May 20, 2019

Depression–A Cancer Survivor’s Story

Guest Blog By: Justin Birckbichler

On my testicular cancer awareness blog, A Ballsy Sense of Tumor, I have written extensively what it’s like to experience depression as a cancer survivor. I eventually recognized the signs, asked for help, and went on antidepressants. While I am happy to say they are definitely working, I only knew to ask for them since this wasn’t my first time battling depression.

I’ve alluded to this in past writings, but I fought with clinical depression during my sophomore and junior years in high school. However, I’ve never written a full account of this trying time, and in the wake of the unfortunate events with Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, and countless others throughout the past decade, I’m ready to take that leap in hopes of letting someone else know to ask for help.

For context, I grew up in an upper-middle class family. I am the oldest of three kids and my parents are still together. I was in the gifted program since third grade, participated in a number of sports, and school came rather easy to me. In essence, I was the definition of privilege and from the outside, I had no “reason” to be unhappy.

It started slowly enough. Around the start of sophomore year, I realized I was increasingly feeling sad and hopeless. Nothing seemed to bring me joy and I always managed to find the negative in every situation. I couldn’t figure out why this was happening, but I felt too ashamed to open up, since I had a pretty good life. However, there was a lot of pain inside that I just didn’t know how to manage.

I turned to self-harm to try to let out some of this pain. This is the first time I am publicly admitting this, and before this writing, less than five people in the world knew I did this. I didn’t want to cut myself since that would leave marks, which would make it hard to keep under wraps. I had done a stunt previously where I sprayed Axe body spray on my hand and lit it on fire. It didn’t cause pain if you did it as a stunt, but if you let it burn long enough, it hurt like hell. I did this a handful of times. It didn’t seem to help, yet it became a habit.

I suppose I subconsciously wanted to let some of this struggle out. I remember one day I put up an “Away Message” on AOL Instant Messenger that was beyond the scope of the normal, teenage angst. When I returned, one of my friends (who I later found out had depression himself) had said, “Um, Justin, you might be depressed.” Even though I was self-harming from time to time, I didn’t believe that I could be depressed. Again — I had a good life; what right did I have to be depressed?

At some point, this internal pain began to be too much. I began thinking that I just didn’t want to live anymore since it was too hard, even though nothing external was “wrong.” I started experiencing thoughts of suicide.

While I never actually attempted it, I had concrete plans on how I would do it. It’s still hard to walk past the area in my parents’ home where I was planning to do it. My little sister is what ended up saving my life. She looks up to me and I didn’t want to let her down. My love for her was stronger than my hate for myself.

Reaching this point was a pivotal moment. I finally admitted something was wrong and I needed help. Yet, I didn’t know how to ask. I decided to stop wearing a mask of being ok on the outside. I moved a little slower. Sighed a little bit more. Smiled less. One day, I flopped down dramatically on the couch and my mom finally asked if I wanted to talk to a therapist. Even though I was most likely weeks away from taking my own life, I couldn’t directly ask.

I agreed to get help and began seeing a therapist. I continued harming myself throughout the first few sessions and thoughts of suicide still lingered. Eventually, I admitted both of these to the therapist and we decided to start me on a course of antidepressants.

Initially, my dosage was wrong and I experienced a panic attack not too long after beginning them. I freaked out because my mom told me to go to bed and I wasn’t ready yet. I locked myself in my room and began hyperventilating. My dad literally kicked down my door and carried me outside to get fresh air. I calmed down, the doctors adjusted my meds, and the meds took hold. I continued going to the therapist and this one-two punch of medication and therapy helped raise me out of depression.

I don’t remember exactly when I got off of the medication, but it was an uneventful process. I did not slip back into depression, and had no problems coming off of them.

While this experience was probably the hardest in my life, and that’s saying a lot since I faced testicular cancer at 25, it ended up helping me recognize the symptoms early on during my survivorship phase of cancer.

I know that having depression at a young age puts me at risk for a recurrence later in life, and this study from 2017 that said about 20% of cancer survivors experience PTSD symptoms within six months of diagnosis. The CDC also reports that cancer survivors take anxiety and depression medication at almost twice the rate of the general population. Basically, it was a perfect storm of risk factors and I’m glad I knew these figures.

This time, I asked for help and antidepressants. I’m happy to say I am still on the meds and not feeling effects of depression. Experiencing the episode in high school helped me advocate for myself earlier before it got worse.

In addition to being a testicular cancer survivor, I am a fourth-grade teacher. I noticed one of my students seemed very upset, distant, and prone to tears. I requested a conference with his parents to discuss these episodes and tried to recommend they take him for further evaluation. They told me that they give him everything they wanted, love him unconditionally, and he has no reason to be sad. In a moment of “I’m not sure I should do this,” I shared that what I had experienced (leaving out the self-harm and thoughts of suicide parts) since I had “no reason to be sad” too. I saw something change in their eyes and I hope it may have paid off.

You can’t always tell if someone is experiencing depression from the outside. Like I said, I had a prime life and no real reason to be upset. Depression is a chemical imbalance in your brain and it’s always influenced by external factors. Asking if a person is feeling okay won’t always work, either. They might not even be aware of their own feelings or may hide it out of a certain feeling of stigma. My best advice is to be there for that individual and to be non-judgemental. In 2019, we should be treating mental health as a serious issue and stop the stigma surrounding it.

I hope by sharing my story, even one person realizes that it’s okay to ask for help and doesn’t feel they need to suffer in silence. I compare taking care of mental health to needing chemo for cancer or a cast for a broken arm. No one would blink twice about treating either of those conditions, but why does society not have the same attitude towards mental health?

Help is available from anywhere in the United States via Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741) or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273–8255. Either service is free, confidential and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

About the Author

Justin, in his high school days, with his favorite teacher

Justin Birckbichler is a men’s health activist, testicular cancer survivor, and the founder of From being diagnosed in November 2016 at the age of 25, to finishing chemo in January 2017, to being cleared in remission in March, he has been passionate about sharing his story to spread awareness about testicular cancer and promote open conversation about men’s health.

In addition to his work through ABSOT, Justin’s writing has appeared in Cure Magazine, I Had Cancer, The Mighty, The Good Men Project, Stupid Cancer, and more. His work with awareness of men’s health has been featured by Healthline, Ball Boys, and various other organizations. In 2017, ABSOT won an award for the Best Advocacy and Awareness Cancer Blog in 2017 and Justin was recognized as one of 15 People Who Raised Cancer Awareness in 2017. He was also one of the selected attendees of HealtheVoices18.

Justin also serves as a member of the Strategic Advisory Board for the Cancer Knowledge Network and as a board member of the Young Adult Cancer Survivor Advisory Board for Lacuna Loft.

Outside of the “cancer world,” Justin is a teacher, amateur chef, technology aficionado and avid reader. He lives in Fredericksburg, VA with his wife, cat, and dog.

Connect with him on Instagram (@aballsysenseoftumor), on Twitter (@absotTC), on Facebook (, on YouTube, or via email (

Like what you’re reading? Follow GRYT Health on Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter for more inspiring news and stories!

March 28, 2019

Cancer Isn’t Just Cancer

Guest Blog By Rachel Mihalko

I’ve had a rough go of it lately.

At least that’s what I’ve been telling the people I can confide in. The truth is, I’m really struggling. Struggling with school, struggling with my mental health, struggling with making sense of everything I’ve gone through. Because it isn’t fair. It will never be fair that I got cancer, and it will never be fair that anyone gets cancer. There is not a single person who deserves such a terrible fate. I don’t deserve to struggle with PTSD after treatment. And I don’t deserve to struggle with depression and have trouble even getting up in the morning to go to class.

