fbpx Living Life as a Man with One Testicle—Why You Shouldn't Worry

Living Life as a Man with One Testicle—Why You Shouldn't Worry

Of course, you're going to be apprehensive, but the big stuff won't change.
Justin Birckbichler
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Justin Birckbichler

Roughly five years ago, I found a lump on my left testicle while conducting a routine self-exam in the shower. This was early October 2016. I was only 25. I didn't have any symptoms aside from the lump, which resembled a frozen pea.

After experiencing a lot of anxiety about next steps, I called a doctor a few days later. It's no exaggeration to say the call saved my life. My primary care doctor, urologist and oncologist all stressed how important not putting it off was to my successful course of treatment.

By late October, an ultrasound result caused my doctor to suspect cancer. He confirmed it a few days later. Doctors removed my left testicle at the end of the month, but a CT scan in early November revealed cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. I was officially diagnosed with stage IIB nonseminoma testicular cancer.

This mouthful of a diagnosis meant I needed BEP chemo—a combination of bleomycin, etoposide and platinum. I started 21 treatments in late November and concluded at the end of January 2017. A scan in March 2017 showed I was in remission, and I've been cancer-free ever since.

Despite early consternation about what it would be like to be one pilot short of a full cockpit, I've learned, after living this uniballer life for more than five years, that my dismay was misplaced. Testicular Cancer Awareness Month—it is this and every April—is the perfect time for this survivor to provide some comfort.

Men shouldn't worry about four of the most common fears they may encounter immediately following their diagnosis and orchiectomy. The fact I was diagnosed at age 25 is by no means unusual when it comes to testicular cancer. It's a young man's disease, so take note.

Fear #1: It's going to impact performance in the bedroom

A loss of sexual prowess is often one of men's biggest fears about having just one ball, as I have found during conversations over the years. After more than five years with a single testicle, I can allay those concerns. Having one ball does not have any physiological impact during intercourse. I'm still able to maintain an erection and ejaculate. The actual "motion of the ocean" continues to work just fine. All in all, I don't feel like my sex life has taken a hit.

For the record, I have yet to have a partner who has expressed complaints about me having one testicle. I mean, testicles are not the stars of the show. If you feel differently, I have many questions for you.

If anything, having one testicle may be a bonus: The receiving partner has fewer balls to juggle, and I mean that quite literally.

Fear #2: Can men with one testicle father children?

Following on the heels of concerns about not being able to engage in bedroom acrobatics, many guys wonder if they will still be able to become a dad. Me? I'm not quite ready to have my own child yet. But I had my sperm tested and am still fertile. When the time comes, I should be able to conceive a child. I know plenty of men who have gone through testicular cancer and its treatment, and been able to produce their own children.

In many cases, it's not losing a testicle that impacts fertility. When one soldier is taken out of commission, the other often picks up the slack. Chemotherapy, on the other hand, is what had my doctor most concerned about my fertility. He recommended I bank sperm prior to my treatment, which I did.

One study found 92 percent of men who underwent an orchiectomy but only surveillance afterward were able to father a child without assistance. That number dipped to 48 percent for men who underwent high-dose chemo after surgery.

In many cases, fertility rebounds after testicular cancer treatment. If you're concerned about your future progeny, sperm banking is always an option, and there are many services that offer it at a free or discounted rate if you're facing cancer.

Fear #3: I'm no longer going to look like a 'man'

In addition to producing sperm, the testicles also produce testosterone, which is what gives us many of the qualities we associate with being male. Like I said in a previous point, the remaining testicle will pick up the slack and produce enough testosterone. Plus, the testicles aren't the only testosterone producers in the body anyway. Though I lost my hair and a lot of my muscle tone during chemo, they have since rebounded.

Nowadays, I have a beard and have regained many of the muscles I lost, though I am working toward a dad bod. Regardless, losing what you may consider half of your manhood does not make you less of a man.

Fear #4: My overall quality of life is going to suffer

Balls don't make the man. I understand the thought of having one testicle may have a psychological effect on a man. It did on me at first. I thought my entire quality of life would suffer and wanted to hide it from the world. Realistically, from the outside, I don't look any different and I could get away with not saying anything. However, I would be living a lie. Eventually, I decided I had to sack up and speak up, as evidenced by this article (and this one).

By equating our masculinity with the number of testicles we own, we're doing a disservice to ourselves and our fellow men. Having these conversations is important and freeing. You control your own destiny and life, not what you have in your sack.

Essentially, I advocate for you to grab life by the balls…or more accurately, ball.

The bottom line

If you find a lump on your testicle—anything that seems amiss, really—go to the doctor. I understand how thinking of cancer and possibly losing a testicle is scary. But testicular cancer is very curable when detected and treated. The alternative is much more dire.

I'm living proof you can be short one ball and still enjoy a great life. Whether your concerns are about the bedroom, your future, your masculinity or more, I promise I've had those thoughts—as have countless other men—and come out on the other side stronger and better than before.

Justin Birckbichler is a men's health advocate, a testicular cancer survivor and the founder of aBallsySenseofTumor.com. He lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia.