Spotlight on Men’s Health: LOVEstrong 51 Foundation

The mission of Men’s Health Month is to raise awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. Men’s Health Month gives us an opportunity to encourage men and boys to seek regular medical care. Men’s Health Month is celebrated across the world with screenings, health fairs, media appearances, and other health education activities. Today, we’re celebrating MHM by putting a spotlight on the LOVEstrong 51 Foundation.

LOVEstrong 51 was created by former Frostburg State University lacrosse player and testicular cancer survivor Spenser Love. In the summer of 2015, Spenser was anxiously awaiting his 21st birthday and preparing for his senior year of college and lacrosse at Frostburg. His plans seemed to be shaken when he felt a pea-sized lump on the side of his testicle. After initially brushing off his discovery, Spenser woke up in the middle of the night and took to the internet. Could it be what he thought it was? Testicular cancer doesn’t happen this young, right? As Spenser found, testicular cancer is one of the most common cancers in men ages 15 to 24 years old.

Starting the conversation about cancer can be gut-wrenching and uncomfortable. Spenser first went to his girlfriend Sydney who pushed back with questions about whether he had told anyone else or scheduled any appointments. Spenser had not; he planned to wait and see if it got bigger before deciding to see a doctor. Unsatisfied with Spenser’s plan, Sydney refused to talk to him until he told his family and scheduled a check-up. A move that was difficult but could have saved Spenser’s life. During a conversation with his dad and a sibling, Spenser finally spoke up through a nervous, cracking voice… “I think I have testicular cancer.”

Without wasting any time, Spenser’s dad set up an appointment for him to see his primary care provider who then sent him to see a urologist that same day. Four days later, Spenser’s urologist performed surgery to remove and biopsy the mass. After about a week of recovery and anxiously awaiting the biopsy results, Spenser heard from his doctor. It was testicular cancer… 100% embryonal cancer. There is little worse in this world than the moment your greatest fear is realized. Where to go from here? Spenser never stood down from a challenge before, and this would be no different. Setting up a plan of attack was the only step forward.

Spenser found an oncologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and they planned to perform two rounds of platinum-based chemotherapy. Chemo felt so scary to Spenser; more thoughts of being too young for this filled his head. So many preconceived notions about chemotherapy made the idea even more terrifying. Losing his hair, and fighting through nausea turned the next few months into a fight for the last day of treatment. Spenser says “I was throwing up throughout the day, it basically felt like I had the flu for about two months straight.” The love and support Spenser received from his family, friends and the Hopkins staff made the experience as tolerable as possible.

Now, almost three years cancer-free Spenser is sharing his story to increase testicular cancer awareness.  If diagnosed early, the survival rate is nearly 100% which highlights the importance of early identification and treatment. He reminds us that “the conversation may be uncomfortable, but it is worth it.” Spenser Love created the non-profit organization, LOVEstrong 51, to inform those directly involved with young men– coaches. His organization’s mission is to educate coaches so they can teach their players and make discussing testicular cancer more comfortable.

Most boys and young men (ages 15-35) don’t realize they are at-risk for testicular cancer and need to be taught to regularly perform testicular self-exams (TSE). Ninety percent of the time, testicular cancer is painless so feeling for any lumps, enlargement, or hardening of the testicles is is vital. Don’t wait for the pain because it may be too late. Spenser’s story teaches us that testicular cancer is a game changer and early intervention saves lives.

To help support Spenser’s mission and the LOVEstrong 51 Foundation, share his story and then take a moment to visit their website and purchase one of their awesome LOVEstrong t-shirts!

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About Ryan Barnes, BSN, RN, PCCN

Cardiac Surgery RN from Baltimore, DNP student, and Army nurse.

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