Life has been rough ever since I was first diagnosed almost ten months ago. People assume things get better once the cancer is gone. And while I might have clear scans and not be totally wiped out from chemo every day, I still get tired walking to class, have trouble overdoing it, and get tired out fast at theatre rehearsals. Cancer isn’t just cancer. It affects a person so much more than you would think.

I’m ready for things to go back to how they were. I’m ready to be pre-cancer Rachel, happier, and oblivious to the pain post-cancer Rachel has experienced. Is still experiencing. But I’m growing through all of this. As much as I hate it, as much as I just want to be normal and be able to go for a run or have energy all day long, there’s something to be said for going through hard things. These things are what shape you into a stronger, more mature, more free person. Cancer has challenged my perfectionism and my inner critic. It is challenging me to show myself more grace and be okay with getting a B+ on a paper or a test. Because that’s okay. What does one test matter in the grand scheme of things? I’m learning what I need to and applying it as best I can. And my body is still recovering, so how can I expect perfection from myself, especially now?

This doesn’t mean I’m okay with my cancer yet. I’m still angry and upset and learning to accept what I’ve been through. And I may be far from it, and that’s okay. Because I’m learning to give myself grace.

Like what you’re reading? Follow GRYT Health on Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter for more inspiring news and stories!

March 5, 2019

I’ve got GRYT

Guest blog by Megan-Claire Chase

The past few days have been a whirlwind of AH-MAZING experiences and accomplishments. My co-presenter and co-author Francesca and I presented our abstract on AYA Perspectives on Fertility Preservation Conversations with Healthcare Providers at the American Psychosocial Oncology Society (APOS) conference in Atlanta, GA on Thursday, February 28th. Plus, I got to meet some young adult cancer “celebrities” in-person. I’ll get to that in a few moments.

I had no idea what to expect at the APOS conference. I’m new to this side of cancer and research. I felt a tad outside of my element but tried to give the appearance of calm, cool and collected. Francesca and I were the third to present. I confess I was getting more and more nervous waiting for our turn to step up to the podium.

I knew our presentation would be authentic, informative and emotional. I’m beyond thrilled that the audience felt the same. Francesca and I bounced off well with each other. All that rehearsal and mouth warm-ups from my theatre days helped. I felt this surge of energy and focus as soon as it was my turn to speak. We were the only presenters who were asked multiple questions from the audience.

I could see some people moved to tears. It is honestly one of the BEST moments and accomplishments in my cancer experience as a writer, speaker, and advocate for young adult cancer thus far.

I must tell you about the three memorable and outstanding moments aside from being a presenter. I FINALLY got to meet the founder of Lacuna Loft, Mallory, in-person AND Aerial who partners with Lacuna Loft and is the program director for the GRYT Health app. As soon as I saw these two powerhouses, I actually got teary-eyed. I have been talking with them, especially Mallory, for two years! I still can’t believe I got to actually talk to and hug them. Plus, they came to hear my presentation.

Oh, there is more! I also got to meet the CEO and founder of the GRYT Health app, David, who also came to my presentation. I thought I had fully embarrassed myself enough in front of Mallory (in the pic below) and Aerial because I was totally fangirl-ing. Nope! I completely lost it meeting David (in the pic below), too! He’s also a MAJOR deal in the cancer world, and the nicest guy. I was able to hear David speak about his app and the thought, research, and funding behind it. The love he has for his team is inspiring and beautiful.

I’m super jazzed about the GRYT Health app and wanted to share my knowledge about it with you. This is a peer-to-peer support app. You can chat with people privately and in group chats. What I really love about this app is the connections made, especially in the group chats. You see, this app truly engages you with different types of programs offered for cancer survivors. I love how the group chats are moderated, too.

