One Man’s Perseverance through an Unforeseen Cancer Diagnosis

At 33 years young, Kevin Smith never expected to hear the words “you have cancer.” In fact, his healthy lifestyle and zest for outdoor adventure painted an entirely different picture—one of health and wellness. In May 2017, during a trip to the Cape with friends, Kevin felt an unusual pain in his groin area and knew he had to make an appointment with his doctor. 

“The pain felt like someone had punched me in the groin,” Kevin recalled. “I had already been experiencing swelling in one testicle for a while before the trip, but hadn’t thought much about it—until I felt that sharp pain.” 

The pain Kevin felt that day prompted him to go see his doctor. After a routine examination and blood test, he soon learned that his blood had a tumor marker that was identified as testicular cancer.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), while testicular cancer is relatively rare (approximately 1 in every 100,000), it is actually the most common cancer affecting males between the ages of 15 and 35. 

“When I was told I had cancer, I was in shock and disbelief. I’m a healthy person…  I take care of myself, I go to the gym regularly, and I honestly never imagined this could happen to me,” Kevin said. “When a urologist further confirmed the diagnosis, it was recommended that I proceed with surgery to remove the testicle and to then continue with careful surveillance, making sure the tumor didn’t spread.”

Careful surveillance is a preferred plan for many experts when cancer has not spread beyond the testicle. Through physical exams, blood tests, and imaging tests (CT scans and sometimes chest x-rays), physicians monitor patients to make sure the cancer is still at bay. In about 15 to 20 percent of testicular cancer patients, however, the cancer does return—most often to nearby lymph nodes. 

At Kevin’s six month checkup, a CT scan revealed that the tumors had spread and that chemotherapy would be necessary to eradicate the disease. 

“When I learned I needed chemotherapy, I couldn’t imagine adding the stress and worry of the traffic, commuting to Boston for treatment,” Kevin said.

“Meeting my fantastic oncologist, Dr. Chi at the Cancer Center in Weymouth, and discovering I could get the same level of treatment locally that I’d expect to receive in Boston, gave me gave me such peace of mind.”

In addition to world-class treatments, Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center in clinical affiliation with South Shore Hospital offers a plethora of resources including regular supportive workshops, nutrition support, integrative therapies, social work, and cancer support groups. Prior to the start of his first treatment, Kevin attended the Chemo Orientation Class—the first of its kind in the region—where he learned about what to expect before, during and after chemotherapy treatments, a class designed to help to ease any anxiety that often comes with the unknowns of cancer treatment. 

“Being able to support Kevin and be there for him every step of the way has been a privilege,” said Dorcas Chi, MD, medical oncologist at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center in clinical affiliation with South Shore Hospital. “Making his journey as easy and comfortable as possible so he could still enjoy life was my goal through his nine weeks of systemic chemotherapy.”