Don’t Give Up on Testicular Cancer

Vulnerability Is Actually A Strength in the Testicular Cancer Journey - Episode #11

December 11, 2020 The Max Mallory Foundation - Joyce Lofstrom host Season 1 Episode 11
Don’t Give Up on Testicular Cancer
Vulnerability Is Actually A Strength in the Testicular Cancer Journey - Episode #11
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

An avid marathon runner, before and after testicular cancer, Nate Gautier learned the power and strength of vulnerability during his cancer treatment. Learn what he means and how he managed the challenges of this unexpected diagnosis. 

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/bePatron?u=60247613)

Don’t Give Up on Testicular Cancer.

Vulnerability Is Actually A Strength in the Testicular Cancer Journey – Episode 11

An interview with Nate Gautier

46:44

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

testicular cancer, chemotherapy, Nate Gautier, testicle, young adults with cancer, cancer patients, marathon runner

 

00:12 Joyce Lofstrom 

Welcome to Don't Give Up on Testicular Cancer, where cancer survivors, caregivers, and others touched by cancer share their stories. The Max Mallory Foundation presents this podcast in honor and memory of Max Mallory, who died at age 22 from testicular cancer. 

I'm your host, Joyce Lofstrom, a young adult, adult cancer survivor, and Max's mom. 

Hello, this is Joyce, and welcome back to Don't Give Up on Testicular Cancer, our weekly podcast. And today, my guest is Nate Gautier, who is a testicular cancer survivor and is here to talk about his journey and just tell us a little bit more about his life. 

Nate, I'm so glad you could join me. Did I get your last name pronounced correctly?

 

01:03 Nate Gautier

Yes, Joyce, you did. And definitely excited to be here on the show. Thank you for having me.

 

01:10 Joyce Lofstrom 

So, my first question is typically just, you know, to tell us about your journey with testicular cancer. What happened when? Anything you're comfortable sharing.

 

01:21 Nate Gautier

Yeah, well, goodness, I'm an open book. So, it's pretty easy to get me to open up about the experience. And it was life-changing. And all of the good ways at the end, obviously, upon diagnosis, it is always really earth-shattering. 

What I love about your podcasts, I've listened to a few episodes, is that you have an emphasis on younger cancer patients. I think that's really unique. So, thank you for giving us all space to share. 

But to get kind of at the beginning of my story would have been in late 2018, December, November 2018, I had noticed just a small little nodule on one of my testicles after a shower. 

And as most men do stubborn men, myself included in that category, you wait two weeks, and you hope it goes away. 

And for me, it didn't. I took another shower in two weeks. And when it didn’t go away, it actually really bothered me this time, it really kind of shook me to my core and scared me, and I got really anxious. 

I live actually about 100 miles from St. Louis. And I was headed up towards I-55, kind of towards St. Louis. I worked in a bank at the time; I was a regional manager of an insurance broker working inside a bank. 

I had this window on my office door. And it was really nice. Because if I saw a client, the receptionist could walk down the hall and see me on the phone or see that I was with people. if somebody came in 

She waved at me, let me know that she needed my attention, super convenient. In that case, but not so much if you're crying. And so, I was, yeah, I was really upset. And I was on the phone with my wife. And I was just kind of panicked. 

You know, I completely diagnosed myself at that point with testicular cancer and assumed the worst. And I was just really, really spent. 

So, I asked my wife; I said, “You know, I don't know what to do.” 

And she said, “Well, what can I do to help?” 

I think that's the beautiful part of my story. And the part that I really enjoy getting to share with people is that my wife is my calm to my storm. 

So, I said, “Well, schedule an appointment,” you know, frantically. 

And she, she said, “Okay.” 

So, she sent me the lady to get ahold of to schedule an appointment. And the story really continues from there; I don't want to speak out of turn too much. And if you have any questions up to this point, I'm certainly happy to pause. But that was the beginning.

 

03:56 Joyce Lofstrom 

Well, I'm glad that your wife was your calming force. In the diagnosis, I know how important that is. And so. I think that can make a big difference for any of us when we have a really supportive spouse, family member, whoever can help us get through that, and the next steps.  

So, you were going to go to a doctor to learn more about the doctor? What kind of physician was he? And did you have to go to St. Louis for that doctor? If you want to share that, of course.

 

04:27 Nate Gautier

Yeah. No, I, I can. I can probably speak for most cancer patients and that when you get asked to tell your story, you never know how many details are too many. So, I like to kind of pause and make sure. I'm obviously on a podcast here. I can't see your facial expressions, but I just want to make sure I'm not stealing the show.