The very first one I took part in was with Dr. Michael Stubblefield, Medical Director for Cancer Rehabilitation; National Medical Director for Cancer Rehabilitation Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation. I was able to get direct access to him and ask questions about my neuropathy. I don’t know of any other cancer app that gives survivors this kind of access to major influencers in the cancer world. They also offer a movie club and writing program, just to name a few. Definitely download it and turn on your notifications to get updates.

It will be difficult to go back to my corporate job in the morning. I felt I was making a real difference and really living my passion the past few days. I long for the day when I can turn this passion in my spare time into a fulltime reality.

Until next time,

Warrior Megsie

About the author: Megan-Claire Chase (Megs or MC for short) was diagnosed at 39 years old with stage IIA invasive lobular breast cancer. She has been NED for almost two years. Due to complications in her post treatments, she was medically induced into menopause in 2017 and now unable to have children. Megs is a true STEEL magnolia and single living in Atlanta, GA. In her spare time, she writes a blog called Life On The Cancer Train and is well-known in the local young adult cancer community as an advocate, writer, and speaker.

See the original blog post here, and follow Megs’ blog, Life On the Cancer Train!

Like what you’re reading? Follow GRYT Health on Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter for more inspiring news and stories!

December 21, 2018

Guest Blog: Lacuna Loft CEO Shares

An Easy Self-Care Tip for the Holiday Season

This holiday season, give yourself a gift by being kind to yourself.

Believe me, I know. Self-care is not a piece of cake. Sure, once you hear a tip, it sounds easy enough but all the real work is found in the implementation. Even so, never too late to hear a new, easy self-care tip right? I learned this one when I was in grad school. I’ll admit that I don’t quite have the hang of it yet…but I’m working on it!

When you’re facing a tough day or a tough situation (or both!), try talking to yourself like you would talk to a really good friend, or to your younger self. How would you react to your best friend (or the younger you) if he or she lost that big client or didn’t do well in that race or had a less than stellar day? Or maybe didn’t get all the shopping done or cookies made?

Would you blame them for the mistake? Would you pile on all of the other things that your friend did wrong that day?

I didn’t think so.

Try talking to yourself like you would a very good friend. You are with yourself all the time for goodness sake! Treat yourself like your own best friend!

Nurture yourself and be kind.

You can read the original blog post here.

Check out Lacuna Loft’s website for more blog posts, program information and to stay up to date with their news!

Like what you’re reading? Follow GRYT Health on Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter for more inspiring news and stories!

October 20, 2018

Guest Blogger Spotlight: Dee

Finding my tribe through GRYT Health.

So many of us young adult cancer thrivers struggle to find our tribe. I spent a lot of my time after being diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2013 at the age of 33, tiptoeing around my so called “friends” to find a group of people among whom I could be unconditionally loved and accepted. Maybe I was expecting too much of my friends... Most of them dropped like flies, thinking maybe my cancer was contagious, I was getting divorced and my whole world was falling apart.

I have serious abandonment issues owing to my colorful childhood. My parents were in a violent relationship, I was destined to be a dragon slayer at 9. It was my quest at that time (to date) to protect my little 5-year-old brother from my dad’s temper. I was the apple of my dad’s eye and could do no wrong. My mother contemplated and tried to commit suicide a couple of times. It was always me rushing to get the neighborhood doctor and taking her, with the help of our neighbors, to the nursing home a block away. You cannot imagine what that does to a child’s mind.

Anyways, back to cancer, another upheaval in my life. Cancer just had terrible timing. I got through the multiple surgeries, chemo and immunotherapy (which let me tell you, sucked big time). Bladder cancer at 33, I am not a man or a smoker, did not drink, never did drugs… generally had a very boring life. Doctors took almost a year to figure out it was cancer.

I tried to find my tribe, but no matter what I tried, I always felt like the odd duck swimming with swans, who all seemed to enjoy a sense of belonging I never quite felt.

