Every day, Thomas Cantley walks six to eight hours pushing a 6-foot-high inflatable ball. And he is pushing the giant ball all the way across the USA. Cantley started in Santa Monica, California, and then walked & pushed his ball down the southern coast of the U.S.all the way to New York City. The ball is actually a giant testicle named ‘Lefty’ and it serves a greater purpose. It’s a metaphor, meant to raise awareness and money and spread education for testicular cancer. It’s a disease that Cantley himself is a survivor of.
In 2009 Cantley got diagnosed with testicular cancer. This became an important turning point in his life. At the time of his diagnosis, Cantley had been suffering from abdominal and lower back pain, but he ignored it and didn’t realize that those were warning signs of testicular cancer. He says he never received preventative information, and wasn’t even aware of testicular cancer, let alone the warning signs. While a doctor could have helped, Cantley didn’t see one until he had to go to the emergency room. He was diagnosed with Stage III testicular cancer, meaning it had spread to other parts of the body besides lymph nodes.
“I had this ‘Superman Complex’ all these men create. I was a fashion photographer in New York and I was so self-centered and always busy, busy busy. I had no time for problems like these let alone go to the doctor.”
Now, Cantley, who has been cancer free since 2010, wants to help other men become aware of the signs so they can seek out help and catch cancer early. “I didn’t catch it early, unfortunately,” Cantley said. “And now I’m using my story to help others. I know there are a lot of guys out there like I was, who are in pain and ignoring it.”
As a matter of fact testicular cancer is rare compared to other cancers, but it is the most common cancer for men between the ages of 15 and 34. As it is highly treatable early diagnosis is imperative.
His kickass journey where he pushes the giant ball – which Cantley has named Lefty – is meant to draw attention to testicular cancer.
The testicle trek isn’t as nutty as it might seem at first glance.
“I wanted to do sort of a social experiment,” Cantley said. “I didn’t want to force myself on anyone, and what this does, it forces people to come to me, ask me, ‘What is this, what’s it about, it kind of looks like a testicle, what’s going on?’ It creates that conversation.”
While Cantley is traveling, he has strangers sign his ball, offering their messages of support, or memorials and messages to loved ones. Cantley says those signatures on the ball are important on a personal level. “While I’m traveling with this ball, they’re traveling with me and helping me through this,” he said.
In every city Cantley travels to, he connects with other survivors and educates young men. Eventually, Cantley says he wants to bring his project, and his ball, all around the world, teaching young men that “if you feel something weird, go to a physician, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.”