Testicular Cancer Awareness Needs To Check It’s Marketing Problem
In September 2018 I discovered a lump on my testicle in the shower.
I wasn’t a regular “checker.” But that day, I checked. And there was definitely a hard bump on my left testicle.
Panic surged through my mind. My thoughts leapt immediately to the worst possible outcome. I’m going to die, some other guy will raise my kids, and sleep in my bed.
My anxiety got the best of me. It got worse after I toweled off and (despite knowing better) got on Google.
Here’s Some Facts About Testicular Cancer:
- Testicular Cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in males 15–35 year old.
- Every year, over 9,000 American men are diagnosed, and over 365 men die from Testicular Cancer.
- In other words, every minute of the day a man hears the words, “You have Testicular Cancer.” And every day, a man in the prime of his life dies of testicular cancer.
- There is a saying, “If you’re going to get Cancer, Testicular Cancer is the one you want.” — This is because Testicular Cancer is highly survivable (95–99%) when caught early.
- Yes — the standard procedure is to remove the testicle (and sooner the better.)
- You only need one testicle to produce all the testosterone your body needs. And if you need to lose both testicles, you can supplement with hormone therapy.
- But if it spreads, the lymph node surgery, chemo and radiation sound like a nightmare.
- And if NOT caught early, survival rates drop to less than 75%.
Taking Stock and Finding Courage
After reading those stats, I took a step back to take stock of my life. I thanked God I already had my children, and the love and support of my wife. I told myself it could be worse — one of my loved ones could be sick. I noted the dark irony that I had been recently been considering a vasectomy.
After that brief mental I accounting, I pretty much grit my teeth. Resolve formed in an instant. If one nut, or both, needed to go, then that’s what Life was gonna throw at me. So be it.
Even though fear went into a little compartment in my mind, I couldn’t shut the drawer entirely. But I mustered enough courage to make a phone call I never thought I’d have to make.
A woman picked up on the other end of the line. I scheduled the next available appointment with my Urology Doctor.
Giving the NFL and MLB a Testicular Cancer “Cup-Check.”
“Cup-check!” is the phrase shouted by the guy who’s about to smack you in the nuts.
My experience of going through a testicular cancer scare made me realize that the NFL and MLB need a serious cup-check for how they approach this specific form of cancer. Why?
- Because Testicular Cancer is the most commonly diagnosed Cancer among men ages 15–35.
- Because Testicular Cancer Awareness is completely lost on the color-wheel of all the other cancers. (I propose TC change official colors to Neon, and will explain why below).
In short, every October kicks off the NFL’s “Crucial Catch” Cancer Awareness Campaign, but for Testicular Cancer, they’re dropping the ball.
In 2009, the NFL conducted its first pink-clad games in support of breast cancer awareness. In 2017, the NFL expanded the color pallet of support to help raise awareness for all types of cancer.
Now, the NFL allows teams to either focus support on either one specific type of Cancer, or “All Types.” Players can also wear multi-colored wristbands, cleats, sleeves, etc. in support of all or one type of cancer. In 2018, according the NFL —
- 18 NFL Teams supported all-types of cancer.
- 13 NFL Teams specifically supported breast cancer.
- One NFL Team supported pediatric cancer.
I believe the NFL’s Crucial Catch campaign and MLB’s Stand Up 2 Cancer campaign should be applauded for raising cancer awareness in general. Unfortunately, I think the all-types moniker seems like a bit of a scattershot approach.
I can’t help notice that testicular cancer awareness gets little airplay — which is a problem for this one glaring reason: Testicular Cancer is the Cancer most likely to strike the NFL and MLB players themselves. It’s simple, the men ages 15–35 playing football and baseball (at any level) are the same demographic as the men getting testicular cancer.
The Taboos and Comedy Surrounding Testicles Hurt Early Detection
Testicular Cancer is the Cancer most likely to strike down the boys and young men playing baseball and football at any level.
