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UIndy lacrosse player thought his pain was from the game

IU Health Simon Cancer Center

UIndy lacrosse player thought his pain was from the game

Colorado resident Joe (Joey) Bertrand is thankful to be in Indiana where he is receiving the best care for testicular cancer.

By TJ Banes, Senior Journalist, IU Health,

It’s difficult to walk past Joe (Joey) Bertrand as he receives his chemotherapy at IU Health Simon Cancer Center. He’s wearing an iconic propeller beanie. He’s also smiling.

“Before my diagnosis and chemo I always had longer curly hair. I never wore hats but I decided when I lost my hair, if I wore a hat it may as well be a funny one,” said Bertrand. The propeller beanie is widely recognized as part of the cartoon character “Beany Boy” of “Beany and Cecil.”

For Bertrand, 21, the hat is part of his personality. A senior mechanical engineering major at UIndy, Bertrand hopes to pursue a career in the transportation industry or working with medical devices. The medical aspect could take him into a hospital setting where he uses his skills to fine-tune infusion equipment for chemotherapy.

As he talked, Bertrand received the high dose treatment that he first started in mid-July.

Bertrand has played Lacrosse since high school - one of the oldest sports in North America. He came to Indiana to continue playing for the UIndy “greyhounds.” He was wrapping up the season in May when he began experiencing back pain.

Joe Bertrand in lacrosse uniform

“It’s a contact sport so I thought the pain was all part of it. After a few weeks, I couldn’t stand up straight and I had difficulty lifting,” said Bertrand. When his left testicle began swelling, he made a trip to ER and was referred to a urologist. The next news was something his family had heard before. Bertrand had cancer. Several years ago, his younger brother was diagnosed with leukemia and was also treated with chemotherapy.

His specific diagnosis was testicular cancer. When scans showed the tumors had spread into his lymph nodes, Bertrand was referred to IU Health and Dr. Lawrence Einhorn. “Right off the bat from research I did, it was clear that Dr. Einhorn has a passion not only for his patients but for patients around the world with testicular cancer,” said Bertrand.

Dr. Einhorn is known for his successful treatment of testicular cancer - germ cell tumors - using a mix of high dose chemotherapies and peripheral stem cell transplant. Testicular cancer occurs in the testicles (testes), located in the scrotum. It is rare but the most common cancer in American males between the ages of 15 and 35.

Symptoms may include a lump in the testicle, a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum, dull ache in the abdomen or groin, and back pain. Doctors recommend regular self-examinations for early detection.

As Bertrand talked about his diagnosis and treatment, his dad, Brett sat at his side. His mom, Roberta Bertrand has also been with him. They are staying at Fair Haven, a foundation that provides free housing to out-of-town families during a hospital stay or recovery. In addition to a younger brother, Bertrand has two older sisters.

“I started playing lacrosse when my younger brother was diagnosed,” he said. It was on Bertrand’s birthday when the family gathered at the hospital. Dynamics changed at home and Bertrand found an outlet on the Lacrosse field. “It’s the perfect sport for me because it blends finesse with physicality and IQ,” said Bertrand, who also enjoys working on cars - especially his Jeep Wrangler. When Bertrand enrolled at UIndy, it was his first visit to Indiana - more than 1,000 miles from his Colorado home. He now works part-time in the admissions office managing the campus tour guides. “UIndy took me from mountains to flatlands and now that I’m getting treatments, it’s worked out best to be near the hospital where Dr. Einhorn works.”

During his treatment and recovery, Bertrand said UIndy team members have offered support - some shaving their hair when he began losing his to chemotherapy. He said his coach is holding a spot for him on the roster.

“From the beginning, the head coach was very clear that if I needed anything he was there for me. I’m very grateful to have this type of support and the best doctor.”

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