 

04:46 Joyce Lofstrom 

No, it's your show.

 

04:49 Nate Gautier

Well, no, I'd love to continue from there. 

So, you know, I really panicked with my wife on the phone and then the next thing, and the most vivid memory from there is speaking to the lady scheduling the appointment. 

And so, you know, I got the doctor's number to call. And I remember I called, and I left a voicemail. The next day she called back. And it's very sobering because, you know, I'm thinking they're going to see me the next day. 

Well, in 2018, going into 2019, you remember the health care crisis has been going for a while now. So, the doctors’ offices, even before a pandemic, have been really, really swamped. 

And so, she says, over the phone, the lady booking the appointment, she goes, “Okay, well, he can't see you until November 28. And it'll be at this time. And, yeah, so we'll see you then.”

I said, “Well, Oh, don't you need to know, does she know what's wrong?” 

And she goes, “No, the doctor will take care of it when he sees you.”  Click.

Yeah, it was a really, I mean, I just got chills kind of retelling that part of, you know, getting to wait to see the doctor because it was around this time, in 2018. It was October. 

So, it was about a month and a half till I got to see the doctor.  And that little nodule that I told you about, my testicle actually grew to two sizes, the size of my testicle in a month and a half. 

And so, I got in to see the doctor. And I remember at the end of the appointment; the doctor is really cool, very suave about it. 

I told him, “Hey, I've got this thing; you could check it out. I'd really appreciate it.” 

And he goes, “Yeah, okay.”  And kind of acknowledged it, went on, and then near the end of the appointment, and he goes, “Okay, how about we stand up and drop them. 

He just is cool. And just as casual as that, you know, he did an examination and then walked back over to his computer. 

He goes, “You know, Nate, anytime that we have something on our privates, probably just want to get some pictures.”

So that day, he actually sent me to the radiology department to get an ultrasound on my testicles. And I had a very human moment, leaving the radiology center that day. 

And I'll always be so thankful to the lady, the radiology tech that actually did the examination. And so, you know, she's talking to me, and she could probably just smell the fear and anxiety as she's completing the exam. 

Then, there's this long white hallway at the radiology center that I went to, a long hallway with two double doors at the end. And as you know, she's the tech, right. She's not the radiologist, so she can't tell me anything. 

And as she's opening the doors, and she walked me all the way down that long white hallway, she puts her hand on the small on my back, and she goes, “Good luck.”

 

07:40 Joyce Lofstrom 

Oh, I hate that. I hate when they say good luck.

 

07:47 Nate Gautier

You look back, and yes, I can't say that. I didn't hate hearing that immediately. Because you're just like that, that's not normal. Why, what, but what she was doing is, she was preparing me because the next day, I got a phone call from that same doctor. 

And I don't know about you, Joyce. But I don't really know any medical doctor that stutters or sounds panicked when they call. But again, the doctor is just being very, very, genuinely human. 

He gives me a call, and he goes, “Hey, Nate, that thing that's down there shouldn't be there, and we want to get to see you. It gets you in to see the specialist, but before the end of the week, but uh, did you say that your marathon was this weekend?”

I was going to St. Jude in Memphis, Tennessee, that weekend to run the marathon with my sister and my good friend. 

And so, I go, “Yeah, the marathon is this weekend.” 

He goes, “Well, just go ahead and run your race. And we'll see you first thing Monday morning. Got to see the specialist. It's booked in the afternoon, be there.”

 

08:53 Joyce Lofstrom

I guess he hadn't told many patients about having cancer.

 

08:58 Nate Gautier

Probably not. Actually, that's a great point you bring up because he told me that I was his first testicular cancer patient. And so, he was probably not used to it.  

But you know, all of these little, tiny kind of micro-occurrences and kind of beginning warning signs were really helpful. One of the biggest parts of my story, Joyce, was very much in self-denial with what was happening. 

I was 28 years old at the time; I was in the best shape of my life. It was my second marathon for the year. And I felt genuinely good. You know, I was drinking a gallon of water a day and, and just the best shape of my life. 

And so, to have this kind of strange thing happened right before my second marathon to end the year was odd. It was very definitely, very unorthodox for the way that I felt about how my physical fitness was going. 

So, I go, I run the marathon. I come back that morning, worked for about half a day, and then, the appointment’s in the afternoon. 

I remember going to the specialist’s office. And again, this is where my wife comes back in. And I love telling this part of how she kind of got me to snap out of it. 

But I'm just angry. And I remember, I was writing my name, date of birth, address, and I'm just filling up what I would consider the stupid paperwork. 

And my wife, she walks in, and she meets me there in the waiting room. And she goes, “Are you okay”? 

I said, “I'm just mad. This doesn't make sense. This is, this is so dumb.” 

And my wife has a wonderful sense of humor. And so, she knew that I was emotionally spent and not dealing well with what was happening. So, we get called back to see the urologist, the specialist, and, and we start cracking jokes. 

And we start saying, “Oh, they're probably going to have to cut it off.” And it was, it was very young. 

But it was, it was a moment of clarity for us to just be able to take a step back, even though everything seemed to be flying at us at 100 miles an hour to create some humor. 

So, the doctor walks in. And he goes, “Mate, if you would, I'm going to go ahead and excuse your wife, and we'll do just a simple examination, then I'll invite her back in.”

I said, “Yeah, sure. That's fine.”

So, I remember dropping my pants and him asking questions that I thought I was answering well. He definitely was; in his mind, I was raising more red flags. 

And so, he goes, “Does it hurt?”

I was like, “Oh, no, no, no, Doc.  Didn't hurt at all.”

And he's like, “Huh, huh.” And he goes, “Well, you know, you don't have any pain. Do you have any history of testicular cancer in your family”? 

I said, “No, no, not at all.”

He goes, “Okay. All right. Well, get dressed.”

He invites my wife back in. And he looks at me. And it was a very ghost-like moment because there are this sincerity and genuine concern. 

And he says, “You need to come back in tomorrow morning at 6 am for immediate removal of the testicle. You need to have immediate surgery.”

 

12:16 Joyce Lofstrom

Oh, boy. Well, that does say a lot right there. Doesn't it?

 

12:21 Nate Gautier

Yeah. And I, you know, I just at that moment in time, just I was, I was a little too cocky to accept what he was telling me to do. And I wasn't; I wasn't trying to be rude. It was just a genuine response to the doc. 

“The thing is like, that really doesn't work for my schedule. I've got some. I've got some work that I got to get done. How do two weeks sound”? 

And he goes, and he goes, “Nate, you really don't want to wait on this. You really don't want to wait on this.”

So, my wife, as she does, always looking out for me. I call her Kay; her name is Kristen. She's a basketball coach at the high school in the town te live in, just a phenomenal person. 

And she helps get the appointment and surgery set up immediately for 6 am the next morning. And again, I don't want to speak too much, because I'm sure you have questions. 

But that's, that's again, the beginning. 

Right before we went in to go have one of three surgeries, followed by a lot of chemotherapy. But again, I want to take a breath and make sure that I'm speaking clearly enough for you. 

 

13:33 Joyce Lofstrom

You are, Nate. And I think you bring up; I think something that all cancer patients have faced in specifically testicular cancer. But it's when you really don't know for sure what you have, so to speak. 

So, I have a lump in my neck. And is it thyroid cancer, which is what I've had? It was fast, you know. And it's, and then once you hear it, like the way the doctor told you not to wait and come in the next morning, you kind of, you don't want to believe it. 

I think, too, it's a bit of a relief. But as you were saying, you were just; you don't think it's that you have to be that quick about it. But he knew and so, as you said earlier, it's good. Your wife is there to take control of the appointment and make sure that you do it.  

So, but I think, but your reaction, to me, was very normal. I've talked to other testicular cancer survivors who said the same thing. 

They want me to the next day, but I really wanted, “How about next week”? And they're like, “No,” to come in. So, what happened next?

 

14:43 Nate Gautier

Yeah, it's all so shocking, and you truly feel like you are living in this dreamlike state. And the best way I describe it to anybody, and I think I may have heard another gentleman say something similar from your show, is that it's like you're living in a movie, but you're the main character. What stinks is every night you go to sleep, you wake up, it's still real, doesn't go away. 

So, you know, from that point, we go in, and it's about 5:30 in the morning, and, again, you'll learn, I'm just a goofy guy. I'm completely comfortable in my skin, and that, and I'm taking selfies with my wife, you know, inappropriately, I'll be very candid, you know. Last two-ball picture and just, you know, trying to make any type of sense of the unbelievable chaos and, and how crazy scared I am at this point. 

And, you know, so we complete the surgery and then biopsy, right. I mean, you had thyroid cancer, you got to get a biopsy to find out if it's what it is. 

About a week to the day, on, I’ll never forget, about a week to the day. I was in that same office where I was crying on the phone with my wife. And the doc calls, and he says, “Well, Nate;” this is the specialist at this point. I was just so thankful for the way he delivered this message. 

But he goes, “It looks like we got some testicle cancer. It's called embryonal carcinoma.” And he goes, “You know, it's pretty rare to be diagnosed with this strand. About two to three percent of people are diagnosed with this one. And if it were an animal, it'd be a meaner one. 