Fast forward to 2017... July- my 6-month cystoscope (if this came back clear I would be in remission and go on to yearly cystoscopes and biopsies) yyyyaaaayyy!!!! But the YAAAYY, soon changed to a NAAY!! As the scope entered my bladder, right there was a fuzzy looking sea anemone waving its fingers to me, mocking me “Hello, I am back”.

My urologist and I simultaneously went “oh shit!!!”. Yes, it was a very shitty feeling and I was in no mood to be proper or apologize. I was alone and feeling pretty f**ked up mentally. I do apologize, but since getting cancer, my French has increased.

My kids were out of town, I had no one around me. I felt like I was in an’s a bad, bad place. I really couldn’t function that week, it was like I was on autopilot, which was threatening to seriously malfunction.

One evening, bored and scared out of my wits, I scrolled through my twitter feed. I always followed Stupid Cancer, so seeing them in my feed was normal. I saw their tweet about the APP which sparked a bit of light in my already dark and twisty heart.

I think that’s the best app I have downloaded. That was my saving grace. I logged on initially, felt totally out of place with the 20 somethings on there, got quiet for a while then found my now GRYT BFF’s.

Slowly and steadily we grew close, a tight knit group now who talk, whine, scream, shout all times of the day every day. We found our safe space where we don’t care about what we say, we do not have to think twice, we don’t worry about talking about the constant fatigue we feel, we compare how cute our doctors and nurses are (hahahahhaha), and we talk a lot about food. Actually, our world revolves around food most days.

These wonderful women helped me find myself out of the abyss and realize I am not alone. I am loved, I am wanted and cancer does not control me. I control the big dreaded C.

We finally met each other at CancerCon in Denver this year. We hugged, cried and were totally silly. We also got ourselves matching tattoos that symbolize our cancer journey. Buddhist Unalome, it represents the no mud, no lotus theory. Mud being cancer and chemo, lotus being our remission when we bloom out of this cancer that’s trying to gnaw away at our bodies and souls.

I am ecstatic to find these amazing individuals who make up my tribe:

Megan who is as beautiful outside as she is inside… my human panic room.

Ellis my crazy vegan cinnamon roll eating mad eclectic extreme runner… my inspiration to get out of bed each day.

Liza the sweet little girl who is amazing.

CJ a wonderful child whose heart has no bottom, I really adore this kid.

and I continue to meet lovely people like Gina, Susan, and Brandie our Con-Momma. Curtis who has the same cancer as me, bladder cancer.

Not to forget both the Davids, ie with the guns and the one with Milkshake (his cat).

And of course, the whole GRYT team who we got to meet…. Shelley, Jess, Aerial, and Mallory of Lacuna Loft.

Like what you’re reading? Follow GRYT Health on Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter for more inspiring news and stories!

June 28, 2018

Guest Feature by ABSOT founder & writer, Justin B.

The Stupid Cancer App Came Out Last Year — Time for an Update!

In the fall of 2017, the Stupid Cancer organization, in partnership with Gryt Health, released the Stupid Cancer app. I wrote about my initial impressions of the app soon after its debut and I’ve learned a lot about it since then (not the least of which is realizing that the co-founder is fellow testicular cancer survivor and July’s Band of Ballers feature, Dave Fuehrer — stay tuned). They’ve released a ton of new features over the past few months.

Minor, but needed, improvements to the Stupid Cancer app

(This face is also powered by Gryt.)

One improvement is that the Stupid Cancer app is now available on the Android platform. While that literally has no bearing on my life (since I am an Apple user… for now — I’m going Team Pixel on my next upgrade), this definitely opens it up to a wider platform. Uniballers of Droid, come find me!

Similarly, the cancer type list has been updated to include more types of diagnoses. While testicular cancer has been represented since day one (see my above comment about Dave), it’s great to see more inclusivity in the Stupid Cancer app.

You can now send live links in the Stupid Cancer app, which is very helpful instead of having to retype or copy and paste (aka copy pasta) a link into your web browser. This seems like a minor improvement, but as a millenial, having to do a few extra clicks are the worst thing that has ever happened to me (he says on his blog where he’s also written about losing both his left testicle and all of his hair, regrowing white blood cells, and emptying the contents of his stomach for five days straight).

