Traverse City Record-Eagle

Body & Soul

February 8, 2014

Adapted in TC: Cancer diagnosis brings young man new outlook

Levi Webb is addressing the large ski lodge audience.

“I want to thank my family, friends and medical personnel for their prayers and support,” said the 24-year-old. “In my darkest moments, I wondered if my life would ever be my own again. Replaying happy moments from earlier in my life and repeating ‘I can do it’ often got me through my ordeal.”

It all began three years ago. Webb was a university student, snowboard instructor and restaurant cook. He’d noticed a lump in his left testicle and believed it was a swollen vein. It didn’t hurt, so he didn’t think much about it. Over time, there were other lumps. He wondered if they were skin irritations or an infection. Finally, by last fall, the strangling pain had him leaving work early.

As a student without health insurance, he’d put off going to the doctor. When he did go, he was given an exam, lab work and ultrasound test. The next day, a surgeon removed his left testicle in an outpatient procedure. He didn’t know to request a prosthetic testicle. And an intimate part of his body was gone.

While recovering from surgery, Webb read the pathology report and learned that he had stage II non-seminoma testicular cancer. Because the cancer had spread to his mid-section lymph nodes, he’d need chemotherapy. His right testicle would continue to produce testosterone. If he wanted to have children someday, he’d need to bank his sperm. Chemotherapy could affect his fertility and sexual functioning. As the weeks passed, he grew accustomed to dropping his pants for exams.

The doctors didn’t know for certain what had caused Webb’s cancer. More than 7,000 varied cases of testicular cancer are diagnosed every year in the U.S. The peak incidence occurs between the ages of 20-39. Older men are diagnosed in smaller numbers.

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