He said, “We need a referral to oncology; we might have to do some treatments. And it's the; it's the next step.”

And Joyce, when I get the news that's heavy, and especially this, I mean, it was the heaviest news I'd ever received. I kind of just shut off my emotions. 

I called my wife and very monotone, very apathetic, relayed the information. She just started cry, you know, and it was; it was hard for me because I have a kind of a defense mechanism- the way I shut off my emotions so that I can just drive home from work. And she is sobbing, and I'm not consoling her because, again, I was very selfish at this point and very unaware of the severity of what was happening. 

So, she said, “Well, I'm going to come in to call my parents. I'm going to tell them.

I said, “okay,” and I remember driving back down Highway 55 to the city that we live in, just, you know, it's almost like a blankness. Your mind is a bit overwhelmed. And it doesn't really know how to process nor what the next thing to do is. 

And, you know, I can't imagine what it was like for you. I listened to one of your podcasts that you also were diagnosed with that thyroid cancer when you were young.

 

17:45 Joyce Lofstrom 

Yes, I was 25. And I was a food editor and a restaurant critic at The Daily Herald newspaper in the Chicago suburbs. 

 

Nate Gautier

Cool. 

 

Joyce Lofstrom

Yeah, it was pretty shocking to me too. And, you know, I don't think I realized what it meant when they, you know, they removed my thyroid gland. And there were some lymph nodes that were also malignant. 

But this is how many years ago. 42 years ago. And so, it's quite different in terms of how they, you know, monitored it, and so forth. It's the same as you're saying. It's, you're just shocked. And yeah, I was alone in the city, meaning my family was in Kansas City, where I'm from, and I had really good girlfriends that got me through it.

 

18:32 Nate Gautier

So, that's awesome. You know, from that point, you know, getting told, “Hey, you got to go to oncology.”

I mean, again, we're looking at December 2018. And so, it's getting close to Christmas, you know. And so, when we end up going to the cancer center, and I remember, two to three weeks before, I had just completed that marathon. 

So, I'm still even though I had that surgery; I'm still feeling that I’m not the guy, you know. I'm young; I'm in shape. Hopefully, they got it all with the surgery; everything's going to be fine. 

We get to the cancer center, and it's my wife, myself, and my father-in-law. And the doctor looks across the room, and he goes, 

“Nate, I think you need to complete 20 rounds or 20 cycles of chemotherapy. You're going to; you're going to get sick. You're probably going to need to call your employer to see if you have a short-term disability policy because it's, it's likely that you'll need to make a claim. You'll; you're likely to lose all your hair. You're going, you know, you're going to be, you're going to be pretty down for a while.”

And I just couldn't fathom what he was saying, which was true, and it wasn't disbelief in him. It was disbelief in what was happening. And you know, I remember sitting there, and I go, 

“Doc,” I go, “I'm literally dumbfounded right now. I cannot believe what you're saying.”

He goes, you know, in a very kind and calm way like, 

“Well, let me let me break it down for you.”

He opened up, basically, a national treatment plan across the U.S. of what happens when you're diagnosed with testicular cancer and what you should do following that diagnosis. And, you know, he said, 

“You know, I really believe this is what you need to do, and we need to go and move forward with getting your port surgery.”

I hated my port. I don't know if they had ports whenever you had thyroid cancer. Do you remember?

 

20:35 Joyce Lofstrom 

Well, I didn't have chemo, and I don't know if they had ports. So, I did not have to go through anything like that. 

 

20:43 Nate Gautier

Yeah, the port was; it's very convenient and helpful, and useful to cancer patients. Many cancer patients listening to your show; obviously, it's like a love-hate relationship. And I was on the hate side. 

But you know, if they basically do a surgery where, a port is a kind of silicone, diamond-shaped looking piece that can be pierced. And then it has a long tube that connects to one of the main veins of your heart, kind of a long silicon piece. 

It's kind of eerie to think about a port being inside your body, obviously. It allows you to have blood draws and receive the medications, the chemotherapy, the saline, anything that they need to administer or take as far as samples from your body. They can, and it really is a good device.  

My dogs used it as a launching pad. We have two little Yorkshire Terriers, and they like to jump on my chest and just use that little area sometimes. 

Yeah, it was, it was that was it. But, you know, we set up the port surgery, and as we're walking out of the oncologist’s office, I remember just not being able to speak. There was like this part of me that was so dumbfounded. I was, this sounds bad. I hope it's alright to use an expression, but I felt like in a vegetable state of just nothingness; I could not speak, I was frozen with fear and shocked emotion. I just sat there, and my wife is setting up the surgery appointment. 

