Orlando’s Journey

Cinema Student Shares Story on Camera

Orlando Torres, right, was often joined by his brother Leonardo and mother, Esperanza, in the infusion room at the NorthBay Cancer Center.

With dreams of becoming a director someday, 20-year-old cinematography student Orlando Torres was much more comfortable behind the camera, until a dramatic diagnosis compelled him to step into the spotlight.

Orlando learned he was suffering from testicular cancer in January. He’d noticed some swelling and discomfort last fall, but it was during a trip to Mexico to visit family that the pain grew more intense.

He did what most college students do these days: He logged on to Google to learn more. “I went down the checklist and said, “Yep. Yep. Yep. I was pretty sure I had cancer.”

Still, he hoped the pain would go away. He endured the long trip home to Suisun City, and made it through the night, but the next day, he was Emergency Room-bound. An ultrasound confirmed his worst fear and surgery was scheduled in March.

A tumor was removed successfully, but the cancer had spread to a lymph node, so chemotherapy was in order. That’s when he met Dr. Jonathan Lopez, an oncologist and hematologist at NorthBay Cancer Center, and the two clicked.

“I trusted him. I considered my options, and I knew he’d help me make the best choices,” recalls the soft-spoken Orlando during an infusion treatment in June. “We wanted to make sure that the cancer wouldn’t spread through my body.”

“I trusted Dr. Lopez. I considered my options and I knew he’d help me make the best choices.”
— Orlando Torres

So he started spending a lot of time in the infusion suite at the NorthBay Cancer Center. Every three weeks during a three-month period, Orlando would go for infusion from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and always, he was accompanied by his devoted mother, Esperanza. His brother, Leonardo, and numerous cousins were also known to drop in for a visit, making his corner of the infusion suite more festive than most. Soccer games were watched on TV. Lunch was shared.

It was during that first cycle of chemotherapy that Orlando decided he wanted to shave his head. “I didn’t want the cancer to take my hair,” he says resolutely. “I wanted to do it myself.”

So he decided to have a party, and invited his family members to help him by cutting off a lock. Somehow, turning on the video camera seemed like the right thing to do. A documentary was born.

Orlando began recording snippets of his experiences on camera. He filmed his initial thoughts about the diagnosis, sharing all of his emotions.

“I told one of my professors at Solano Community College about my diagnosis, and she told me she had two other students who went through something similar. One was cured, but the other had waited too long,” he recalls. “I realize I wanted to face it right away. Maybe my story can help others.”

His prognosis is good. According to Dr. Lopez, individuals treated with this type and stage of testicular cancer have up to a 95 percent cure rate. A CAT scan this summer will determine if another surgery is needed, or if his cancer is retreating.

“I’m already expecting surgery, but that’s the way I think. I like to be prepared,” says Orlando. “If things turn out better than my expectations, then I’m pleasantly surprised.”

Orlando, pictured above with friends from his hair-cutting party, shows off his new look. A friend used the picture to send him a message of encouragement.

In addition to managing his own emotions, Orlando worries about those of his family and friends. “I try to keep things light and joke about it. I treat it like it’s a broken leg. I don’t want them to feel bad, but to have fun with it,” he says. “Cancer is not funny, but we can make fun of it.”

He knows a lot of men—especially young men his age—shudder to think about, much less discuss, testicular cancer.

That’s why he decided to record his journey on video. He’s not planning to enter it in a contest or submit it for a class project, but he would like to share it with others, to help men like him face their diagnosis.

“There’s nothing to be ashamed of,” he says. “We have to talk about these things and not shy away from them. We have to send a message that we can beat cancer if we face it head on.”

Watch video snippets from Orlando’s journey.

What are the symptoms? testicular cancer

  • A swelling and/or lump in one or both of the testes. There may or may not be pain in the testes or scrotum.
  • A heavy feeling in the scrotum.
  • A dull pain or feeling of pressure in the lower belly or groin.
  • A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum.
  • Enlargement or tenderness of the breasts.

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