Having a ball — and raising awareness. A 31-year-old testicular cancer survivor named Thomas Cantley is rolling a 6-foot inflatable testicle (nicknamed "Lefty") across America, hoping to raise awareness and support for testicular cancer.
Cantley started his trek last Thursday, Sept. 4, in Santa Monica, Calif., and hopes to end his journey in early October in New York City. "I wanted to do sort of a social experiment," Cantley told local news station KSBW in Carmel, Calif. "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."
So far, Cantley has rolled his way through several California cities, documenting his journey on his Instagram account, Mr. Ballsy. In one post, he wrote: "As men, we want to ignore our bodies. We want to look away from our own pain and vulnerability. But there is no ignoring a six-foot inflatable testicle rolling down your street…"
The health activist's journey is personal. Back in 2009, Cantley was diagnosed with stage three testicular cancer. According to Cantley, it was the most terrifying time period in his life. In a 2013 interview with Men's Health, he said the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes; if left untreated, it could spread to his brain. Cantley flew back home to Canada, where he got the testicle — and infected lymph nodes — removed. "Cancer was my rebirth," he told Men's Health. "I needed to be infectious… I need to create attention."
His hope is for other young men in similar situations to feel supported. "It's a 96 percent survival rate if caught early, so when you catch it early at stage one, its not progressive, it's contained," he explained. "I'm doing it for these people, these survivors, these young guys."
Cantley, who's previously rolled 2,175 miles from Toronto to Vancouver, said part of his U.S. journey will include making himself vulnerable to the good deeds of others. "My goal is to get across the country not by any money," he told KSBW. "I want people to come and (say), 'I’ll book a hotel room, I’ll take you out to lunch, I’ll fill up your gas tank' or whatever, and I want those physical connections, I don’t just want people to donate to me, I want people to connect with me."