Every time she would ask me a question, I would just kind of look at her and shake my head like a yes motion because I just was not in the room. And so, we set up the port surgery, and on January 7, 2019, I was scheduled to start chemotherapy. 

Okay. Joyce, the only way I know how to explain what happened in the next 24 to 48 hours after setting everything in motion is that I completely freaked out. And I knew I could not move forward. 

So, I called the next day or the day after, and I canceled the port surgery; I called the oncologist’s office. I told him, “I cannot do this. I'm not ready.”

I was very thankful for my oncologist, who's a great friend to this day. But he called me at home later that evening when I called his nurse and canceled the appointment. And he was gracious, and he was kind. 

He said, “You know, Nate, that's okay.” He goes, “I understand.”

And it was like a hesitation; he was trying to be more of a human than a doctor. You could definitely tell he knew that I needed to process everything that was happening. 

That's exactly what I did. And so, for a week, you know, I just went out into the woods, and I screamed at God, and I cried. I took half days off work when I just emotionally could not go to the bank and sit there and try to help people. I was really just very, very internal at this point. 

After about a week, I remember texting, my father-in-law's a great mentor and advocate in my life, and just said, “Hey, I need to get breakfast. Can we get breakfast in the morning?”

We had breakfast, and I said, “I think I'm ready.”

And his face was just shocked because obviously, you know, his daughter, my wife, is thinking, “Nate's going to die. He's not going to take care of himself. He's not going to fight. He's just going to let this take over.”

And to hear that I was ready to start treatment was a breath of fresh air for my family.

 

24:09 Joyce Lofstrom 

I'm sure it was. And I think what you did, Nate is commendable. A lot of people may not have the strength to do what you did, which is to cancel the surgery and tell the doctor, who accepted it, you need time to just kind of think through it and process it. You did, and then you were ready to move ahead.

 

24:38 Nate Gautier

And so, I called back, and I rescheduled the port surgery. Then I said, “Hey, can I start chemotherapy on schedule?”

And they said, “No, you're behind now. You'll have to start chemotherapy the following week on January 14, which will be a Monday.”

They said, “You'll get your port on Thursday. You'll recover over the weekend from surgery, and then on Monday, you'll start chemo.”

 And so, on January 14, 2019, I started chemotherapy. January 14 is my birthday. 

I actually had had a nice dinner with family and friends over the weekend. And I told them, I get a little choked up sometimes just retelling this, I told them, I said, “You know, Monday I'm going to work. I don't want to talk about my birthday. Let's just go and start chemo.”

And so, I did, I wore a Batman shirt, and I had these Batman socks that had little yellow capes on them. And, you know, I was just scared out of my mind. And as you know, I'm a goofy character, and I just try to make the most out of every situation. And I really do love bringing people joy and laughter and being able to make them smile. 

I,  just as a kid, scared out of my mind, woke up that morning and put on my Batman shirt, and went to work.

 

25:55 Joyce Lofstrom 

Yeah, that's great. I think that piece of humor probably helped you, as well. 

I know my son Max, when he had chemo, he had all these, you know, those kinds of goofy socks you can buy. They had video game characters on it, you know, that kind of thing. 

And so, he wore those a lot to chemo, and it makes a difference. So, okay, so now you've got the chemo started? How did it go?

 

26:23 Nate Gautier

Yeah, it was terrible. Oh, gosh, I hate it. I hated chemo. And, you know, I remember the first day that I got there. I'm 6’5.” And, you know, you know, ever since I was 17 years old, I could grow a full beard. Just all my friends were pretty envious of that. 

I remember talking to my oncology nurses. I had this one oncology nurse, it was Vicki, and we got very close through the process. And she was very kind and very sarcastic and would just meet me where I was at. We had a good relationship, kind of a tennis match which could, you know, really just the banter of camaraderie between knowing that I was going through a stressful situation. But she could still kind of roast me from time to time and make me laugh, you know. 

So, Jackie, she leaned down when she was, you know, kind of getting my vitals, and she said, “Oh, you have a beard. Well, what if you lose your beard”? 

And I said, “I won't lose my beard.”

After the first week of chemotherapy, I had a really impactful story that I'll tell you about. That's called what I call my paint-on-the-wall story. 

We had a kind of a minor league baseball team that had just moved into the city in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, where we live. 

And so, I was like, “Well, you know what, I'm probably going to lose my hair. So, I want to go and grab, you know, grab a catfish, Cape Catfish Ballcap.”

