Neil Fiore, 65, Psychologist, Albany, CAHealthline: Can you give us a little background about your experience with testicular cancer?
Neil: I felt pain in my groin and didn’t know what to do or who to see until a friend told me to see an urologist. I didn’t even know the word. Doctors tend to push their own treatments: surgeons want to do surgery, radiation people suggested radiation treatment, and the chemotherapists recommend chemo.
It was determined that cancer was not spreading through my lymph nodes but I had two spots where it had spread/metastasized to my left lung. Luckily I read up on the research and discovered that they’re not supposed to do further surgery if the cancer has spread to the lung. But my surgeon wanted to do an eight hour operation to remove my lymph nodes. I told him I thought the cancer was spreading through my blood stream because the lungs filter the blood. It was not in my lymph nodes. I should have chemotherapy, I argued. Ultimately, he agreed and sent me to the oncologist and chemotherapist who put me on experimental chemotherapy a few days later.
After nine months’ weekly treatment, I was free of cancer.
Healthline: Did anyone in your family ever suffer from any similar conditions?
Neil: No, but my grandmother died of cancer in her sixties.
Healthline: Did the knowledge that you had a familial risk at all affect your attitude towards your own personal health?
Neil: I couldn’t believe that at age 32, I had cancer. I called it a “tumor” to make it different from my grandmother’s cancer.
Healthline: Did your condition affect your relationships with your family and friends?
Neil: Yes, my fiancée left me, but I found out who my true friends were and became closer to my family.
Healthline: Did it have any effect on your career?
Neil: I wrote an article for The New England Journal of Medicine, gave talks to patients and doctors, and wrote a book, Coping with the Emotional Impact of Cancer [Bantam, 1984; Bay Tree, 2009]. Yes, it became part of my writing and my speaking. Also, I’m a founding member of The National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship.
Healthline: Has your experience changed your overall outlook on your health and/or on taking care of your body?
Neil: Yes, it changed my diet: I tripled my vegetables and eat mostly fish, turkey, and chicken. I also know very clearly that I will die and that my time is limited so I now slow down and savor the good things and my leisure time.
Healthline: Knowing what you know now, what kind of preventative measures (if any) do you wish you would have taken earlier in your life?
Neil: I wish I never smoked—mostly in the Army and college—and wish I ate better foods to give my immune system a better chance to protect my body.