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Max Karels vs. Cancer

Max Karels was taking a shower at Senior Blake Schmidt’s house when he noticed a mysterious looking bulge on his left testicle, so he talked to Schmidt about it afterwards and was convinced into visiting a hospital. Karels, a senior at Hutchinson High School and a former BHS student, was diagnosed with testicular cancer on November 7.

“I was in the shower and I felt it and I thought ‘hmm… I should go to the hospital…’ and they did an ultrasound and confirmed that I had testicular cancer. I wasn’t really surprised when the Doctor said I had cancer because I kind of had a hunch,” said Karels.

Story continues after the video.

According to the Mayo clinic, testicular cancer is the most common cancer in American males between the ages of 15 and 34. “Stage 2” cancer was identified, meaning the cancer was only locally spread, however, they decided to surgically remove his left testicle as soon as they could for fear that the cancer would spread further. The surgery went well and Max woke up 30 minutes afterwards feeling great. However, fear became reality as another ultrasound weeks later determined that the cancer had spread to his stomach. Max is one of Schmidt’s best friends and Schmidt was scared that cancer would take someone from his life, again.

“I lost my dad to cancer a few years ago,” said Schmidt, “and it was really curable like what Max has. We thought my dad would be fine until he took a turn for the worse. A week after Max was diagnosed, so was my grandpa, so I just don’t know how to feel. Now when I’m with Max, I make my time with him count because it could be the last time I see him.”

Karels is currently undergoing chemotherapy, a nine-week process that requires him to lie in a hospital bed attached to chemical-filled sacs for at least two hours a day. The chemo is expected to kill three of the four kinds of cancer in his stomach; the fourth has to be removed surgically, after his chemo is done and he’s recovered. His family members sit with him when they can, but Karels said he’s had at least 40 friends from Buffalo come during his long hospital hours. Senior Sam Mayhew is one of the many that made the trip.

“That’s really saying something; I mean if he didn’t live in [Hutchinson] visiting him would be way bigger, so I guess it just shows that he’s got a lot of friends who care enough to make the trip out there,” said Mayhew.

Mayhew visited Karels with a big group of his friends and they were relieved to  see him in such good spirits.

“I was pretty scared goin’ in,” said Mayhew, “but it all went away as soon as I got there. Max was already making jokes about it, I mean how many people can joke about cancer? I guess that’s just Max.”

Chemotherapy is an extremely destructive process, destroying the rapidly multiplying cells of the body. Everyone reacts differently to it, but hair loss, appetite loss, fatigue, and increased susceptibility to sickness are the more common side effects. Max’s hair began to fall out after about two weeks of chemotherapy, and he’s lost eight pounds due to appetite loss. After his nine weeks and one month recovery are finished, Karels will go to the Mayo-Clinic to get the remaining amount of cancer out of his stomach.

“It’s really a 75% shot at whether they get it all out or not,” said Karels, “but I think in the long run I’ve learned that I gotta grab life by the balls.”

A tribute page to Max on Facebook,  “Grab life by the balls”, contains well wishes from friends and updates on how Max is doing.

Photo by Dan Pettit

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Dan Pettit

Dan Pettit has been a part of The Hoofprint since September of 2011. He currently designs the covers for the print editions and creates videos for hoofprint.net. Here's his Tumblr.

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  1. This story really showed the journey he’s gone through! The video also really showed the emotion behind what he’s going through.

  2. Great story.  I had Max in class a few years ago and and had no idea, but appreciate being informed!  Life is short.  Thanks for sharing.  He will be in my thoughts and prayers.