I am driving down the road, and I'm wearing these, kind of, white joggers, and I'm looking down, I keep seeing this hair on these white jogger pants. I'm like, “What in the world is going on. It's so weird.”

Just as I'm driving, again, after the first round of chemo, I start grabbing my hair, and it just starts coming out in clumps. And so, I parked by the fan store, and I didn't even go in. I just immediately teared up, put my car in Drive. 

My wife had texted me, and I was off of work, obviously recovering from chemotherapy, and she asked if I could grab her drink. And so, I grabbed the drink and walked into her office. I just kind of set it down, and you could just see my whole body was flexed. And I was just, just fighting these tears.


28:50 Nate Gautier

She took it, a little choked up a little bit, and she goes, she goes, “Are you okay”?  

And I just walked over to her trash can. And I just started pulling out clumps of my hair and throwing it away.

 

29:05 Joyce Lofstrom

Oh boy, as I know,

 

29:07 Nate Gautier

And she goes, Yeah, go ahead.

 

29:09 Joyce Lofstrom 

I was just going to say, did you decide to shave it off then or?

 

29:13 Nate Gautier

Yeah, pretty, pretty dramatically. I called up my stylist that evening and asked her if she could get me in. And then I had two other friends call and say, “Hey, can your stylist also shave our heads”?

 

29:26 Joyce Lofstrom

Oh, wow. 

 

29:30 Nate Gautier

This is really special. And so. they all showed up. But we shaved our heads, took a couple of pictures, and then posted them actually on Facebook.  

All of my friends started shaving their heads all over the country. It was really moving and really impactful just to see that much love. 

I want to kind of jump towards the paint-on-the-wall story unless you had anything. I don't want to interrupt you.

 

29:51 Joyce Lofstrom 

No, no. Like I said, this is your story. 

 

29:56 Nate Gautier

Yeah, thank you for the opportunity to share. So, you know, this is backing up a little bit, if you heard about the ballcap that story with my hair falling out. This is about day two or three after my first round of chemo. 

And Joyce, looking back at it, it's always, so it's so impactful. It wakes me up to think about this moment because I had to be isolated even from my wife. Because if I was to sweat, and we were sleeping in the same bed, and the chemotherapy was to get onto her, it can make her sick. If I went to the restroom, I had to flush twice. 

So, it's some; it's some really, really harsh stuff. And so, I'm in our guest room, and my wife's at work. We have kind of this gray paint, this charcoal kind of dark gray paint on the wall. And I remember just staring at that charcoal paint on the wall. 

Again, I'm very much in self-denial that even this is happening, right? I've had surgery, I've gone through a week of chemotherapy, but it still just doesn't feel like it's happening to me. I just I, but I'm feeling the effects of the chemotherapy. I'm detoxing, and it's harsh. And so, I'm very much in just a moment of not letting go. 

I said as I'm staring at this charcoal paint, and I'm just kind of laying my head against the wall, just feeling nauseous and sick and sad. So sad. 

I just, I spoke aloud, audibly, and I said, “God, you can have it all. You can have the anxiety, the fear, nausea. You can have the uncertainty; you can have the anger.”

 And I can't describe what happened in that moment. Joyce, other than that, it just felt like God came up behind me and bear-hugged me. 

It was like, “Come here, you idiot. Like, let's do this together.”

And it wasn't. It wasn't that every moment from then on was easy. But there was just this lightness and this really incredible all-encompassing support, that there was something out there, bigger than me and bigger than all of us, that was encouraging me to continue to fight.

 

32:16 Joyce Lofstrom

I think that's very powerful, Nate because you found that peace you needed. But you also found support that would help you get through this. Sometimes, I think in Buddhism, it's like that to where there's a challenge instead of trying to push it away; you embrace it; it comes to you. 

And that's what you did with God. You just said, “Here it is, you know, what am I going to do.” And you had that solution. 

So, I think that's wonderful. It's a wonderful story to share with our listeners. 

 

32:48 Nate Gautier 

Thank you, thank you for, for saying that. You know, I think, you know, Joyce looking through, you know, completing the four rounds of chemo and, and everything that it taught me. 

I mean, I did get sick; I did have to lose all my hair. I did lay on the couch for six months because I truly had no strength after going through all that treatment. And you know it, it gave me kind of 12 uninterrupted hours with God to actually examine my life and think about the important things. 

Being alone on the couch when you're a very outward, very outgoing guy. I mean, I've worked, I've worked in sales since I want to say for forever because I think we all kind of work in sales in our own way. 

But you know, I had been a community guy and very outward-facing and really loved being around people, and then being forced to isolate and wear a mask. 

