Ben Saxton and I were at the world championships representing Canada, and I noticed that my nipple was feeling a little weird. I thought maybe I dove and scratched it or something. But a couple of weeks later, it started to get bigger. When I squeezed it, liquid came out, and I thought that was super weird.
When I got back to Canada, I went to the doctor and had an ultrasound done on my nipple. Nothing came up. They couldn't figure out what was going on.
I went to a couple of different doctors, and finally one of them suggested I get an ultrasound of my testicles, and that's where they found it. I was diagnosed with testicular cancer."
In what must have seemed like the blink of an eye, you went from being a healthy professional athlete to someone dealing with cancer. What was that like, and how did being diagnosed change you?
"I've always been very strong and healthy as an athlete. The discomfort in my nipple didn't affect my playing, so I thought I was totally fine.
But when they told me, 'You have cancer, you have to get surgery to get this removed,' I remember thinking, 'Why is this happening to me? How is this happening to me? I'm healthy and strong. I do everything I need to for my body.'
Being an athlete, I always felt like a superhero, and as soon as this happened, I just felt vulnerable."
What treatment did you have, and did you fully understand the support available to you?
"I just had my right testicle removed — I didn't have to get chemotherapy or anything else. Luckily, it hadn't spread.
Support-wise, I was lucky to have my whole Volleyball Canada team. I have a psychologist available to speak with me whenever I need, a physiotherapist, my teammate, and my wife, Isabela, so I was okay.
It was the start of the COVID-19 pandemic though, so we were sort of isolated from everyone, which made it a little bit tougher."
What do you wish you had known then that you know now?
"I wish I'd known to really be aware of my body and if something is off — even if it's a small thing — to get it checked out right away. Knowing your body is crucial.
Also, never be shy to go to the doctor, even if you think it's embarrassing. I probably wouldn't have gone to the doctor if my wife hadn't made me go, and then the cancer could have spread more."
For many men, it can be uncomfortable to talk about topics like this. What have you found is the general attitude towards testicular cancer among your peers, and how are you working to change perceptions and raise awareness?
"It's important to realize that there is nothing to be embarrassed about. It's a health issue. It's about remaining healthy and alive. You shouldn't be shy about it.
I was never really nervous to tell my friends or anyone, but I think if I was younger I probably would have because it's a very private area.
The main thing is checking yourself regularly, or if you're someone who wants to keep your partner or someone in your life safe, be sure to tell them to check themselves.
If you detect it early, you might only have to get the surgery, as I did. If not, it could be worse."
What is one piece of advice you have for newly diagnosed men, and one piece of advice for men in general?
"If you've recently been diagnosed with testicular cancer, know that there are a lot of other people who have gone through it. I spoke to another beach volleyball player who also had testicular cancer in the past, and it really made me feel more comfortable and that I wasn't alone.
For men in general, know your body well. Besides your testicles, know your feelings, know your hormones... if something's changing, get checked out."
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
"Testicular cancer is a young man's cancer, so check yourself regularly. But if you also have brothers, partners, husbands and fathers that are in your life, remind them to check themselves regularly too.
You can follow the YouTube channel my wife and I have created to learn more about our journey with testicular cancer."
To learn more about testicular cancer, visit the Movember website or check out Movember's Nuts & Bolts page for relevant and reliable tools to help you confidently handle the testicular cancer journey.
This article was originally written by Ashley Corbett and published on Narcity Canada.