PHOENIX - Michael Muriett took his son Justin to the emergency room because he was experiencing some pretty severe back pain. But he was welcomed with a sad surprise.
“He had the tumor the size of a softball,” Michael said. “They informed us that he had testicular cancer and it had spread to other parts of his body.”
The tumors had spread to Justin’s kidney and his spine, leaving him temporarily paralyzed from the waist down.
“At first you panic because it’s your kid, but then you get to a point and it’s ‘I’m going to do whatever it takes,’” Michael said.
Justin’s family, like many others, was unaware that cancer could strike at such a young age – Justin was only 19.
“We didn’t really associate that age group, but we would soon find out it’s more common than we thought,” Michael said.
In fact, testicular cancer is the leading cancer in men ages 15 to 35.
Justin underwent a series of chemotherapy treatments. Eventually, Michael sent Justin’s test results to one of the leading testicular cancer experts in the country.
“That doctor was unfortunately the one that had to tell us that at that point it was not curable,” Michael said.
Justin spent the next 60 days with friends and family, crossing things off his bucket list. He got to be on the field with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“We didn’t want those last days being everyone sitting around and moping,” Michael said.
After Justin’s death, his father became a part of the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation, informing young men everywhere about the importance of checking yourself for tumors.
“If it’s caught early, it’s one of the most curable cancers out there,” Michael said. “It’s over 95 percent curable.”
Michael always keeps his son in mind.
“It’s all for Justin for me,” he said. “For me that’s how he lives on. I can tell his story and hopefully make a difference.”