By: Torsten Koehler
YES, my one nut is fake, because the real one tried to kill me! I had testicular cancer in 1995 at the age of 30.
That evening when the doctor came and said it is aggressive cancer that they have to remove my right testis the next morning was the moment my life shattered into million pieces. Signing a form that says: removal of right testis was a nightmare!
I’ve been through the whole program – my health and emotions on a roller coaster: surgery, chemotherapy, self-destructing thoughts, depressions and turning into a miserable person. Slowly losing my energy and couldn’t really cope with my work, colleagues and friends anymore.
I made a bucket list when I was waiting for my results after the surgery because it felt like time is running out. I wrote down place I loved to see before I die. The fear that cancer returns 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 2 years I travelled to all the destinations that I had put on my bucket list when I wasn’t sure if I will survive the cancer: Helicopter ride over Manhattan, active volcano in Hawaii, Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco, Macchu Picchu and the Lines of Nazca in Peru, Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Milford Sound in New Zealand, Glaciers in southern Argentina/Chile, …. Travelling to all the places on my bucket list was the best thing I’ve ever done. Give wings to your desire! Have dreams and aims in life and fulfil them! My zest for life returned. I returned to Namibia and started teaching again.
When I was still a biology teacher I always used one of the lessons every year to talk balls and make the boys aware. A few years later a former student of mine invited me for coffee just to say thank you that I made them aware. He said to me: “Because you made us aware I went to the doctor in time. I’ve got testicular cancer too. I’m 16 and you saved my life”. Making a difference in one person’s life makes it worthwhile standing up for cancer and this energises me to talk “balls” as much as I can!
This incident with my former student motivated me to start a foundation in South Africa called “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. (Torsten Koehler)
Testicular Cancer Facts
A man’s lifetime risk of developing testicular cancer is approximately 1 in 250
- It accounts for 1% of all the cancers in men
- It usually affects young men (age 15 – 40) in their prime of youth. It accounts for 11 – 13% of all cancers in this age group)
- Testicular cancer has the highest cure rates among all cancers (>90%)
- But, like all cancers, it can recur
- Most commonly there are two types of testicular cancers–seminomas, or slow growing cancer and non-seminomas, or fast growing cancer
- Prominent symptoms include pain/swelling/lumps in testicles/groin areas
- Prominent risk factors include undescended testis (cryptorchidism), family history, mumps and inguinal hernia
- Surgical removal of a testicle will not affect fertility. Chemotherapy, on the other hand, can harm sperm count/quality. Sperm banking may then be considered.
How can I recognise testicular cancer?
A man will notice the first signs of testicular cancer himself. But by the time men go and see a doctor, unfortunately the first metastases have already formed in one third of the cases. Every man should carefully feel both testicles for thickening and hardening once a month. The best time for this check is when the scrotum is limp and soft – that is, when outside temperatures are warm, e.g. under the shower or in the bath.
Typical signs of cancer in its initial stage:
- a painless (or painful) swelling or lump in/on the testicle
- a feeling of heaviness in the testicle
- a light twinge in the groin
Typical signs of cancer in an advanced stage:
- enlargement of the affected testicle
- enlarged abdominal lymph nodes
- enlarged or painful mammary glands
Testicular cancer awareness
The goal of Love Your Nuts 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 our diverse society in South Africa, where cultural taboos, stigmas and a lack of knowledge about the subject is widespread.
Lyn visits schools, sport clubs and corporate and educate in a humorous way about (testicular) cancer and that early detection and knowledge is the best weapon against cancer.
Bio: Torsten Koehler
The founder of Love Your Nuts campaign was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1995 whilst educating young teenagers about ‘sex education’ at a school and being in his early thirties himself. His journey of survival started by openly confronting in his book his thoughts and emotions, relate the reactions of his friends, family and not least, his students, who provoked him without reserve and in doing so, gave him enormous help and hope. His book “Love your nuts” was published internationally in 2011 in English (German version was published in Germany in 2004 already). “He has won, he lives and he loves. He is showing everybody how valuable they are and how fantastic life can be” (a reader’s words) and therefore has a passion for this campaign.
He was born in 1965 and grew up in Namibia. He studied teaching and was a teacher for 15 years in Namibia. This 15-year span was interrupted three times and (in the years 1991, 1997/8 and 2006) he toured through 48 countries on all the continents.
He has been a Cape Town resident since 2007. Up to the end of 2016 he was working as a graphic designer – after leaving the teaching profession in 2005. Since January 2017 he works fulltime for the “Love your Nuts” foundation with the best job description ever: talking balls and saving lives!