My favorite improvement to the Stupid Cancer app

As I expressed in my initial blog post, my biggest desire for the Stupid Cancer app was for individual chat rooms for specific cancer types. While these still don’t exist (I’m still holding out for The Ballroom), they do now have chat rooms defined for special purposes.

The Main Chatroom is kind of the “catch all” and hasn’t changed much since the original iteration. This is where you go just to hang out with the cool kids. There are also individual chat rooms about faith, food, caregivers, and newly diagnosed with cancer. Poke around to find your tribe.

I spend most of my time in the AppChat room. This is where their various chat series occur, including ones dedicated to specific types of cancer (I still want a dedicated Ballroom, especially to discuss my testicular exams and doctors offices research study with other testicular cancer survivors/patients, which you should read and share widely here!), special programs (like the Movie Club), and more. I don’t want to appear too biased, but the best AppChat occurs on the second Thursday of every month.

The best AppChat on the Stupid Cancer app

From 8:00 to 9:00 pm EST on every second Thursday of the month (previously Tuesdays), you can join the AppChat room of the Stupid Cancer app to participate in the “How to Tell Your Story” chat series, led by this incredible, handsome, witty, and very humble testicular cancer survivor that runs a fantastic blog. (Spoiler — it’s me.)

All cockiness aside, I do really enjoy leading this series. I have a regular group of cats that I try to herd into a coherent conversation about how and why to tell your cancer story, but sometimes even I get caught up in discussing the epicness of cinnamon rolls.

So far, we have covered developing a title, where to begin, the tone and purpose, structuring and finding supports, how to use your story to spread awareness, focusing on your audience, and a brief discussion on promotion. In the next few months, I want to transition into making this more of a writer’s workshop, in which we all gather to share our stories, give and receive critique, and help each other grow as writers.

(My pun game is strong everywhere.)

There’s power in sharing your story. It’s about not letting cancer happen to you… it’s about grabbing cancer by the ball(s) and making it work for you. By joining this club (that you never wished to be a part of), you’ve already taken the first steps towards telling your story.

If you’re interested, I’d love to see you drop by the AppChat room of the Stupid Cancer app and join in the fun. Despite what some of my regulars say, I am actually pretty nice and easygoing. Don’t believe a word they say… unless it’s about my ridiculous overuse of ball puns — that’s all true.

A conversation with Aerial Donovan of the Stupid Cancer App

Beyond my own use of the app, I’ve had a chance to talk with the creators behind all of the features and learn about the ‘why’ behind the app. While I was at HealtheVoices18 (read about Days 1 & 2 here and about Day 3 and my reflection here), I got to meet with Aerial Donovan, the Program Director of Gryt Health. Among other topics, we discussed future features of the Stupid Cancer app. We discussed the ability to filter users, since right now the only way to see matches is by changing your cancer type. They also have more avatar customizations coming out shortly, and I’m hoping for a spiky look as an option. I’m looking forward to these and other features and can’t wait until it rolls out.

But the upcoming features of the Stupid Cancer app weren’t was struck me most — it was the passion in which Aerial spoke about the app and how it clearly was reflected in the entire Gryt Health team.

One feature I inquired about was the ability to send pictures in the main chat room, since I thought this might help with facilitating a chat by posting graphics of the questions. She understood my request and then shared how hard the team has been debating whether or not to allow pictures in the main chat room (they are allowed in individual messages). In my mind, I couldn’t understand why this was such a big issue.

But then Aerial dropped a truth bomb that made it all clear. The main chat room is where most people get their feet wet. There’s a sacredness to being anonymous. While I am super on the ball when it comes to talking about my cancer experience, this may not be everyone’s decision. Preserving a space where you can just be an avatar makes it a safe place to be Justin B. as opposed to Justin Birckbichler, King of the Ball Puns. Once you feel secure and welcome in the community, you can branch out into DMs and share as many pics as you want with your newfound friends.

