Rancho Cucamonga man writes of his experience with testicular cancer

Jerry Duprez doesn't mark his life with the usual milestones such as birthdays or holidays as many people do.

"I live from CT scan to CT scan," Duprez laughs.

Three years ago, without one symptom, Duprez, a Rancho Cucamonga resident, was diagnosed with Stage 3 testicular cancer, its most advanced form.

"I was shocked, testicular cancer is a young man's disease," said Duprez, now 60. "The cancer had metastasized, and the CT scan revealed a 17-centimeter sized tumor in my abdomen."

At that size the tumor was inoperable. His cancer had also spread high into his chest engulfing his vena cava and aorta.

The reality of his mortality would eventually inspire Duprez, a licensed clinical psychologist to write, "A Sack Half Full, From Humility to Humor, One Family's Journey through Testicular Cancer," a humorous, heartwarming and painfully honest insight into life, death and legacy issues.

"I took notes throughout the process because the humor kept coming; from the names of doctors, the many humbling indignities and some unique experiences, it seemed like a natural fit for a stand-up comedy routine," wrote Duprez in his book's introduction.

Duprez, who's been in private practice at Rancho Cucamonga's Haven Psychological for more than 30 years, was diagnosed shortly upon return from an Idaho reunion with two boyhood friends.

He was experiencing what he thought were symptoms from his celiac disease, an allergy to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.

Though on a strict, gluten-free diet, Duprez might have indulged while on his retreat. He made an appointment with his doctor who scheduled a CT scan.

In the interim, Duprez, back on his diet, was feeling better.

"At first the doctor said he was going to cancel it, then the next day he called and suggested that it would be a good idea to go ahead with the scan that can be used as a baseline for future monitoring of the celiac," Duprez said. "Thank God, I did."

The scan revealed a tumor in his abdomen.

"Usually, when it's Stage 1, it can be removed at the site, then start chemo, but this tumor was too large," said Duprez, who has undergraduate degrees in philosophy and physical education from Azusa Pacific, master's degrees in psychology and special education from Cal State Los Angeles and a Ph.D. in counseling from USC. "It was about the size of a grapefruit."

Unless the tumor could be shrunk a minimum 50 percent it would be considered inoperable.

The Duprez family is one of devout faith, reflected often in the book, but that doesn't shield them from struggles, hardships or challenges.

"The hardest part was telling my children that I have cancer; that it's inoperable and that the prognosis is poor. Realizing I was going to die I was at peace when I realized my family was going to be OK," said Duprez, who, with Denel his wife of 25 years, have five children and four grandchildren between them.

Duprez tolerated more than three months of chemotherapy.

"It was the worst," he said. "But it shrank the tumors and gave me a fighting chance."

Duprez suffered many side effects including hair loss, numb feet, incredibly itchy legs, mouth sores and great sensitivity in hands and fluid pooling in his elbows.

All was worth it because the tumor had shrunk the required minimum.

After two surgeries; a 1 1/2-hour

"A Sack Half Full, From Humility to Humor, One Family's Journey through Testicular Cancer"

Author: Jerry Duprez

Cost: $13.99

procedure to remove his right testicle and an 11-hour surgery to remove as much of the remaining tumor as possible; Duprez lifespan was looking a bit more promising and a bit more precious.

"I realize how vulnerable life is; that every day holds new opportunities and is a gift," he said. "I thank God that I can live, that I can love, that I can work and be with my family."

Duprez has spent a lifetime keeping in mind the legacy he hoped to leave behind. Though he's glad he's not leaving it behind yet, through his book, he'd like to raise awareness on what kind of legacy others would like to leave.

"You are going to die; we are all going to die, the question is, `how do you want to live? What do you want to leave behind?"' he said.

"People don't look at these issues. I want my book to help them look at these issues. I want them to use me and my humbling experience to be able to look at this issue that's so important and you can laugh with me while you do."

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