"Luis Hernandez is a testicular cancer survivor."
I became a testicular cancer survivor when I was diagnosed in August 2003.
I found out one day that I had a particular thing in my right testicle, and I went to my general doctor in Mexico. He told me that I might need an ultrasound test first, because it was nothing common.
From the ultrasound, they sent me right away to the oncologist, because they found out that it was a tumor. The oncologist in Mexico told me that there was a 99% chance that it was a cancer tumor. He suggested to have the tumor removed and do some other tests. At that time, I kept traveling back and forth from Mexico to Los Angeles. I got a second opinion in L.A. I was coming very often to L.A. due to some clients that I worked with. It was easy for me to come and search for a second opinion in L.A. The surgery was pretty easy, but I felt more comfortable doing it in America. It's not because I don't trust the Mexican medical expertise or doctors, but the grade of specialty they have here for these kinds of things is completely different. They have a higher level of experience here in America. For example, my oncologist and the doctor that did my surgery, that's mostly what they do, these kind of surgeries. In Mexico, the doctors are not as specialized in some areas, so that was the reason that I decided to do it in America.
They confirmed the same diagnosis. They removed the testicle. Luckily, there was no metastasis anywhere. But the type of cancer was mixed cancer cells. It had some type of cancer cells that are more aggressive. The treatment is just to keep a close observation every two months with CT scans and blood tests. If I don't get the tumor anywhere else for the first two years, it's more likely I will not get it again. So now it's 14 months.
I actually never felt bad. I've been doing sports all my life, so I actually was feeling very well at that time. I was competing in triathlons. No physical side effects. It slowed me down during the surgery, but the surgery's pretty simple. I was walking out the hospital four or five hours after the surgery.
I'm convinced that cancer is not only a physical disease. It's social. It comes from stress and the way you live. So that makes you very anxious that you have no real control over your body. It changed my perspective of the way I behave every day. I have always been working hard, full-time, and very stressful. Even though I keep working a lot and doing what I've been doing all my life, I just don't take it so personally. If there are things that I cannot resolve, that's it. I don't try to get too stressed out. I enjoy more all the things that I have. I enjoy my family. I enjoy my sports. I try to enjoy non-stressing things, and I think that's been very helpful for me.
I had a very good experience with cancer. So far, no chemotherapy, no radiation, just the surgery. I feel very lucky about it. But it's something that I have in my mind every day - that I had cancer. A very important thing about being a cancer survivor is that you have to keep your attitude positive. You gotta think that you're gonna survive, and you're gonna do fine. Otherwise, my belief is that your body reacts to your attitude. I've always been a very positive person, so I try to maintain that attitude, and it's been good for me and for everyone. It's not only stress to me. It's a stress to my family, kids, and close friends. It's an attitude of, "Okay, I had it. I might get it again, but life is life. I have to keep it going."
Life and death is not a real issue. We're all gonna die sometime, and I'm not afraid of that. But when they diagnose you with cancer, of course, you think that you're gonna die sooner than you might expect to die. When you're young, and you have a young family, it makes you more anxious about the dying issue. You don't want to die when your kids are four or five years old. That's why the life and death issue pops out when they tell you you have cancer. You start thinking, "What if I'm gonna die?" Of course, everybody knows what cancer is. But when you get diagnosed, you start reading on your type of cancer, and you find out that there's no benign kind of cancer. You can die any day.
Even before the cancer diagnosis, I was aware that we will die eventually. I'm prepared for that, because it's not only cancer you can get killed by. You fall down in the tub and that's it. But with the cancer, of course, you start thinking about, "What if I die sooner?" You prepare with wills and whatever you can financially leave to the family. But I think if you're a cancer patient, that's something that should not be stressful for you. There's nothing you can do, other than trying to make money while you're a patient. The real challenge is to survive from cancer. It's not to save a lot of money to leave to your family, because somehow it's like saying, "Okay, I'm gonna die soon. I've got to get money to leave them." I think that's the wrong way of viewing your cancer. Your real important issue is to survive.
For the girls, it's not been very difficult for them, because they don't understand what's happening. They are four and six. At that time, they were three and five. They knew that I was ill, because I had to come to surgery, but they really don't understand the concept of cancer and the consequences, that you might die. At that age, it's much more difficult for the parents than for them. When you have a family, you don't think only about yourself. You die, that's it. There's nothing you can do. But when you have kids and a wife, it's very scary to think that you will die soon before they can have a life of their own.
My wife's been very supportive all the time. With the cancer, my wife told me, "Please slow down a little bit and try to make it easier for everybody." Which I think is what I'm doing. Of course, it affected her a lot. But my wife took it in a mature way. She never broke down. She has always been there, so it's been good for me.
Even if you think that you have a very good health condition, if you have a very good financial condition, cancer gives you that hint that you are not indestructible. Anyone can have it. There's no real cure for cancer. To be a survivor is that you are aware that you are not controlling everything, and survivorship is like an attitude every day. Not because you had cancer. Not only cancer survivors should have that attitude. Everybody should have it to avoid creating other types of diseases, not only cancer. So that's survivorship for me.
I live strong. I do my best at work, with my family, with my wife, with myself. Live strong means that you have to have a real strong attitude against the obstacles you find in life, not only diseases, financial, personal, with your wife or your fiancé, in all your personal relations. I like the slogan LIVESTRONGTM . It's because I've always been a person who tries to put my person to the edge of everything. I try to do my best. It's about having the right attitude in life.
My name is Luis Hernandez, and I'm a one-year testicular cancer survivor.