That single anecdote really illustrated how much integrity Gryt Health has behind the scenes. They are truly a great company of many extraordinary individuals, and I am proud to say I am not receiving any compensation in saying this (aside from a cool hat and shirt, but that’s since I’m an Uber Ambassador — it’s a real thing!). Thank you, Gryt, for making such an awesome place in the Stupid Cancer app, and I can’t wait to write the eventual third edition of this post…

And by then, I fully expect the Ballroom to be 100% operational for those of us who are operating with 50% of the standard amount of testicles.

May 8, 2018

A Ballsy Challenge by guest blogger, Justin Birckbichler

April is testicular cancer awareness month, my second favorite month of the year (right after July, since that is my birthday — hint, hint). Last year, I wrote a piece about using April as a spark for twelve months of testicular cancer awareness.

This year, I’m taking the challenge to the next level and simplifying it with tasks you can easily implement. Similar to the “making #NoShaveNovember meaningful” post, I’ve compiled a list of actionable steps you can do all year long, many without even needing to leave ABSOT (yay for laziness!)

Incorporate six ways to talk about testicles regularly

We need to talk about testicles and men’s health more regularly, but it’s not always easy to start a conversation by leading with, “Hey, I want to talk about balls!”

My all-time favorite (and among the most important, in my opinion) ABSOT post is “Six Ways to Talk About Testicles.” It’s a post that underscores the core values of ABSOT. The post shares six ways to bring up testicles in everyday conversations:

  • The Conversation Weaver: Find an opportunity to connect a normal conversation to something you know about testicular cancer, a patient/survivor, or anything about men’s health.
  • The Carpe Scrotiem: Seize the opportunity of a celebrity coming out to speak about his experience with testicular cancer.
  • The Question: Use or answer a question to get a conversation headed in that direction.
  • The Misconception Redemption: Hear someone say something totally wrong about testicular cancer? Hit them with some knowledge.
  • The Pun Game Strong: Testicular cancer isn’t funny, but puns are. Use plays on words with “balls, nuts, sack,” and other related terms for an easy entry point.
  • The Blunt Approach: Remember that point when I said to not lead with, “Hey, I want to talk about balls!”? Forget it and do that. Their shock will give you an opening. Use it.

Share a photo a day

Each day throughout the month of April, I will be sharing a graphic with an interesting fact, statistic, risk factor, or something else related to testicular cancer across Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook (all of these accounts are linked at the bottom of this post). When these pictures come up, I highly encourage you to forward them on to the men in your life or tag them in the comments. All of the facts were sourced from reputable sites, and I’ll link to my sources at the bottom of this post. I did put my own ABSOT flair on them, of course.

But what if you’re reading this in October and the pictures are buried under dozens of pictures of me turning everyday objects into balls? I’ll do you one better, and link to the entire slideshow here. From here, you can grab your own copy of the entire thing, download each picture individually, and share as you wish.

Want to take it a step further? Make your own pictures and share them. Include your own journey, stats you find, and whatever else you’d like. Feel free to email them to me and I’ll drop them into the master deck.

Band with the Band of Ballers

This is a new mission with ABSOT, and one I hope takes off quickly. With the exception of my Healthy But Affected features, ABSOT has been primarily discussing testicular health only through my voice. However, I’m just one man with one experience (and one ball.) As I’ve been working on opening up lines of communication about men’s health and testicular cancer awareness, I’ve had the privilege of meeting and talking with some incredible men who have grabbed life by the ball and made the best of their situation.

In essence, my vision for Band of Ballers is to give a platform for other Uniballers to both share their story and highlight what they’ve done post diagnosis to spread awareness about this disease. There has already been one Band of Ballers feature, written by Ken Lane in March, and I’m looking forward to sharing April’s in a few weeks. For now, this is going to be a monthly feature, but if it goes well, it may become more frequent.

