Luther College student Jake Doty, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2010, shows off the tattoo he got after he was pronounced cancer-free.
On a September afternoon in 2010, Jake Doty finished class for the day and headed to the local hospital. He felt a little off.
Within a few hours, he’d undergone an ultrasound and been diagnosed with testicular cancer. Ever since that moment, Doty has tried not to get caught up in the gravity. Those around him have helped in this regard, even during his diagnosis.
“The radiologist walked into the room,” said Doty, now 22. “I asked if I was going to be fine. He said, and I quote, ‘Yeah, we’re just going to have to hack your nut off.’ ”
His stomach dropped. He couldn’t process it at first, he said.
While some might find this manner of conduct out of place for a medical professional, Doty said it was perfect for him. A tall man with a broad smile, he never passes up an opportunity for a joke, even if it is a bit off-color. He’s currently a senior at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, majoring in elementary education.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that approximately 8,590 cases of testicular cancer will be diagnosed in 2012. About 360 men will die of the disease in the same time frame.
Doty was fortunate they caught the cancer early because it’s still very treatable. Less than 24 hours after the initial diagnosis, he was out of surgery — cancer free. He did not have to undergo any chemotherapy or radiation. He’s currently in remission, but isn’t considered fully cured until the five-year mark. If the cancer returns, his doctors told him it usually manifests in the abdomen or lymph nodes, spreading to the brain.
“I remember the oncologist telling me that if you had to get cancer, this is the one to get,” Doty said.
Maris Schiess wrote on her experience fighting cancer in college for USA TODAY College last week. She said a young adult is diagnosed with cancer every eight minutes. The ACS website states that about half of testicular cancer cases occur between ages 20 and 34.
Doty acknowledged that cancer is a serious disease. But still, he said that throughout his experience, he’s used humor both to cope and to take ownership in overcoming stigmas. He said people are nervous to discuss his experience, due the personal nature of the affected area. That’s why he likes to break the taboo with humor.
“The more people hear me joke about it, the more comfortable they feel with it,” he said, stressing that he doesn’t want to trivialize cancer or anyone who suffers from it. What works for him is certainly not for everyone, he said.
After his operation, his sister bought him a shirt. Printed on it are two squirrels, and the slogan reads, “It’s all fun and games until somebody loses a nut.” He said he loves it and wears it proudly.
“I used humor to get through the scariest, toughest parts,” he said. “It’s how I deal with a lot of things.”
Doty shares his cancer diagnosis with professional cyclist and cancer charity Livestrong founder Lance Armstrong. Doty honored this fact in the past year by tattooing “9//15 LIVESTRONG” on his bicep — the day in September 2010 he was pronounced cancer-free.
Still, he’s frustrated with the disconnected nature of many cancer campaigns.
“When you go bowling as a breast-cancer awareness thing, it doesn’t really have that much to do with cancer,” Doty said. “Maybe there’s a more effective way for people to understand, or learn.”
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