I tell people all the time I was wearing a mask before it was cool. I didn't get to see my friends. And so, I really look at 2019; I tell people a lot, I probably cried more in 2019 than when I was an infant. 

I'm not ashamed of that. It's just the truth of how unbelievably sad I was to have kind of everything stripped away from me and feel as though my ego was suffocated. My independence was lost. 

My wife, kind of near the second, third round of chemo, I was, I was too weak, actually to clean myself. And on the weeks of infusion, you have a port hanging out of your body, and it's all taped up, and it's a sterile site. It cannot get wet. 

So, if you want to bathe, you have to get in the bath. I remember my wife, she would wake me up in the morning, and she'd have a bath drawn for me. My wife would; she would bathe me, you know. Just that selflessness of knowing that my wife, the caretaker, doesn't get a break. It really makes you fall in love with that person all over again.

 

35:00 Joyce Lofstrom

No, you're right. And I think you bring up several good points. One of which is the role of a caretaker and how much all of us who have cancer or any kind of illness where you need someone else to help you, with that person as the caretaker. 

I think we forget that sometimes; I know I have done that at times, too. 

I also think you talked about crying. And you know, Nate, there are so many people, maybe more men than women, and that's a stereotype. But let's just say people who won't do that, and I sometimes think that the crying is such a relief. It gives you; I mean, you face what's going on. But it's also an outlet for the fear or the tiredness, whatever it is you're experiencing. 

I really appreciate that you would share that with us because I think it's important for people to hear that.

 

36:00 Nate Gautier

You know, growing up, I didn't have a dad that I ever really saw cry. I think I saw him cry once, for like a split second, when his parents got divorced. Obviously, when he was, you know, a father of his own and much older in his life, probably in his 50s at that point.

So, growing up with that mentality, of that, like, men don't cry, anytime I would cry, I would feel very, very weak and fragile and not manly.

Then, you know, getting older, especially last year, and understanding that vulnerability is actually a strength. It is. It's not a weakness. And many people see that showing, kind of behind the curtains or the skeletons in the closet, will make you less valid or ruin your credibility. 

And I don't agree with that, nor believe it. What last year allowed me to do has completely changed my entire perspective on life and what's important, and truly be present with people and care about the moment. Even as you and I are sitting here talking, I mean, this is all that exists, is right now. 

So, I'm just really thankful for getting to go through suffering, to be able to appreciate more and a much more healthy and realistic level.

 

37:25 Joyce Lofstrom 

Again, I really like what you said was that of being in the moment because other people I've talked to have said the same thing. 

I think it's a goal for everyone because it's so easy not to be in the moment. You think about whatever you're thinking about, or something you did that or, you know, five years ahead. And I'm not saying don't plan, but I think just you're right. 

All we have is right now, this moment where you and I are talking, and so let's focus on that. That's what we're doing, and that's what's important. 

I admire that you found that approach to life so young. I think it's something that is just a great way to live. I don't how else to say it, but that way.

 

38:13 Nate Gautier

Thank you. Now, there's so much power in the present. And there's a lot of beauty in giving somebody the space to be with them and not have your mind anywhere else. 

One of the things that I love about what you guys do at the Max Mallory Foundation is that you guys allow people to have a space to share. And obviously, having the same beastly disease that your son did, prevention is such a huge part. 

So, with your permission, I'd really like to talk about just how passionate I am about people making sure that they do an examination. 

 

38:50 Joyce Lofstrom 

Oh, please do. I think that's an important message to deliver.

 

38:53 Nate Gautier

Yeah, I mean, what is so compelling about understanding this disease is it's an adolescent disease, and we don't expect it. I think that's why we miss it so often. 

You know, the research changed this year, but last year, it was boys ages 12 to 26. This year, it is changed to ages, boys 15. To now, men at 55 is really where we see this disease pop up and, and really, you know, take, take people away from their families. 

It's, it's sad, and I think what you can do and what we can all do, is do a better job of, of knowing that you have a brother, you have a son, you have an uncle, you have a dad, and tell that person to check themselves. I mean, once a month, an examination of your testicles after a shower. 

I was lucky. I was fortunate when we discovered it; it was Stage 2 testicular cancer, and there are only three stages of testicular cancer. So, we caught it early enough that I had a chance to fight and to live. 

And, you know, I just had a scan on Monday. She could see me smiling because it's good; it's a good result. But I had my three-month scan. You have a (scan) three months again, every three months. And it was a year, point seven, five, right. So, I'm right there on the edge in February. I'll get another scan, not of the big two years, but a year, a little over a year-and-a-half. 

