“ The biggest Offense to Cancer Defense is Knowledge. Us as cancer survivors need to share our stories, especially the “how did you know” question.
mK: Thanks for doing this Dr. Lichtman. What/ when was your diagnosis? How did you find out about your diagnosis?
CL: Testicular Seminoma. I noticed something funny in October/November 2006, but ignored it, then it bothered me more when I played soccer, and had palpated it and realized what it was after going through differential diagnosis (I’m a Chiropractor)…I actually went into denial for about 2 months. I was sick a lot as my wife told me. I was 29, I just bought a practice 6 months ago and was about to have my first kid, and I got diagnosed with Testicular Cancer January 11, 2007 (my dad’s bday). My dad was with me at the Dr’s office along with my mom and pregnant wife (due in May). It was the first time I saw my dad cry, he actually left the room and went down the hallway, but I knew what he was doing. The Doc wanted to do surgery that day, but I couldn’t, needed to reschedule patients, so I scheduled it for the following week. I went through blood work, ultrasound of the testicle (by a woman) ha, whatever right, boys have balls and a penis and women have a vagina, it’s part of being a human. So I wasn’t shy, just did what I had to and moved on. On January 18, 2007, surgery was performed, then I started 17 radiation treatments in April. That was tough, but I don’t say that as compared to people much worse, I was the youngest one in the waiting room every day. I still worked and saw patients, I kept my office freezing cold because I was always hot. I would sometimes throw up in between patients and brush my teeth and rinse and continue to work. 2 weeks after radiation was done, my son was born.
mK: What were your symptoms?
CL: I noticed I had a big ball…bigger than normal, ha ha. It was bothering me when I played soccer. It didn’t hurt, no pain with palpation. I had hydrocele. I was also sick a lot too which my wife had told me.
mK: Why did you get involved with advocacy? What exactly do you do?
CL: A professional skateboarder, Mitchie Brusco and his mom introduced me to the International Testicular Cancer Foundation aka Theboys.org. I met with the President of the foundation and next thing I know I’m on the board and honored to be sharing my story and to help inform others about TC.
mK: Who is your hero or heroes?
CL: Both of my grandfathers. My dad’s dad, was a merchant marine that was hired by the haganah and captained the Josiah Wedgewood, a British ship that took Holocaust survivors from Italy to Port of Haifa in 1942. He passed away when I was 8. My mom’s dad was in the Army in Germany and brought back tons of souvenirs (illegally) but had the best sense of humor and best outlook on life with so much love, he passed in 2005. As for superhero, I would say superman… 2 people as one with a disguise me as myself and the other one that saves people.
mK: What motivates you?
CL: My family motivates me. My kids…to provide for them.
mK: When was the first time you felt like yourself after your diagnosis?
CL: That’s a 2 part question: Mentally and Physically…
I think mentally I kept a steady head with a sense of humor going through it all. It was hard getting radiation, I was always the youngest one in the waiting room, I felt like I had it easy…actually guilt that I wasn’t going through what they were going through. That was hard. I would say I felt like myself about 6 months after radiation. The birth of my son 2 weeks after radiation, I was still a little “weird” and not myself, but it helped to focus on him and my wife.
Physically, I was still sick a bit, nauseous, stomach sensitivity and some headaches. To this day I still feel like I was microwaved from the inside, I still feel I run hot and sometimes feel sick, maybe psychosomatic, but I’m always “not right” from November to April every year.
mK: What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
CL: Funny movies make me laugh, a good funny joke. Anger and crying sometimes go together, I get angry with some of my decisions in business, I cry with the consequences. I cry, happily when I see my son read a book to me or do something really great on the soccer field and when I see my girls growing up.
mK: What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve done?
CL: Still living life.
mK: What was the toughest challenge you faced as a survivor? How did you overcome it?
CL: The toughest challenge I face(d) was the fact that I knew I had it easy as compared to other cancer survivors. Like I said earlier, I actually did and do feel guilt because I had surgery and radiation, vs. radiation and several rounds of chemo. I guess I got lucky that I had a cancer that I could feel and see on the outside. TC may be the one cancer I feel allowed me to catch it early enough vs. other internal organ cancer with no symptoms, or symptoms very late. With my background in healthcare I knew something was wrong, went through a small denial phase but went to the urologist and got it taken care of ASAP before it got worse. Mentally, I realize that if we are educated about cancer and feel something “wrong” with our bodies, we need to report it to our Doctor. That Doctor needs to listen to the patient and follow up. I’ve personally diagnosed 5 people with terminal cancers and 1 with a benign optic chiasm tumor. When they come to me, it’s just for pain, but no idea the cause, I take X-Rays, and if I see something wrong I send them out to their PCP or further imaging. My latest is a friend, Stage 4 lung cancer, she came to me with low back pain, x-rays looked funny, sent to VA for MRI, they delayed it, I got the MRI results before her PCP and I had to report the news to her. This is a challenge, and I don’t overcome it.
Regarding my situation, I realize and just have to live that “I am what I am and that’s all that I am” -Popeye
mK: Besides “spinach”… What is your guilty pleasure?
mK: mmmm… good ones… Random question time… if you were an animal, what would you be? Why?
CL: Lion! Duh, king. Strong, brave, not afraid to face fears, enemies, dangers, protect his pride, fight to the death
mK: HAHAHA! What do you like to do in your spare time?
CL: Spare time? Be with my kids, watch some TV, play soccer, surf/bodyboard, listen to music…yes I dance
mK: What are you up to now?
CL: I’m a Chiropractor, specializing in sports, I’ve been the team Doc for the SD Sockers professional indoor soccer as well as XGames athletes, triathletes, young athletes, people of all ages. I am continuing to grow my practice. Starting to get ready for XGames in Austin this year.
mK: Pretty cool! Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
CL: Stay positive with a steady head. Make a plan for future for either your friends, mom/dad/brother, wife, kids. Go through the phases of getting to a comfortable feeling in your head. Get treatments right away, don’t delay. Share your story so you can help others.
mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
CL: I have one testicle.
mK: Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
CL: The biggest Offense to” Cancer Defense” is Knowledge. Us as cancer survivors need to share our stories, especially the “how did you know” question. Why is this? If we can help someone “self diagnose” and they get to the Doctor quickly, once found, treatments can begin quickly to increase chances for full recovery.
Dr. Corey Lichtman: Chocholate pizookie monster, mint flavored sweets addict, Popeye-disciple, Superman clone, Doctor of Chiropractic medicine, husband, father, and driver testicular cancer advocate. Check out International Testicular Cancer Foundation aka Theboys.org when you get the chance. Thanks for doing this Dr. Lichtman! It is imperative that “post treatment thrivers” share their stories!