Newport News MMA fighter battles testicular cancer head-on

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Surely you've seen the bumper stickers, visited the website or, perhaps, worn the T-shirt.

"Save the ta-tas" is a brilliant campaign for breast cancer awareness.

So it doesn't take a perfect MCAT score to grasp the aim of Zac Allen's website.

Allen, a Newport News resident and amateur mixed martial arts fighter, has testicular cancer. He is 28 and determined not only to beat the disease but also to help others in the process.

"My dad is a cancer survivor of 23 years," Allen says. "He had prostate and intestinal cancer, and they gave him pretty slim chances. I've got two aunts who have beaten breast cancer. My grandmother's also a survivor.

"So it seems to target the family, but our family seems to target it right back. It definitely helps having some people who know the routine."

Allen and his family moved to the Peninsula from Connecticut when he was 13. He wrestled as a 152-pounder for Doug Roper at Tabb High, earning Daily Press All-Stars honors as a senior.

MMA fighting was a natural extension, and he's been on the local circuit — Scope, Ted Constant Center, Hampton Coliseum, Hampton Convention Center — for about seven years.

"I almost felt like I had an advantage on guys who were used to fighting on their feet," Allen says, "because most (MMA) fights end up on the ground, and that's where wrestlers are most comfortable."

Allen was preparing for a July 17 bout in Virginia Beach when he felt something amiss.

"I was in the shower," he says. "For about a week or so before, I had kind of a dull pain, nothing that couldn't be dealt with. It was pretty easy to ignore, as a matter of fact. But I found the shape (of a testicle) a little off and decided it wasn't worth wasting any time."

An ultrasound revealed the cancer, and two weeks later, surgeons removed Allen's right testicle. A subsequent CT scan showed the cancer had spread to his lungs and lymph nodes.

"That's when they really decided to kick it into gear and nip it in the bud as soon as possible," Allen says.

He began chemotherapy Tuesday at Hampton's Sentara CarePlex Hospital. Four cycles of five days a week, five hours a day, each cycle separated by a two-week break.

Then, reassessment. Has the chemo worked? Does Allen need surgery to remove lymph nodes and portions of his lungs? What about more chemo? Has the cancer, an aggressive form called non-seminoma, spread further?

The medical terminology and countless appointments make a patient dizzy. Allen's girlfriend, Bethany Marshall, also a MMA fighter, organizes it all on her laptop and iPad.

Doctors "definitely sound pretty confident and I've got no reason to not be just as confident," Allen says via cellphone as the chemo drips into a port in his left shoulder. "This is something that can be defeated. People do it fairly often."

Allen is a long-time employee of Hydracrete Services, a small, Yorktown-based concrete firm. He has health insurance, and short-term disability covers about half his pay. But mortgage payments and medical bills have mounted in a hurry, prompting Allen's home gym to pitch in.

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