Jeffrey Marcus, a Westminster survivor of testicular cancer, said his cancer diagnosis came about solely because of his love of football.
On New Year's Day 1987, Marcus said he was playing football with some friends, when he was hit in the groin with the football and he doubled over in pain. The pain eventually went away, and he said he didn't give the injury a second thought for the next month.
That year, during the Super Bowl where Washington was playing the Denver Broncos, Marcus said he bent over to kiss his two-year-old daughter and he doubled down in pain. Remembering his injury, earlier in the year, he felt down in his groin and his testicle had a lump. He immediately made an appointment with his doctor.
"My family doctor told me he thought it was a hernia, but he was going to refer me to a urologist just to be safe," Marcus said. "He left the room to make the appointment and said, 'Great news, I got you an appointment a month from now.' I told him to go back there, because I need to be seen today."
Marcus was squeezed into the last appointment at the urologist later that day. He was told again that it was likely a hernia, but the doctor decided to perform surgery to take a look. The very next day, doctors performed an exploratory surgery on Marcus, discovered a tumor, and removed his right testicle. The entire process from first pain to testicle removal took only four days.
Marcus said the night before the surgery was one of the scariest of his life.
"My wife at the time was there in our brand new house, holding our newborn son, and I just broke down," Marcus said. "I didn't know what to expect. I was kind of scared."
Marcus' mother, Elaine, said when she heard about the diagnosis, it was devastating.
"We hadn't had any prior thing like that in our family. We didn't know what to do," Elaine said. "Luckily, he had a good doctor. It was just unreal the way things happened."
Marcus was diagnosed with embryonal cell cancer, the fastest, but also most curable kind of testicular cancer. Marcus said he had the option to return each month to scan for signs that it had spread, or have a single large surgery to make sure it had not yet spread to the lymph nodes. Marcus chose the latter.
"I didn't think this was anything to fool around with," Marcus said. "I'm not one to procrastinate."
Marcus' lymph node surgery was scheduled for April 1. He was split from the pubic bone up through the chest, and had 15 lymph nodes removed. Three of those turned out to be cancerous. Marcus said he was very fortunate to have decided to go with the surgery.
"My situation turned out better than most. When I was diagnosed I was late compared to what their forecasts show," Marcus said. "It typically presents itself between 18 and 25. I was 27 at the time."
Elaine visited Marcus in the hospital following the procedure. She said she was unprepared for how major the operation would be.
"I walked in and walked right by his bed. I didn't recognize him. He looked like a sumo wrestler, he was so swollen," Elaine said. "That's the closest I ever came to fainting."
"The biggest thing I took away from them was that this wasn't a death sentence. It was more of a life sentence," Marcus said. "I had chemotherapy for nine months of not knowing what the outcome would be. But I never felt my life was in jeopardy, because I reached out to the American Cancer Society."
About 12 years ago, Marcus began speaking publicly about his experience. That year, he participated in his first Relay for Life. During the event, he ran his first survivor's lap. Tto this day, he said, he still gets choked up thinking about the experience. Today, Marcus shares his story whenever the opportunitiy arises.
"I just feel the need to share my experience to help others," Marcus said. "Time is of the essence. If you feel a knot on your testicle, it's not something to fool around with. You need to have it immediately be checked out. Be proactive and take care of yourself."