And based on the specific pathology of Testicular Cancer, it’s truly crucial to catch early.
BUT… there is a major societal taboo when it comes to testicular cancer.
Because its about Balls, about Nuts. Balls and Nuts are one topic (or should I say two) that basically NEVER quite involve a serious public discussion.
I get it, this is a sensitive topic. I once got hit by a line drive in the nuts while coaching baseball. It was honestly the worst pain of my life. It gave me a good idea of what back-labor might feels like for women. Despite that, when I told my friends, it elicited nothing but laughs and funny nutshot .gifs. My testicle swelled to the size of a grapefruit for 8 weeks and ruined my summer.
That said, hopefully after we get through all the nut jokes… the talking about “checking for testicular cancer” — and saving lives — will be low hanging fruit.
It’s a total paradox. When it comes to nuts, the tears of pain mix with tears of laughter. See what I mean? There’s a high degree of difficulty when it comes to seriously discussing balls.
The Not Knowing
Having covered that, let’s return to the experience of a testicular cancer scare. First of all, it was a day of high-anxiety waiting for my urologist appointment.
It got worse, and my stomach hit the floor when he said, “We need to get that looked at right away. I’m scheduling you an ultrasound.”
I don’t remember if he ever said, “it might NOT be Cancer” (but I don’t think he did). That’s because standing there I felt like I was slipping into an alternate universe.
Next, it was a Thursday afternoon and the soonest the Imaging Center could get me in was the following Tuesday afternoon.
That’s five days of waiting. Needless to say, it was a looong weekend — and not in the good way.
I could hardly function. I skipped my 20-year High School reunion. I couldn’t possibly force a smile. I just sat in the chair watching TV. I know what shock feels like, and I was experiencing shock.
In truth, the wait was terrible. Humans find not-knowing is always the worst part. I found it crippling.
One thing I did manage to do was find an online list of famous men who supposedly only had one nut: Hitler, Napoleon, possibly Arnold, and also TuPac.
I learned the official term for having one testicle is monorchism.
I also found a list of professional athletes who’ve battled Testicular Cancer: Lance Armstrong, Brian Piccolo (Of Brian’s Song fame), Kevin Curtis, Mike Lowell, John Kruk, Chad Bettis and Jameson Taillon.
I was astounded to learn that two Testicular Cancer survivors — Chad Bettis and Jameson Taillon — are not only active MLB pitchers — they pitched against one another in 2018 in Colorado.
Think about that. It’s like, one of the best stories in all of Sports in 2018. Yet it was under reported. Why? Probably the nut jokes issue.
I actually saw Jameson Taillon pitch in Minnesota — It was on Twins Cancer Awareness Night.
But Unfortunately — despite having a Testicular Cancer survivor playing in the baseball game that everyone came to watch — Testicular Cancer awareness was not represented.
Tuesday finally came, and I went in for my ultrasound. I’d attended many ultrasounds with my pregnant wife. This occasion was much less joyous. Instead, I was too gloomy to even feel embarrassment over my scrotum being out there.
It was a quick and painless scan. But I was informed I’d have to wait for my results.
Finally, later that night, my phone began buzzing with the Doctor’s office number. I walked out the front door to take the call in the yard.
He cut right to the chase, “Hi, the Urologist determined it’s a benign cyst. NOT Cancer. But we’ll want to schedule a 6-month follow-up.”
I said thank you. Hung up. Sat down. Said a prayer thanking God. I was torn.
- Part of you is completely grateful that you get to just go back to the business of living life and forget what just happened.
- Part of you wants to honor the experience you just went through, and vows to never forget.
- Part of you feels survivors-guilt that other men will continue on this journey and not receive good news.
- Part of me feels unworthy to even write about this. My non-event. My little cancer scare.
I’d learned what it feels like to walk through the world with the uncertainty of a looming cancer diagnosis. I decided to write about my experience because of this rational:
If the goal of Cancer Awareness is for more people to “Get Checked” — then won’t more people hopefully have an experience just like mine? Doesn’t cancer scares indicate the system is working?
