Nathan Adrian is a role model... and it has absolutely nothing to do with his Gold medal-winning performances as an Olympian. But rather Adrian is being praised for drawing attention to a devastating disease most men would rather not discuss out loud — testicular cancer.
Adrian, a three-time Olympian (2008, 2012, 2016); and eight-time Olympic medalist (5 golds, 1 silver, 2 bronze) was diagnosed with the disease in 2019. He revealed on the NBCLX podcast "My New Favorite Olympian" how that shocking revelation changed his life. As Adrian said, "Basically, once that [diagnosis] happens, just everything else stops mattering."
One of the things Adrian would like to do is remove the stigma and shame surrounding the disease because of how the testicles are associated with male masculinity.
"We have this idea of masculinity and having, you know…there’s this well-written article or a peer-reviewed journal talking about how men connect masculinity to properly functioning genitals, and if you have something wrong down there, you just want to deny it," he said. "You don't go to the doctor and ultimately save your life because of it."
Adrian adds, "No level of pride should stop you from going to the doctor to check it out."
Dr. Mark Litwin, a professor and chair of Urology at UCLA, concurs. He adds that men have to get past the fear of looking for potential symptoms in their testicles. "Men, like a lot of other patients, are scared sometimes if they examine themselves and find a lump or a bump or something that they think might be wrong, it makes us vulnerable and we're scared," he said. "And the natural course of action for many of us when we're afraid about something with our health is to retreat from it and hope that it'll just go away."
But testicular cancer obviously doesn't go away on its own. After coming to grips with his diagnosis, Adrian discusses his two succesful surgeries, how he and wife Hallie welcomed their first child, a baby girl named Parker, and how he was able to jump back into training for the Olympic Games.
"I know I've put I put on a bunch of muscle and I'm about as strong or stronger than I've ever been before right now," he says.
For more of our conversation with Adrian check out our podcast "My New Favorite Olympian" hosted by NBCLX's Ngozi Ekeledo and Olympic fencing medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad. Don't miss an episode. CLICK HERE to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform.