Lee's Cancer Journey
- Country star Jackie Lee was diagnosed with testicular cancer shortly after his mother died from cancer.
- Lee had surgery to remove the testicle with cancer. The next year, doctors found the cancer had returned in his abdomen. He completed chemotherapy and is currently well.
- Testicular cancer is rare, but it is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in young men. It is highly curable.
“So many bad things happen to everyone on a daily basis, I mean, that’s just, that’s life,” Lee, 29, said. “Are you gonna sit around in it all day or are you gonna try to find the glass half full because I promise you, there’s the same amount of water in it if you’re looking at it half full or half empty.”Read More
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Lee’s mother had just passed away from cancer three months prior when he started to feel “off” in October 2016.
“I didn’t have a pain down there,” Lee said. “It wasn’t anything specific, but it was enough to where I called my dad.”
After a exploring a multitude of possibilities, Lee’s doctor said there was a possibility of cancer and that he would have to remove Lee’s testicle. He had surgery in December, but in August of the following year doctors discovered the cancer had returned and was now in his abdomen.
Lee was at a turning point in his career, and he did not want to slow down.
“I felt like within a matter of six months, I lost one of the most important people in my life, I lost a body part, I lost what I felt was actual momentum that I, for the first time in my life, had in my career, and I was just like damn,” Lee said.
He played shows through his second round of chemotherapy until he simply couldn’t. After a show in Cleveland, Lee woke up feeling the worst he had felt yet.
“I woke up, and my beard was in my pillow,” Lee said. “That’s when it kinda sunk in this was really happening.”
Thankfully, Lee completed his treatment in 2018 and has been doing well since. Throughout all of the hardship, he was determined to be positive and count his blessings. He frequently talks about how having a loving family on his side helped him get through it all.
“Life’s full of happy times and sad times,” Lee said. “You just gotta pick up the pieces and put the puzzle together still ‘cause they’re all there.”
He decided to speak with Movember because he feels that men are reluctant to talk about testicular cancer, and he wants to help remove the stigma.
“I feel like it’s a cause that no one really knows that they can either get behind or talk about until you’re kind of placed in it,” Lee said.
And being on the other side of his battle, Lee often takes a very lighthearted approach in talking about his experience – even about having one of his testicles removed.
“I mean, I’m a goofball all day every day, and now I’m a goofball with a ball,” Lee said. “Plus, I can run faster and jump higher now… get rid of one testicle and you can do amazing things!”
Beyond giving him some solid material for his daily quips, testicular cancer gave him something much more valuable: Perspective.
“Perspective is a ‘mofo’ man,” Lee said. “I’ll say this, I’d go through chemo 10 more times if I got my mom back… I’ve never faced anything in my life like my mom not being here.
“We never had a lot of money, we never had all the new gadgets and gizmos, but I would’ve never known that because of the love that I felt as a kid and into my adult years of what it means, what life maybe means. I know we’re always trying to figure that out, but when you almost lose your life, you kinda have a little different perspective.”
Understanding Testicular Cancer
Testicular cancer is rare, but it is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in young men. Depending on the stage, the disease is considered extremely treatable. Treatment options can include chemotherapy and radiation, but often the first line of treatment is surgery to remove the testicle which contains the cancerous cells.
Symptoms of testicular cancer can be subtle. Some people may even confuse the early symptoms such as a small mass in their testicle as an injury. But when these signs are dismissed, cancer can grow and become worse.
“It’s not uncommon to see men come in with masses on their scrotum and have inflammation of the scrotal wall; they develop pain as a result. A lump is the most common symptom of testicular cancer,” Dr. Edwin Posadas, the medical director of the Urologic Oncology Program at Cedars-Sinai Cancer, tells SurvivorNet.
Dr. Posadas says some men may even notice blood in their ejaculate as a result of testicular cancer. “This symptom is less common, but always bad,” he says.
Dr. Posadas urges young men to seek medical care if they are having symptoms. “Most men under the age of 40 tend not to think about seeing a doctor – they need to know to advocate for themselves,” he says.
Screening for Testicular Cancer
Testicular self-examination is one way to screen for this disease, says Dr. Posadas.
“It takes less than a minute. Rub testicles through your fingers – looking for any sore areas. Rub the top of the testicle, particularly the delicate epididymis.” (The epididymis is a tube at the back of the testicles which stores and carries sperm.)
“Don’t squeeze real hard on there,” says Dr. Posadas. “[You should] look for a smoother feel; if you feel a hard nodule on there, you may require blood work from a urologist. [Testicular cancer] is highly curable, even when it’s advanced.”
In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Dr. Bradley McGregor, clinical director of the Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, also emphasized the importance of self-examinations.
“It is considered that men aged 15 to 55 perform a monthly self-examination to find any changes to help find the cancer at an early stage,” Dr. McGregor says. And if someone spots any of the early symptoms, “he should visit his doctor immediately.” It’s important to be aware of your body and get in touch with a doctor if you notice anything unusual.
Dr. McGregor continues, “Testicular cancer commonly occurs from ages 20-45, but it can occur at any age. The highest risk factor for testicular cancer is a history of cryptorchidism, an undescended testicle, where the testicle does not move down into the scrotum before birth. Men with a family history of testicular cancer are at increased risk as well. No lifestyle changes have been shown to definitively reduce risk of testicular cancer.”