How can you help? Share the posts as they’re published. It’s more than just me who has a mission and a desire to speak about men’s health and get the ball rolling. Follow and reach out to those individuals who are featured. Together, we can make a difference.

I’ve got a skeleton list of people to feature thus far. Know someone (or even yourself!) who is supporting TC awareness and would be willing to share their story? Drop their name, contact, and why they should be featured into this Google Form and I’ll reach out to them and/or you!

Take part in #Takea2nd4theBoys

In Ken Lane’s Band of Ballers feature, he shared about the new campaign to #Takea2nd4theBoys. The premise #TakeA2nd4TheBoys campaign is simple: you’re more likely to remember to check yourself if you have a reminder. Using the link below, you can automatically add this as an event on your Google calendar. Because the majority of men have two balls, the 2nd seemed to be the best date as any for a monthly self-exam. (I assume this means that my hashtag needs to be #Takea1st4TheBoy.) It also takes just a few seconds to perform a thorough exam. Even if you don’t have Google Calendar, manually adding this recurring reminder can save your life. Add your own self-exam reminder to your Google Calendar here!

Honestly, I think it’s brilliant. We’re super connected to our phones, and by having a recurring calendar appointment on the second of every month, we’re more likely to remember to do a self-check. In the April 2017 post, I shared how we can learn a lot from women. They have a similar campaign — #FeelItOnTheFirst, founded by Nalie Agustin. This can be our movement.

Share Ken’s page or the ABSOT #Takea2nd4theBoys page with all the men in your life. I literally mean all. It’s as simple as taking one click to add it to your Google Calendar or setting up an appointment on your phone. Include directions in the description so you never forget how. See below for written instructions in the following point.

Simply, talk, text, and tweet

This last point is probably the easiest. Simply put — talk, text, and tweet about men’s health regularly. (You can also do other forms of communication, such as email, Facebook, Instagram, and whatever other newfangled apps you kids are using these days, but I’m a big fan of alliteration.) We all have men in our lives — brothers, fathers, husbands, boyfriends, friends, teammates, and random people we meet on the street (or in an Apple Store when you’re stuck there for five hours and give the tech an ABSOT bracelet — but maybe that’s just me).

Make a point each month to choose one of those guys you know and mention men’s health with them. Follow up every month from there. By the end of the year, that’s twelve men you’ll have spoken to. Task them with doing the same. This is starting to sound like a bad word problem, and I’m writing this on a snow day, so I’ll spare you the math — that’s a whole lot of guys (and roughly twice the amount of testicles)!

Make sure whatever you do, you include directions on how to self-check. According the Testicular Cancer Society, only about 42% of surveyed men know how to perform a self-exam. Self-checks and early detection are critical. Do what I do and keep the following self-exam instructions as a note on your phone or on Google Keep. Copying and pasting (copy pasta is my preferred term) is a heck of a lot easier than rewriting the same thing over and over.

  • How to do a self-exam: Best done during or after a shower when the scrotum is relaxed, a self exam is a quick and effective way to catch testicular cancer early on. Just place your index and middle fingers under the testicle with your thumb on top. Firmly but gently, roll each testicle between your fingers. Any weird lumps or bumps should be checked out by a doctor ASAP.

Last year, I ended with a call to action, and it feels like a good thing to do again this year. Next year, I’ll just show up at your house, presumably. Choose one of the five options (or make up your own) I mentioned and commit to doing it once month, every month (kind of like a self-check!)

Check in here on this post in the comments below and let me know how you’re doing. Tweet or ‘Gram me about your action steps. Shoot me an email. Or totally leave me in the dark — that’s fine, too, as long as you’re following through.

This month helps us crack a tough nut of a conversation, but we can’t afford to drop the ball for the other eleven months of the year.