Turning Grief into Action: A Father Talks about the Need for Greater Testicular Cancer Awareness
Brad Coleman was a healthy and active 17 year-old boy who enjoyed fishing, hunting and riding ATVs in his native western Tennessee. In October 2008 he began complaining of severe headaches that were initially attributed to a family history of migraines. By the end of December, Brad’s headaches grew more severe and he was taken to the emergency room in nearby Camden, TN. There it was discovered that he had blood in his stool and his blood counts were very low. Brad was immediately rushed to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville. A mass was discovered in his lower left abdomen and tests revealed that Brad had a bleeding ulcer. He was taken into surgery to repair the ulcer and control the bleeding. After this operation more tests were done to investigate the mass. Numerous scans and tests later, it was discovered that Brad had lesions in his liver, lungs and two in his brain that had not been there in the original scan in October.
Brad was diagnosed with testicular germ cell cancer on January 1, 2009. The cancer had metastasized to his lymph nodes, liver, lungs, and brain. John Coleman, Brad’s father, described his reaction when first hearing the diagnosis. “We had no idea. Total shock. Brad had never mentioned anything was wrong.”
Brad began the fight of his life with the love and support of his family and friends. He endured several rounds of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. Harvesting stems cells from Brad’s body required travelling back and forth from Brad’s home in Holladay, TN to Vanderbilt in Nashville every day for a month. He had the transplant on January 18, 2010 and was in the hospital for six weeks. After some initial improvement, his condition began to worsen. Brad underwent surgery to remove the mass in his lower abdomen and participated in a clinical trial at MD Anderson Cancer Center, only to lose his battle against the disease on June 20, 2010.
The devastating loss of his youngest son to testicular cancer spurred John and his family into action. They created the Brad Coleman Cancer Foundation with a mission to bring greater awareness to the disease and to share the facts about early detection that could save lives. John found that the biggest obstacle to fighting testicular cancer is silence. “No one talked about it. Schools didn’t have anything about it,” Coleman said.
To raise awareness about testicular cancer, the Foundation began testicular cancer awareness programs in 20 school systems throughout western Tennessee. The Brad Coleman Cancer Foundation offers testicular cancer awareness DVDs and other educational tools free of charge to school systems across the country to raise awareness to those most a risk. “Early detection is the key. If just one person is helped then all our efforts will be well worth it,” said Coleman.