Cancer and Pandemic Won’t End his Swimming Career – Nathan Adrian, USA Olympian

Imagine being a world-class athlete with an Olympic resume. Consider the agony of hearing the three words everyone dreads: “You have cancer.” … Now, celebrate the win against testicular cancer, train for a fourth berth to represent the United States in the 2020 Tokyo Games – and then have the worldwide coronavirus health crisis dash your hopes.

If you think that’s too bizarre for even Hollywood’s standards, meet swimming standout Nathan Adrian.

Adrian, 31, has endured two surgeries in the past year to treat testicular cancer. Still, he remained focused on making his fourth Olympic team and hoped to swim in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle and the 400-meter relay.

The Tokyo Games, however, were postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tentatively, the Games have been rescheduled to begin July 23, 2021.

Signs and symptoms of testicular cancer include: [1]

  • Back pain
  • Dull ache in the abdomen or groin
  • Enlargement or tenderness of the breasts
  • Feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
  • Lump or enlargement in a testicle
  • Pain or discomfort in a testicle or the scrotum
  • Sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum

The Mayo Clinic notes, depending on the type and stage, testicular cancer is highly treatable. Patients may receive one or a combination of treatments, even if cancer has spread beyond the testicle.

Risk factors for testicular cancer include: [2]

  • An undescended testicle
  • Being of a particular race/ethnicity
  • Body size
  • Carcinoma in situ of the testicle
  • Family history of testicular cancer
  • Having had testicular cancer before
  • HIV infection

The standard treatments for testicular cancer are surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, surveillance, and high-dose chemotherapy with stem cell transplant. [3]

Adrian had surgery in December 2018 to remove a tumor. A month later, a second surgery

removed some lymph nodes. Seven months later, he anchored the U.S. 4×100 freestyle relay team’s world-record effort at the 2019 world championships in South Korea. In September, Adrian earned five medals at the Pan American Championships in Lima, Peru.

Realizing there are ‘more important things’

He has not taken chemo and said even if he did, the treatment would not keep him out of the water. “Even if there was a situation where I knew I probably wasn’t going to make it, I was still going to get up there and compete,” Adrian told The Mercury News regarding the U.S. Olympic trials that had been scheduled for June. [4]

Last week, Toshiro Muto, head of the Tokyo Organizing Committee, said, “I don’t think anyone would be able to say if it is going to be possible to get [the pandemic] under control by next July or not. We’re certainly not in a position to give a clear answer.

“We have made the decision to postpone the Games by one year. So, this means all we can do is work hard to prepare for the Games. We sincerely hope that come next year mankind will manage to overcome the coronavirus crisis.” [5]

Adrian, a five-time Olympic champion and eight-time medalist, is unfazed. “Just like cancer wasn’t going to be the end of my swimming career, this [pandemic] isn’t the end,” he told The Mercury News.

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As he waited to get back into the pool to resume training, Adrian chipped in to help California’s efforts to battle the coronavirus. He donated autographed gear for the Center of Philanthropy’s COVID-19 relief fund and gave N95 respirator masks to an East Bay hospital.

“There are so many more important things than me getting to fulfill this dream after getting over a cancer diagnosis,” he said.

 

Citations

[1] Testicular cancer. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/testicular-cancer-care/symptoms-causes/syc-20352986

[2] Risk Factors for Testicular Cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/testicular-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html

[3] Testicular Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)–Patient Version. https://www.cancer.gov/types/testicular/patient/testicular-treatment-pdq

[4] He came back after fighting cancer, now Cal Olympic swimmer adjusting to coronavirus pandemic. https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/03/26/he-came-back-after-fighting-cancer-now-cal-olympic-swimmer-adjusting-to-coronavirus-pandemic/

[5] Tokyo Games chief says postponed Olympics not certain to go ahead in 2021. https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2020/apr/10/tokyo-games-chief-says-postponed-olympics-not-certain-to-go-ahead-in-2021