Relay for Life Co-Chairperson Lyle Mortenson's health training came in handy 19 years ago when he sensed something just wasn't right and made an appointment at the hospital in St. James.
After three appointments with three different doctors his suspicion was confirmed and Lyle was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
"You're always shocked when you hear the word cancer," said Lyle. "I have a disease book from when I was in school and I had met every one of the qualifications in there, so I was kind of prepared that when I went in cancer was a possibility."
The situation was stressful for both Lyle and his wife Denise, who were expecting their first child in just a few weeks. Still, there was no time to waste. Lyle was in for surgery within three days of his first appointment.
Lyle spent only one night in the hospital before being sent home. His recovery was so quick he was actually back at work the next week.
"The sooner you can get back to the norm the better," said Lyle. "I was one of the fortunate ones, with my cancer, you know I caught it early – it was detected early – and we got in and we got it removed so I didn't have to go through chemo or radiation."
Lyle's cancer is relatively rare, few men are diagnosed with testicular cancer. The cancer is most prevalent among males ages 13 to 35. For individuals in that age group, it is vital to do self-checks and receive regular physicals.
Little changes or problems can become big problems if they go undetected. Lyle said that if there is any question at all, it should be checked out immediately. Cancer is nothing to mess around with.
"Self checks are extremely important – anything that is abnormal," said Lyle. "The key is early detection, the sooner that you get checked out the better. I know that sometimes people wait, but with cancer you don't want to wait, that's when things can get out of control."
Testicular cancer also doesn't necessarily mean a man can't have children. Lyle has had three more children since he was diagnosed 19 years ago and has known others with the same outcome.
Lyle has also dealt with family members being diagnosed with cancer – including his dad, sister and father-in-law. Every instance of cancer is unique; what remains the same is the importance of early detection.
There is a common 90/10 rule which states that 90 percent of cancer patients survive after early detection whereas only 10 percent survive after the cancer is detected during the late stages and begins to spread. Regular physicals can help individuals with cancer diagnose and treat the disease quickly and effectively.
During his 20 years in the community, Lyle has been a participant in every Relay for Life race with the exception of only two races.
Page 2 of 2 - "Ever since they began, I came calling when they started the relay for life stuff," said Lyle.
Lyle has participated on teams with the hospital for the last few years, but has always set out to help in any way possible when this time of year came around. He is excited and honored about starting off the walk this year as a co-chair.
He hopes that his story will help others who are scared or unsure about going to the doctor when they suspect that something is wrong. As reenforced by his story, early detection can help save a life and help in avoiding some of the more unpleasant aspects of cancer treatment.