Meet the newest Zeus ambassador Justin Birckbichler
When a CT scan showed the cancer spread to his lymph nodes, Birckbichler was diagnosed with Stage IIB nonseminoma testicular cancer.
“Initially I was pretty numb to the fact that I had cancer, but I took a ‘fight’ approach in the ‘fight or flight’ option. I tried to maintain a positive attitude throughout the journey,” Birckbichler said.
Next, came BEP chemotherapy with 21 treatments: five days in a row, two days off, one day on, six days off, one day on. This continued for three cycles ending in January 2017.
Birckbichler said he lived “in quarantine” for the majority of his treatment because of his compromised immune system.
“After completing treatment, I took care of my mental health through traditional and online therapies, writing, exercise and a course of antidepressants,” Birckbichler said.
Fortunately, a scan in March 2017 showed Birckbichler entered remission, where he remains as of his latest scan in December 2018.
However, looking back at his own journey, Birckbichler, now 27, wished there had been more resources that didn’t just include statistics and diagrams.
He searched for a human element that showed what the process felt like from other “twenty-somethings” in his position dealing with everything from diagnosis to survivorship.
When he couldn’t find one, he knew he had to create his own. Thus, the idea of adding some light-hearted humor to a difficult discussion was sparked.
A Ballsy Sense of Tumor
To offer a new style of resource for other cancer patients and survivors, Birckbichler came up with the concept for “A Ballsy Sense of Tumor.”
“Testicular cancer, and the associated terms such as balls, sack and nuts lend themselves nicely to puns and humor. It’d be a crime not to utilize it,” Birckbichler said.
Some of these puns include telling his followers how to tackle the “stiff conversation” that “isn’t always a ball.” His advice? “Sack it up and don’t get teste.”
Along with puns, Birckbichler often posts pictures of ball-shaped objects, poking fun at the situation.
Through humor, he believes men his age have an easier time discussing topics that are typically taboo or uncomfortable among their peers.
“Humor is a natural connector for people. Keeping it positive and light, while underscoring the seriousness, makes conversation easier to swallow and more apt to be an actual conversation instead of a lecture,” he continued.
The importance of Men’s Health
Birckbichler’s ultimate goal is to break down the stigmas associated with talking about men’s health.
“On a serious note, men need to start by talking openly about their health. I want to live in a world where we can freely talk about testicular self-exams,” he said. “I want conversation to be open about all health issues, but I’m especially passionate about men’s health. Not talking about it can be a potentially life-threatening mistake.”
He also feels it is critical for men to hold each other accountable when it comes to performing regular self-checks.
“Without honest conversations, this accountability is impossible,” Birckbichler said.
Through telling his story, he hopes that it becomes easier for other men to step forward and share their struggles.
“I want to be a catalyst to start talking about testicles in everyday conversation. I want men thinking of me and checking themselves. Hopefully not at the same time, but whatever works,” he said.
Stay tuned for Part Two, to learn more about Justin Birckbichler’s beard care and fitness routines and why he gets involved with “No Shave November.”