Brian Bethune - Survivor

Brian Bethune

Brian Bethune

Brian Bethune

Brian_Bethune - profileAge at Diagnosis: 32

Current Age (at time of profile): 34


Toronto (grew up in Bracebridge, ON)

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

I initially felt a lump “down below” a year before my diagnosis. I had an ultrasound done at the time and the doctors concluded that the lump was benign and was only a buildup of calcium.

About seven months later, I felt a similar lump but on the other side and thought well, this is likely the same thing again so why would I bother getting it checked. Months had past and the lump did not go away but it also really didn”t change either. Then one morning in January 2005, I woke up at around 5:30 a.m. with the worst pain I have ever felt in my life. it literally felt like someone had kicked me in the nuts. Unlike that kind of pain however, this was constant pain and it was relentless. The pain would not stop all morning. Luckily, my family doctor had an opening that day so I struggled over to his office. Right away he could tell I was in some great discomfort. My doctor’s initial reaction was perhaps I had a kidney stone. He proceeded to examine me and at the time I would never have thought it could be cancer. I immediately had an ultrasound that same day and my doctor contacted me the next morning while I was at work and requested me to drop into his office that afternoon.

The pain seem to finally disappear that day, and the visit to my doctor didn’t seem to bother me at all, he indicated right away that there was a good chance that the lump on my right testicle is cancerous. This was Friday afternoon. Imagine my weekend!

On the following Tuesday, I met with a Radiologist. He felt the lump and I was officially diagnosed with Testicular Cancer.

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

The year was 2005 and at the time I was 32 years old.

At what level of education were you at diagnosis?

I graduated College in the mid-nineties and have worked ever since so I was in total career mode.

Do you work? I’m currently Manager of Client Services for Corporate Real Estate

What was your diagnosis?

Testicular Cancer, stage 2 part seminoma and part non-seminoma.

What are your career goals?

Well, my goal is to have a career where I can interact with people daily and love what I am doing. As for my dream career. I always wanted to be a singer!

What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?

Well, the very moment I was told I had cancer was a very surreal moment. I was pretty dazed and it was crazy that almost at that same moment, I was signing a release to go ahead with the surgery. I remember waiting at the nurses counter for some forms after speaking with my doctor and my thoughts were racing around thinking about my whole life flashing by. All I could really think of at that moment was how my family and girlfriend (now wife) would handle this.

How did your family react?

I can honestly say I would have struggled a lot more with this whole deal if I didn’t have my family and future wife there by my side the whole time. They were possibly the most supportive people you could ever have! I am so blessed to have them in my life. I thank God daily for having such a strong foundation around me.

I have really embraced the clarity that cancer has given me…

How did your friends react?

Again I am blessed to have amazing friends who were really supportive. My hospital room for my second surgery was never empty, my friends visited as much as they could. It is weird though that some friends who I would have thought to be supportive, kind of backed away and didn’t really contact me. I think some people have trouble handling even hearing about cancer, and I can totally understand that. It’s not an easy thing to hear about someone you care about.

What did your treatment consist of?

Medical Side: My cancer has been treated with surgeries only. My first surgery was an orchiectomy. My second surgery was a Retroperitoneal Lymph Node Dissection.

Non-Medical Side: After the second surgery, I was physically sore and tired.

In which hospital(s) were you treated?

My first surgery was located at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, second surgery at Toronto General Hospital/Princess Margaret.

What is your current medical status?

So far I have been given a clean bill of health and have been cancer free for almost two years.

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

My diagnosis really confirmed for me my strength and abilities to tackle anything that life brings. I have really embraced the clarity that cancer has given me. We all take life and things for granted and an experience like this just seems to help you appreciate life, family, relationships and all of the other feelings and experiences that we sometimes forget about. This also affected me spiritually. A lot of soul searching was needed to really tackle all of the tough times. It’s amazing how much healing power we all posses inside!

What is/was the toughest part of your challenge?

The toughest part of the challenge was definitely the wait. There is always a wait involved when tests are done and that is probably the hardest thing mentally.

What is/was the best part of your challenge?

For me, the best part of this whole experience was the ability to overcome such a life-changing experience, to grow as a person and to take nothing in life for granted, it forced me to soul search and it gave me total clarity in my life.

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

Well for me, I had already pre-conditioned my body and soul to handle tough situations in life. How did I do that you ask? Well, most would laugh at this but Mr. Tony Robbins has a big part of how I handle things and stay positive. Also, a lot of life experiences have helped to keep things in perspective. But having said all that, a really strong feeling I had when I was sick was that I didn’t want to leave my fiancee alone. I owe her my whole life and I thank God daily that she is part of my life and she was my biggest strength in the battle with cancer.

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

Cancer is a disease which is not prejudice against anyone. It’s a disease which affects nearly everyone in the world whether you are diagnosed or know someone who is diagnosed. Although modern medicine has yet to really find a cure for this disease, I truly believe that anyone with this disease can beat it if you dig deep down in your soul and fight it with all the positive attitude you can muster. It’s amazing how much we can do with only our body and soul.

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

They have changed big time! I use to associate cancer with death and baldness and extreme sickness and now, I have seen so many survivors that could have been easily associated with those thoughts but who are now looked upon as heroes and amazing people filled with hope, strength and courage!

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?

Well for TC, it’s pretty simple: If you feel a lump don’t be shy and have your doctor check it out! Early detection is the strongest tool for survival!

Did you attend any support groups during your challenge?


If you did not attend a support group, why?

I actually tried to find some support groups through the Cancer Society but was unsuccessful. I even call Sunnybrook and all they had were groups for women.

For sure I would have attended if one was available! I think it totally would have helped… even though I had amazing support from family and friends, it would have been great to share my fears and thoughts with someone outside of my everyday life.

How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer?

I was enquiring about a show on TC and was recommended to check out the website.

I think Young Adult Cancer Canada is an amazing group. It’s so important to have support, especially for the younger generation in fighting cancer.

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