Friday, July 11, 2008

Swimmer to Compete in Beijing Despite Cancer

New York Times: When Eric Shanteau touched the wall second at the U.S. Olympic trials, he was overcome by the joy of reaching a lifelong goal. The celebration didn't last long.
Shanteau had barely locked up his trip to Beijing when he was forced to deal with a gut-wrenching choice: Should he have surgery for the testicular cancer hardly anyone knew about? Or, should he put it off for another month so he could swim at his first Olympics? ...
He's putting off surgery until after the Olympics because it would keep him out of the water for at least two weeks, ruining his Beijing preparations. The 24-year-old Georgia native will be monitored closely over the next month by U.S. Olympic team doctors and vows to withdraw if there's any sign his cancer is spreading.
''If I didn't make the team, the decision would have been easy: Go home and have the surgery,'' said Shanteau, who grew up in suburban Atlanta. ''I made the team, so I had a hard decision. But, by no means am I being stupid about this.'' ...
Seeking out advice from team doctors and other outside experts, Shanteau came up with own plan. He will have his blood tested once a week and a CT scan done every two weeks through the Olympics, hoping that will be enough to keep a handle on the disease.
''If something comes up abnormal,'' he said, ''then that's kind of a barrier I shouldn't cross.'' ...
It was found after Shanteau noticed an abnormality and was finally persuaded by his girlfriend to see a doctor in Austin, where he trains on a star-studded team that includes Hansen, Ian Crocker and Aaron Peirsol. ...
On June 19, exactly one week before he was scheduled to leave for the trials, Shanteau heard that awful word.
''It almost numbed me,'' he said. ''I'll remember that day for the rest of my life. Talk about a life-changing experience. That's as big a one as you can have, I think. You're changed for the rest of your life.''
If everything had gone according to expected script in Omaha, Shanteau would have already gone through surgery and be on the road to recovery. But the improbable happened in the 200 breaststroke, where Hansen -- considered a lock to make the team -- faded badly on the final lap. Scott Spann powered by to win the race, and Shanteau passed Hansen as well to claim the second spot on the team.
Shanteau was going to the Olympics.
But his thoughts quickly shifted to the cancer. ...
According to the National Cancer Institute, testicular cancer is relatively rare, accounting for 1 percent of male cancer cases in the U.S. It's often diagnosed in younger men. About 8,000 men are diagnosed and 390 die from the disease each year.
The cancer is usually slow to spread and highly treatable, but follow-up care is extremely important because of the risk of recurrence, the NCI said. Surgery to remove the affected testicle is the most common form of treatment. (More)
LSB: Several years ago, after my father had surgery for prostate cancer, I became familiar with an organization in the North Texas area called Team Nuts. "Team Nuts is a Dallas-based marathon team of testicular and prostate cancer survivors and supporters who have raised more than $200,000 for cancer treatment, prevention, and awareness. The group runs marathons to raise funds for and awareness about prostate and testicular cancer." If there isn't a group like this in your area, start one. Although not nearly as big as the Komen Foundation and their Race for the Cure, Team Nuts is doing a lot to raise awareness of male cancers in our community. If your area doesn’t have an organization like this, please contact them for information about starting a chapter.

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