Texas A&M freshman Ethan Gogulski finished 9th in the 200 back at the 2019 SEC Championship meet, swimming a 1:41.35 to win the B-Final. That time ranks him 4th among all freshmen nationally and 23rd among all swimmers nationally: a result to be commended regardless of circumstance.
But for Ethan Gogulski, it’s an achievement made all-the-more impressive by the fact that it was done less than 2 weeks after being diagnosed with testicular cancer.
On Sunday, February 10th, Gogulski said he noticed something irregular in his testicles, and texted his dad, who is a physician, to ask him about it. His dad agreed with Gogulski’s concern, and helped him see a doctor to get a formal diagnoses. It turns out that that irregularity was stage 1 testicular cancer.
“I would’ve been happy with my performance either way,” Gogulski said via phone on Wednesday. “I dropped a lot of time this season, I was really happy with everything. But having the diagnosis 2 weeks before the meet and still being able to go and drop time…it was a cool thing and felt really good to know that I could overcome that emotionally.
“Nobody likes hearing the “Cancer” word, but right before a meet it’s really something that can psych you out.”
Gogulski said that the formal recommendation from both his doctor and his dad was to have the surgery to address the issue right away and then do his best to swim at SECs after the surgery. But Ethan felt that he had worked too hard, and knowing that the surgery would be painful, decided to push off the surgery for a couple of weeks and to swim at SECs anyway. He said that while the doctor’s formal recommendation was immediate surgery, that he also didn’t believe that there was any serious risk of the tumor metastasizing in the 2 weeks.
So Gogulski raced last week in Athens, swimming lifetime bests in both the 200 back as mentioned above and the 100 back, where he went 47.72. On Monday, he underwent surgery to remove the cancer, and while he’s still waiting on final lab results, he says that the surgeon’s report was positive.
Gogulski says that his short course season is probably over (he doesn’t think he’ll have time to get back in the water before a last chance meet to chase the last few tenths that he would need to earn an invite to NCAAs), but feels good about his decision.
He did get the chance to talk to 5-time Olympic gold medalist Nathan Adrian, who in January was also diagnosed with testicular cancer.
“We both agreed that it’s important to get checked out and that it affects a lot more people than you’d think, even though still sort of a rare thing,” Gogulski said of their conversation. “I don’t think that it should be something that you’d be that embarrassed about. I don’t think that going to see the doctor about anything like that should be embarrassing. I was lucky that I had my dad to discuss it with, but everyone should be getting regular checkups. Health is important, and if you find something that’s a red flag, just go and get it checked out.”