Testicular Cancer Survivor
- Diagnosed with metastatic disease in December 2002
- Treated with chemotherapy and surgery
- Recurrence treated with bone marrow transplant
- Released from care at SCCA - cured
It was December 2002 when Scott Whitman finally went to his doctor. Young and busy building his career, he and his wife had a young child and were expecting a baby that year. He’d had some lower back pains and some abdominal pains but nothing too much to worry about. The bigger concern was just that he didn’t have the same energy level he used to. “I’d come home from work and I’d be tired and I just had to lay on the couch or sit down and just rest instead of going out and doing yard work or whatever. I was just kind of run down,” he says.
After his examination, the doctor pointed out that one of his testicles was larger than the other and referred Scott to a urologist, whom he was supposed to see immediately after his appointment with his general doctor.
“Well, that’s a little strange,” Scott thought. “So, I went over and saw the urologist and he did essentially the same thing. He did a quick examination and he says, ‘Just a sec, I’ll be right back.’ He comes back and he says, ‘Well, I’ve made you an appointment to go have an ultrasound. You need to go over there and then come back and see me.’ So, I think at that point I knew something was pretty seriously wrong.”
Scott was diagnosed with testicular cancer. His doctor told him that it was a very curable disease, unless it had spread beyond the testicle. He would first have to have his testicle removed.
Throughout the diagnostic process, Scott had a series of MRIs and additional tests to find out if the cancer had spread, which it had. “It had spread pretty extensively up thru my abdomen, to my liver, and into my lungs. They did an MRI of my head and they didn’t find anything there so I was lucky that way,” he says.
The standard treatment for Scott’s particular type of testicular cancer is chemotherapy. He started treatment in the middle of January 2003 for a three-month regimen.
“I went through the standard losing-your-hair and all of those different things. I tolerated that pretty well. And then the next step was surgery to remove any residual tumors,” he says.
Scott had surgery in the summer but by fall his tumor markers were rising again.
“I think the common question you ask is, why me?” Scott says. “You see people walking down the street or driving next to you and think, why me? But, you know, I guess I thought why not me? I mean, what makes me any better or different than anybody else?”
Bone Marrow Transplant
In November 2003, Scott’s doctor told him his only recourse was a stem cell transplant. He referred Scott to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance for this procedure that he could not receive in his hometown of Bellingham.
At SCCA he received high-dose chemotherapy followed by an autologous bone marrow transplant (also known as a stem cell transplant or hematopoietic stem cell transplant). Autologous means the stem cells were his own, harvested before the high-dose chemotherapy was administered to destroy his immune system and the cancer in his body.
It took 10 days to harvest his stem cells and two intense chemotherapy treatments to prepare for the transplant. Six years later, Scott remains cancer-free.
Where You Go Matters
“Seattle Cancer Care Alliance is a learning center. It’s very much on the cutting-edge or front side of a lot of the treatments,” Scott says. “The thing that was most remarkable there was the empathy of the staff. It was truly amazing. It’s obvious that they enjoy what they do.”
Scott says it’s a good time to be alive because there’s a lot available to treat cancer today. “It’s not always a terminal illness anymore. It’s something that is treatable and curable.”
Scott doesn’t believe that a person should let his disease define who he is or who he becomes. “It’s very important to remember who you are and remember your life before your diagnosis and who you want to be. Don’t let that cancer be all-consuming. Try to maintain as much of your regular life and your regular person as possible.”
In May 2012 we caught up with Scott to check in on him. In his own powerful words, he is fine!
"The fact is, there has been a substantial change in my relationship with SCCA. You see, upon my last visit, my doctor fired me, and told me not to come back! I can’t remember the last time I was told I was unwanted and not to return. I thought I had been a good patient, not too demanding, always on my best behavior (except when I could not stop vomiting), but I guess that is not what keeps you a VIP at SCCA. No, I’m not broken anymore, but to just kick me out the door and say 'stay in shape, eat well, get regular checkups with your family doctor, and enjoy life.' What the…? Ok, that is not exactly how it was said, but that is what I enjoy telling people with a smile on my face.
"Honestly, it took a day or two for me to totally understand the team at SCCA cured me, and what that meant. Not only me, but my wife, and friends of mine too. My lasting memory is the surreal experience of walking down the corridor from the examination room, and pushing my way through the door to the waiting area, seeing all of those people, and understanding their journey. I know they will be given the best care, with amazing compassion, delivered with the highest level of dignity no matter the outcome.
"SCCA stands to serve an awesome need to those with cancer, one part science, one part care, one part hope, and one part cure. The work that all do at SCCA embodies these principals."