Reynolds McLeod//2013 GHS Spirit Week participant//2018 Cancer Diagnosis//Peach Milkshakes//Can rock a “Mullet” hair cut//Clemson Graduate//Just Another Bump in the Road//All around amazing guy
I was first introduced to the Cancer Survivor’s Park as a Sophomore student at Greenville High School. It was our philanthropy during the infamous spirit week between Greenville High and JL Mann. All of student council was incredibly moved when CSPA came to present to us. GHS raised $120,000 to benefit the park. Little did I know back then, what impact this park and cancer would have on my life one day.
Fast forward to 2016, my Senior year at GHS. I was deer hunting in Edisto with my dad and brother, and suddenly something just didn’t feel right in my groin area. The pain kept getting worse and eventually excruciating. My Dad called my primary care physician, Dr. Robert Broker, and he told Dad to take me to the ER at MUSC. It was there I got diagnosed with a testicular tortion and they untwisted my testicle. Dr. Broker referred me to a urologist, Dr. Andrew Bullock, who performed surgery to correct the testicular tortion. After that, I thought all was well again. A year later, I started feeling uncomfortable in that same area of my groin. In my head I told myself, something just doesn’t feel right. I thought it would be wise to see Dr. Bullock again just to be safe. I never even told my parents I was going back to the doctor. Dr. Bullock said, “Let’s do an ultrasound, as it could be one of the stiches came undone.” Dr. Bullock called me within 2 hours after the ultrasound and asked me to come back in. I said to myself then, “This is not a good sign.”
November 14th, 2018, is a date that I will never forget. It was 8 days after my 20th birthday and fall of my sophomore year at Clemson. This is the day my life was changed forever. Dr. Bullock diagnosed me with testicular cancer at the age of 20. I remember all I could think about was getting the cancer out and surgery done so that I could get to go on my annual hunting trip over Thanksgiving weekend. Dr. Bullock said he could do the surgery on Friday, but I knew I needed help to pull it off. My parents had just flown to Europe to visit my twin sister, Martha. They went to tour France for 2 weeks while Martha was studying abroad. I knew they would try to come home if I called them, so I called my brother Parks first. Then I called my aunt, Susan Reynolds, to see if she could help take me to and from surgery and care for me over the weekend and following week while I recovered. Of course, she said “Yes”! I thought if I had it all handled my parents might be willing to stay and attempt to enjoy their trip. Aunt Susan is my mom’s sister, so I knew she might agree knowing I would be in excellent care plus a little spoiling.
I’ll never forget the memory of calling my parents in another country and telling them the news that I had testicular cancer. As you can imagine, we were all choked up, but I told them this was just another bump in the road. I was going to be OK! I insisted they stay and finish their trip and that Aunt Susan would be there with me every step of the way. Thankfully, the Crigler’s (long time family friends) were on this trip with them and were there to support my sister and parents while they dealt with my news and situation from France. I am incredibly blessed to be part of this amazing family and to have the support they all have given to me! And for the many friends who have been our family’s support system throughout my journey!
Initially Dr. Bullock thought it was stage 4, but thankfully it ended up being stage 2. He referred me to an oncologist, Hal Crosswell, to determine if the cancer had spread. Unfortunately, it did spread to a lymph node in my groin. As a result, I ended up having chemo because the risk of removing the lymph node was too great where it was located. He told me if your testicle hadn’t twisted when it did, my cancer may not have been diagnosed for years. That testicular tortion was one of God’s blessings! I told myself that chemo was just another bump in the road, and I was going to get through this too.
Dr. Crosswell and his amazing team at the Bon Secours Cancer Center took great care of me during my chemo, which was on days 3, 8, and 15 every month for 3 months. I was a sophomore majoring in construction science and management and it was important to me to continue to push ahead to graduate on time. Anyone that has had chemo knows that you experience numerous side effects that are not fun to deal with. I have memories of sleepless nights, losing my hair, neuropathy, and the constant taste of metal in my mouth. And the bone spurs were so painful I couldn’t make it up the steps some days. But despite these bumps in the road, I look back on some positives- I got to watch Game of Thrones in 2 weeks and the meds kept me up all night so I could stay up and study. I was determined to graduate on time with all my friends!
During my journey it was important for me to look at the bright side of things because God’s gifts were intertwined the whole way! All the memories, joys, and laughter have helped shape me into the person I am today.
10 Gifts from my Bump in the Road:
- The outpouring of love that I felt constantly from others’ love and support (from people I knew and didn’t know). It was overwhelming and so touching!
- All the cancer jokes with my family– throwing my hair on my sister Martha as it was falling out, chemo jokes, and my hair coming back as a bleached blonde babe for the ladies- Who knew I could pull off looking like a Ken doll after chemo?! I later decided to play a joke with my hair and got a wicked mullet cut. (God gave me the frosted tips as a bonus)
- The support given to me by Clemson University. The dean of student affairs wrote me a letter offering support. Coach Dabo Sweeney took the time to call and leave me a 4-minute voicemail and said if there is anything I can ever do for you let me know. Rusty Guill was an incredible mentor to me. I was also asked to speak at the grand opening of the new Chapel on campus and share my story, which was such an honor to be able to do to give back.
- Peach milkshakes from Martha anytime I asked. She was always a phone call away. After going through this we can now joke more about sensitive subjects- she’s seen me at my worst!
- The network of people that I wouldn’t have been friends with if I hadn’t had cancer. Cancer Survivor’s Park, Adolescent & Young Adult (AYA) Oncology, Outdoor Dream Foundation to name a few.
- The opportunity to meet Noah and go on an Alligator hunt. Noah was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, and he taught me how to get through those hard days. Noah left a big footprint on my heart. I’ll never for get the both of us killing 9- and 10-foot alligators on that hunt and the time we shared together.
- Meeting other cancer patients with testicular cancer. I am now a sounding board for other young men who get diagnosed with testicular cancer. I enjoy giving back what others gave to me by sharing my experience, my symptoms and my treatments through this journey.
- Nurses and doctors are more than just people, they are angels that carry you through it all. I have fond memories of Nurse Tamara at St. Francis calling me a Ken doll- she and all the staff there were incredible. (I like to think I helped pick them up some days too with my jokes!)
- The love and support from my Kappa Alpha fraternity brothers at Clemson. They helped me daily and sometimes 15 at a time would show up to visit me in Greenville. It meant the world to me. Several of them presented me with a hatchet in a beautiful cherry wooden box. It hangs proudly on my wall to this day.
- Learning a lot of medical lingo from walking the walk–now I can talk the talk. It’s been fun to be able to talk medical talk with my girlfriend, Anne Crosswell, and her classmates recently. She is getting her doctorate at MUSC. Being able to share my experiences has been helpful for them to hear what it’s like as a patient going through cancer.
The advice I would say to anyone that is dealing with a cancer experience to just treat it like another bump in the road. It will hurt you and you may get a flat tire along the way, but you are going to get through it. This experience has humbled me so much. After each round of chemo, I was ready to tackle the next round. You can’t relate with cancer until you’ve been through it. Don’t be afraid to reach out and call people when you’ve had a bad day. Keep your head up and know you’ve got people that will be there for you no matter what time of day it is. Lean on others, crack jokes, make people laugh, smile a lot and find the gifts in your journey. God brings gifts in all things……even those big bumps in our road.
Photo by Patrick Cox // Story Written by Laura Brasington