I'm cancer-free still. I think that's because I was fortunate to catch it early and then have a really active team around me, advocating and encouraging me to seek treatment. You can take care of this beast, sometimes, if you do catch it early, and if you do, take the precautions.

So, I always end with this. And I know it's crass, but it's so true. Tell your brother, tell your friends, tell your son to check their balls. Seriously, check your nuts. It's a good thing to remember once a month, and it doesn't take but two minutes. It can save your life.

 

41:06 Joyce Lofstrom

No, you're right, Nate, and I'm glad that you said that. And especially coming from you as a survivor of testicular cancer. It is a very simple exam to recommend, and it's something that our listeners need to hear, and as you said, your brothers, your uncles, and whoever might not know this. It's amazing how many people may not know and are not aware of what you should be doing. 

So, I just want to ask you a little bit because you've touched on so much. That was, I mean, shared so much of your story and what's happened.  So, are you still running? What are you doing now?

 

41:48 Nate Gautier

Yeah, thanks for asking. That's, that's really kind. 

So, I've run several races this year. I think I've run 2-1/2 marathons this year. I actually went back to St. Jude in 2019, a year later. After six months of chemo, from about January to May or June, and then ended up a year later, I went down back to Memphis and ran the half marathon there. 

About six to eight weeks after chemo, I actually had the pleasure of going to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, with some friends. My buddy in December of 2018 bought me a registration to my favorite race for something to look forward to after chemo. 

And so, I had about six to eight weeks to train after chemo and went and ran. That was a toughy. That was, that was a difficult one. But we ran a half in Wisconsin in June and then went back to St. Jude. And I'll never forget crying at the start line at St. Jude in 2019 December, just because obviously everything that had happened and being back at that start line a year later almost to the day. 

But yeah, I'm still running. I ran a half-mile point seven last night because I got COVID a couple of weeks back. Yeah, so I'm recovered from COVID. It takes a while to get your energy. My wife and I both came down with it. But yes, I ran half a mile last night. And I'm actually proud of that.

 

43:17 Joyce Lofstrom

I would be too. Boy, you have really been through a lot in the last couple of years with your health. But you sound like you're doing wonderful, wonderfully, I should say.

 I'm glad you're still running because the background I read about you is how much that was such a big part of your life. 

So, then, I guess my final question is just anything you want to end with. I was going to ask what advice do you have, but I think you've given that advice in terms of the self-exam recommendation. Anything else you want to say to testicular cancer survivors or a young man who thinks he might have it?

 

43:55 Nate Gautier

I think that's a great question. And I think maybe if I follow my heart here and just speak off the cuff, first just to be kind. You never know what somebody's going through. And so really be cautious and be careful and be intentional about the way that you treat others. You could really help change somebody's life or save their life just by a smile or wave or being present and available to them if they're going through a challenging time. 

You know, and if I'm to think about testicular cancer survivors or gentlemen going through it right now or maybe headed into it, is just know that you are not alone, even though you feel very, very alone in that moment, and you're scared. 

There are people who have been there before you, and you know, the ability to trust the process and be thankful for the support you get is really important. 

I did a bad job of being thankful for the support I was being given. I was really too focused on myself. And so, I guess my overall anthem and a higher-arching message would just be to be more outward than inward.

 

45:09 Joyce Lofstrom

Oh, I like that, Nate. That's a great way to end our discussion. I think that really is very solid advice. So, thank you. 

And thank you for being so open and just sharing so much of what you went through and then how you came out and where you are right now, which sounds like you're in a really positive, happy place.

 

45:30 Nate Gautier

Well, Joyce, thank you so much for having me. And thank you for giving people like me an opportunity to share. We can't thank you enough for just the chance to be able to open up. 

 

45:39 Joyce Lofstrom 

No, I’m very glad to do it. And thank you for those kind words. And I hope maybe down the road to have you back and just get an update on life and anything else you might want to talk about. So that sounds great.

 

45:51 Joyce Lofstrom

Okay, all right, Nate. I appreciate it. So, thank you.

 

45:55 Nate Gautier

Thanks. Take care.

 

45:56 Joyce Lofstrom

Thanks so much for joining me today on Don't Give Up on Testicular Cancer from the Max Mallory Foundation. 

We have a website, and it's at maxmalloryfoundation.com, where you can learn more about testicular cancer, donate, and send your ideas for guests on the podcast. And for spelling, Mallory is m-a-l-l-o-r-y. 

Please join me next time for Don't Give Up on Testicular Cancer.

Chapter 1 - The Diagnosis
Chapter 2 - Acceptance and Action
Chapter 3 - My Life Now