Merrill Taber

Age at Diagnosis: 23 (2004)

Hometown

Amprior, Ontario

How did you find out you were sick? What events led to the diagnosis?

I first went in for back pain. They felt my stomach and said there is something more to this. I ended up going in for scans of my stomach and then they knew there was a lot more wrong. They felt my testicle and said they knew that I had cancer in my testicle but they didn’t know what was wrong with my stomach until they did more scans. That’s when they found the 22cm tumor in my stomach area.

What year was it? What was your age at the time?

It was 2004 and I was 23 years old

At what level of education were you at diagnosis?

I had graduated high school but was big time in the working field working for a large computer CD packaging company. I had to quit when I found out the news.

Do you work? He runs his own restaurant and DJing business

What was your diagnosis?

I don’t know how to say it all so I will just say testicular cancer with a 22 cm tumor in the stomach area.

What are your career goals?

He has hopes of becoming a great disc jockey someday.

What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?

My first thoughts were mainly just of shock and I didn’t understand what the hell was going on.

How did your family react?

They were sad but at the same time confused.

How did your friends react?

I was dating at the time and was dumped because of it because the person couldn’t handle it. Some of my friends left but some stayed.

What did your treatment consist of?

Medical Side: My treatment consisted of 5 operations, 9 weeks of chemo and tons of scans. I was always an in-patient because I ended up getting some of the viruses that were with chemo treatments. I got MRSA and one another one but I forget what it is called. On the non-medical side of things, I was always feeling sick, sometimes sad, but I always had the nurses to talk to and my crosswords to work on and the TV even though I never watch much TV. I always kept looking for a girlfriend even when I was in the hospital. I put a sign on my door saying, “Single and looking guy and good sense of humor”. The nurses loved it, they thought it was the greatest thing. I was in the hospital for 9 months, so you would get lonely too.

In which hospital(s) were you treated?

I was treated in 4 hospitals because each hospital has different ways of doing things and some better machines then others so my doctor was trying to send me to the best all the time.

What is your current medical status?

My current medical status is I have gotten over the hill and am back to normal but not out of the races yet. I am saying I am done with everything but it can still come back and hit me again so I am always waiting for it to happen. But I am not scared it will because there are always those beautiful nurses to help me out again. Ha-ha.

How is life different for you now post diagnosis (physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually)?

I found though my whole thing is that I got more emotional. I sometimes would just break down and cry. Everyone needs to cry sometimes but I did it a lot more then normal.

What is/was the toughest part of your challenge?

The hardest part of the whole thing was the one operation that the doctors messed up on. They got me on the operating table and then noticed that they did not have the right size of tube for the operation so they sent me to the recovery room with out even doing the operation. When I woke up, they told me they didn’t do it and I would have to do it all over again, the same damn thing. But the next time they finally did get it done and I was so happy.

What is/was the best part of your challenge?

Knowing no one is perfect, not even doctors.

What really motivated you to keep going while you were sick?

I just kept thinking the end is near and damn look at those nurses.

What lessons or messages have you taken away from your experience?

That anything can happen, even when you don’t realize it.

What are your thoughts and feelings about your illness now? How have they changed since before your diagnosis?

My feelings and thoughts were mainly towards having a girlfriend and having kids and since my diagnosis I found out I will never have kids again so it has changed a lot.

What are some (if there are any you know of) preventative measures that people can take to lower their risk of having an experience like yours?

The most preventative measure to take is checking your balls for hardness or weird lumps. No matter what you find, anything you don’t think is right, go right away and get it checked out by the doctor. I would not have had to go through so much if I had been checking at an earlier time.

Did you attend any support groups during your challenge?

I was in the support group Connections 18-30 out of Ottawa. It really helped a lot and I would tell everyone to go to a support group, even if they think that it will not help. It sure helped me even though I had my doubts at the start.

How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer?

Through my cancer group in Ottawa. We connected with Young Adult Cancer and went for their retreat which was an awesome event. I love everything about it. Young Adult Cancer is a great group of people. I can’t wait to see them at the next retreat.