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Introduction by Karen A. McWhirt

    Almost everyone knows someone who has had cancer. You may hear that they have cancer, are going through chemotherapy, radiation or both, in their fight against cancer. Then you hear that they have either survived the cancer, or they have died. But if you haven’t been the caretaker, you didn’t know what happened in between. Most people never hear the rest of the story. Even young men who have survived testicular cancer do not often talk openly about that experience. There are those brave souls who are out there in our world telling people about this disease every day, and I praise them for their continuous efforts. I pray that others are listening to these survivors. They know how bad it can get. They know what it feels like to have to give up one of their testicles to save their own life, and they are making every effort to help other young men learn how to detect this cancer in the earliest stage, a lump in a testicle, in order to increase the chances of survivorship.

    Maybe you’ve heard of testicular cancer. And hopefully you are aware that it is the most common cancer in young men, and that early detection increases the chance of survival to around 90 percent. It’s easy for a person, especially a young man, to shrug his shoulders and think this kind of thing only happens to other people, or older people. But consider the fact that testicular cancer is one of the more aggressive and faster-growing cancers, and think about the fact that testicular cancer begins as just one cancer cell in a testicle, and soon multiplies into billions of cancer cells inside that testicle. As embarrassing as that sounds, keep thinking about it, and imagine what would happen if nothing is done to stop the cancer from growing inside that testicle. Do you know how bad it can get? Do you realize how horrible cancer treatment will be, the longer a guy waits to get it checked out?

    Together We Will Win is Ian’s story, and is being told to increase awareness of testicular cancer, and with hope that young men will know more about what will happen to them if they find a lump in a testicle and do nothing about it. Ian’s story illustrates the life of a cancer patient that most people never see. Probably you’ve heard how sick people become with chemotherapy. But have you ever thought about what it must be like, hour after hour? Do you understand what chemotherapy actually is, or how it works? Have you ever wondered what a radiation treatment looks like, or what it does to the body? Ian’s story will tell you.

    The life of a cancer patient may not be all that you think it is. Or it may be everything you think it is, and worse. No one can have the same experience as another person, yet my sitting beside my son for four months and observing the horrible suffering he went through cannot compare to the very real and frightening experience it was for Ian. His experience was sometimes so torturous that he could not put it into words. But as his mom, as every loving mom knows, there are always little things you notice that tell you how your loved one is truly feeling. Ian’s suffering showed not only in his face, but also in the tender ways he so often spoke to me.

    Ian, throughout his life, was a very affectionate, loving person. Our relationship was solid, built on trust and unconditional love. As Ian grew older, he didn’t need his mom as much. He was strong, willful, and confident. But when cancer became the lonely reality of his every day, Ian showed fear in many ways. His eyes no longer sparkled with happiness when he spoke, and he never wanted to be alone for any length of time. His constant expression of gratitude to me was the most sure sign that he was suffering more deeply than even I could understand. All of our lives, we had never parted company without first saying “I love you,” and every now and then, he thanked me for being his mom. After his diagnosis, Ian told me he loved me many times a day, and thanked me for being his mom almost every day, sometimes two or three times in one day, even though I never left his side. This expression of love alone told me that Ian was suffering more profoundly than he let anyone know. There was nothing I could do for him, there was no kiss to make it all better. My presence was all I could offer, and Ian appreciated it more and more each day.

    Throughout Ian’s treatment, I kept a detailed, chronological journal and calendar of every day and night during our hospital stays, every treatment, things that were said to us, things we said to others, and to one another. I lived at his side for days, weeks, months, watching him suffer, praying for him, and doing anything I could do to help him feel more comfortable. At the time, I thought this record keeping was helpful to Ian. I thought it mattered. But looking back, I think it gave me a sense of some control over the outcome. I never expected, though, that I would be using that information in writing about Ian’s experiences. I read meticulously through Ian’s medical records to expand the details and verify the events, treatments, times, and dates. I researched his chemotherapy drugs more extensively, and learned more about radiation. I spoke with his doctors, therapists, and nurses to gain a clearer understanding of things I wasn’t sure of, and to hear their personal memories of Ian.

    Ian had a comedic personality, and I loved listening to him tell a story, so I decided to let Ian tell this story, too. After all, it’s his story. And even though in the end he was too sedated to talk, I believe Ian’s spirit was very much present, and aware of all that was going on around him. It felt natural to me, that Ian should narrate this book to the very last word.

    You’ll get a taste of Ian’s humor every now and then as you read through his four-month treatment. He didn’t laugh out loud as much, or seek to entertain with funny stories as he used to, but his natural comedic look on life was still with him all the way. His casual one-liner style always earned a quick chuckle, but as funny as his comments were, he was simply expressing his honest, yet comical observation at the time. There were funny things he said and did so frequently that none of it got written down, but I remember sharing in his amusement, and chuckling at his humorous nature many times while sitting in the hospital with him, or talking with him at home. Ian often had a wise and philosophical take on life situations, too. We were talking once, about life, people, and those painful events and memories that each person holds inside of himself... the personal pain that no one talks about.

Ian looked at me as he was thinking, and then he said, “You know... you think you know people, but the truth is, you never really know a person until you know their story, and everyone has a story.”

    Ian’s story is one of hope, struggle, and uncertainty. A story of the fragility of life, and what happens to a young man if testicular cancer gets overlooked for too long. Please read this book with those you love in mind. It’s not just about Ian. It’s about creating awareness in our society of the most common, yet curable cancer in young men. Read it and learn how bad testicular cancer can get if not caught and treated early. Read it and remember how important it is to talk about testicular cancer with those you care about. Read it and remember how important your presence will be to someone you love who has cancer. Teach others what you learn from reading Ian’s story. Create Testicular Cancer Awareness in your family, in your neighborhood, in your world. It is curable, and together, we will win.