The Patriots have made keeping injuries secret a point of institutional pride.
But Nate Solder’s willing to talk now about a problem he dealt with last season that could have been much bigger than fudging an injury report submitted to the league.
Via Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com, Solder was diagnosed with testicular cancer a year ago, was treated, and went on to play a key role for the Super Bowl champions.
He was initially diagnosed after his standard physical at the beginning of offseason conditioning work. He mentioned feeling some pain, Patriots doctors ordered up an ultrasound, and three days later, he had surgery to remove the testicle. He only missed a few days of OTAs while recovering, and started every game last year, so there was no suggestion that anything was wrong with him at all.
“I knew nothing about it. It was a complete surprise,” Solder said. “You Google something like that and it kind of scares you, so I was like, ‘I’m not going to freak out about this.’ Had I not had a routine physical, I probably wouldn’t have checked it, saying, ‘Oh, it’s just in my head, I’m going to be fine.'”
April is National Testicular Cancer Awareness month, so the 27-year-old Solder was moved to reveal the disease now for the sake of awareness. According to the American Cancer Society, almost half of all cases of testicular cancer are in men between the ages of 20 and 34.
He had a quick and uncomplicated recovery, so he was hesitant to be portrayed as overcoming cancer and going on to be a football hero, knowing his story’s not always typical.
“I was completely healthy, I’m a professional athlete. It can happen to anybody,” he said. “Make sure you get yourself checked out, especially young men, because that’s who it’s really targeted toward. . . .
“The biggest thing is letting people know and giving them the information. And maybe giving people some courage that if they are in a situation like I was, maybe they would go and say something, and that could make a difference. It’s more common than people realize. A lot of people are either afraid to do it, or they don’t think it’s important enough to get it checked. It’s a simple check. Six months, a year, and then it starts spreading and then you start to feel symptoms and it’s a more serious situation. So that’s a big thing; you can save lives with early detection.”
If his story gets one person to get a check-up, then telling it was worthwhile.