Thus, I just want to give a bit of hope to the next guy searching the internet after he found a lump. Maybe he can’t sleep because he’s scared shitless, or waiting endlessly for results?
To that guy I say, you’re not alone and there is hope. Whatever the results. There is hope.
That’s When I Realized Testicular Cancer Awareness Has A Marketing Problem — A Theory About Color
I work in Marketing and Sales, and when I look at Testicular Cancer Awareness through the Marketing lens, I see a few very fixable problems.
I don’t mean to come across as flippant, but in the Cancer Awareness marketing arena, color is everything. Any artist will tell your that each color carries significant symbolism and meaning.
In terms of cancer awareness marketing, Pink instantly connects with breast cancer.
On the other hand, can you guess the official color of Testicular Cancer awareness? It’s light purple. Orchid, to be exact.
Think about this. Orchid purple? For a young man’s disease?
Ehhh.. I’m sorry, it just seems like a color someone’s Mom picked out.
If you polled the ranks of young men aged 15–35 what color they want to represent the cancer they’re most likely to get, I bet orchid purple would be approximately their last choice.
The Bigger Problem With Testicular Cancer’s Orchid Purple — Cause Fatigue!
Along with Testicular Cancer awareness, Purple is also the official color for Pancreatic Cancer, Leiomyosarcoma, Hodgkin Lymphoma, Stomach Cancer, Esophageal Cancer — Not to mention, Alzheimer’s Disease, Crohn’s Disease, and Domestic Violence Awareness.
That’s eight causes for purple. That’s too many causes for one color!
No wonder testicular cancer (and the other purple causes) struggle to gain the traction and visibility of a Pink or Yellow.
Case in point, even if an athlete wears purple cleats, who knows what cause they actually support?
And what if your team is playing the Minnesota Vikings, or the Colorado Rockies?
Thus, the first thing I’d change about Testicular Cancer Awareness is it’s color designation — to neon!
High-Vis NEON Should Be Testicular Cancer’s New Official Color
That’s right, high-vis neon green is bright and instantly recognized with sports. High-vis neon is used on NFL goal posts, MLB foul poles, and even th color of lime-flavored Gatorade.
High-Vis Neon is also a bold color that complements the bold color combinations of professional sports uniforms.
Neon yellow is a bright, vibrant, and active color. And it looks good on shoes.
High visibility neon yellow is also a working man’s color. For example, this color is used on the safety vests for the hazardous labor jobs that men are more inclined to work.
It would be a powerful gesture for the men working on the field to wear the working man’s color, in support of the cancer most likely to afflict men their own ranks.
But most importantly — if Testicular Cancer makes the high-vis neon change official, it will not have to share it’s color with any other cause.
In Conclusion: Let’s Raise Awareness, Embrace The Nut-Jokes, Control The Fear, And Save Some Lives!
In retrospect, my cancer scare was a very humbling experience. It left me feeling grateful to be alive. It left me with a sense of guilt that others will not be so lucky. It also left me with an understanding of the specific challenges and cultural taboos facing Testicular Cancer Awareness.
I get it, balls are this taboo, gross and humorous thing. You can’t even say, “its a touchy subject” without rolling your eyes. Even the banana-shaped cups men wear are funny.
And yet, this is yet another reason why testicular cancer is a good cancer cause for MLB and NFL to get behind — protection of the organs in question is already ingrained in the sport.
The power of a movement like the Iowa Wave shows the huge impact of a simple symbolic gesture in the fight against Cancer.
Maybe Neon Yellow can be that symbolic gesture for Testicular Cancer?
Men, check your balls once a month! Women, encourage the men in your life to check their balls!
Beyond that if you want to get involved, spread the word, consider checking out the Movember movement — and grow a mustache this November. A Big, Neon Mustache!
Thanks for reading, please share with anyone who needs to check their nuts!