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Keesler instructor oercomes testicular cancer
As a cancer survivor, Brian volunteers with the American Cancer Society, providing sound, lighting and DJ services for area Relay for Life events. He also provides these services without charge to some base and community organizations. (Photo By Kemberly Groue)
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Keesler instructor overcomes testicular cancer

Posted 11/23/2010   Updated 11/24/2010 Email story   Print story


by Susan Griggs
81st Training Wing Public Affairs

11/23/2010 - KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Prevention has always been a key focus for women's health, particularly monthly breast self examinations and annual PAP tests to screen for cervical cancer.

But what kind of reminders do men receive to take care of their health -- particularly young men in the prime of their lives?

Staff Sgt. Brian Margavich has asked himself that question countless times since 2008, when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer at age 28. "I began having discomfort while doing normal activities -- walking, running, even sitting down," said Brian, a network courses administration instructor in the 333rd Training Squadron.

"I waited so long and dealt with it because my parents raised us to 'press through' and go to school. Unless something was seriously wrong, we didn't go to the doctor -- we toughed it out.

"It was also foreign to me that I had a physical problem that wasn't going to heal itself," he added. Brian did an online search of his symptoms and learned that they could either indicate cancer or a simple infection that occurs regularly with some people. He put the thought of cancer out of his mind, assuming it was something that would get better.

"My reaction was sheer numbness -- I was unable to compute what was happening," he recalled about learning the diagnosis. "At that point, I had been in pain for so long, I figured there was nothing they could do to me that would hurt more. They asked me if I wanted to call my wife--it never even occurred to me to call her!"

Brian and his wife, Amanda, met about 10 years ago when they were first-term Airmen living in the dorms at Keesler. She's the assistant noncommissioned officer in charge of installation personnel readiness for the 81st Force Support Squadron.

"I was shocked at first," she recalled. "I just couldn't believe that this was happening to us. Then I started to worry about our future."

That future included their daughter, Haley, who was 2 years old at the time.

"The first step of treatment came the very next day when I was on the table having the testicle on that side removed," Brian remembered. "I had a week of convalescent leave to recover and I was good. They did a few more blood tests and all the tumor indicators went back to normal."

There were several treatment options to follow. "My doctor wanted to remove and test my lymph nodes on that side and make sure that nothing had spread," Brian explained. "One option was to do the surgery laparascopically -- make small incisions and use cameras to do what needed to be done. This method had a high chance of missing something, though.

"The other option was to make a 14-inch vertical incision right up the middle of my abdomen and go in there," he continued. "This was the most invasive, but also had the highest chances of success, so I opted for that. I was on convalescent leave for a month after that and on restricted duty for several more months."

Brian didn't require chemotherapy or radiation. The lymph nodes were tested and came back negative.

"Everything is good," he said of his current health. "This type of cancer has a high cure rate and, if caught early enough, tends to be in the affected region."

Because of the invasive nature of the second surgery, Brian and Amanda don't expect to have other children. "Our family's size is now set by God, but we're extremely happy with our family life," Brian commented.

"I never once thought that I might die from this," he emphasized. "I have too much to live for -- too much going on in life to let this be it."

One positive aspect of Brian's experience is his growing involvement with the American Cancer Society. "As soon as we arrived back at Keesler in March, I volunteered at three different
overnight Relay for Life events," he pointed out. "I provide sound, lighting and DJ services, saving them $1,500 per event that can go toward cancer research. When I attend these events, I get to wear a purple survivor's shirt and walk the survivor's lap. I've never been so proud to wear purple!"

"Here's the thing -- you know when something isn't right with your body," he emphasized. "Get checked -- don't ignore it! It could literally save your life."

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