Madison McNary / Lantern reporter
“No Shave November” started normally for Clayton Ford with him advocating for cancer awareness, but it ended with him being diagnosed with testicular cancer.
“I got my doctor’s call when I was sitting down playing video games … It was really shocking,” said Ford, a fourth-year in art. “I stopped playing immediately and started painting.”
Ford said he started painting after his diagnosis to channel what he was going through and express it through his art.
Winter Quarter, Ford created an interactive project titled “Cremasteric Reflex,” which was later displayed in March at Hopkins Hall. Cremasteric reflexes are a muscular reflex that occurs, for example, the left testicle to rise if the left thigh is lightly brushed.
Ford, who wants to get into 3-D animation after he graduates, put microcontrollers in a pair of life-like testes in order to visualize the reflex that helped detect stage-one cancer in his testicle. His cancer was successfully removed.
“I learned a lot … just from things that my doctor did and personal research,” Ford said. “I just thought it was going to be a pair of balls but the idea evolved.”
When Ford was first diagnosed with cancer, he didn’t want to tell anybody, so he just went about his days smiling like nothing was wrong.
One of the first people he told was his younger brother, Jason Ford, a first-year in biochemistry.
“Initially, I was really surprised and he didn’t want to tell my mom about it, but I made sure she knew about it,” Jason Ford said.
Stacie Ford, Clayton and Jason Ford’s mother, was diagnosed with breast cancer when Clayton was a child. He didn’t tell his parents right away because he didn’t want to burden them with the situation.
“I didn’t want them to worry about it because of what my mom had to go through with breast cancer … I thought that I could just get through it by myself,” Clayton Ford said.
When Stacie Ford did find out about the cancer, she reacted in a way that most mothers would.
“I was concerned about his well-being … what tests had been performed, what plan of action was in place and what the future would hold,” Stacie Ford said. She survived breast cancer in 1995 and 1998.
Once the news broke, Stacie Ford said the family banded together even tighter for Clayton Ford.
“It is times like these that only strengthen our bonds so much more,” Stacie Ford said.
Clayton Ford underwent surgery right before Christmas break, which he said was beneficial because it didn’t interrupt his school schedule.
“It was a really convenient surgery because it was healing up for that whole month, then I came back to school and it was all healed up, pretty much,” Clayton Ford said.
His brother tried to be supportive throughout the whole process.
“He was always telling me that he was here,” Clayton Ford said.
Over winter break, Jason Ford helped Clayton Ford off the couch after surgery because if he used his stomach muscles he could have torn open the incision.
“I kind of felt like everything would be OK, so I wasn’t too worried about it,” Jason Ford said. “It has made me appreciate people that are really close to me more, especially him.”
Even though the cancer has been removed, Clayton Ford still keeps in mind that it could come back and it could be worse. He said this experience has grounded him and changed the ways he views a few things.
“I don’t think that anyone ever moves on, and it’s good that people don’t,” Clayton Ford said, “because it hits you hard and it changes your life.”