WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - If you asked Sheriff Ed McMahon about some of the criminal cases that have had a personal impact on him, such as the case of a kidnapped girl found chained to a tree, he'll talk for hours.
If you ask him about the time he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, that's a different story.
"It's kind of weird to say that I've had testicular cancer," McMahon said. "That just sounds awkward."
It's been almost 30 years since New Hanover County's top law enforcement officer was diagnosed, and he still has a hard time believing he had cancer.
"You know that 'C' word." You never think it's going to be you," he said.
But it was.
In 1990, McMahon was working as a trooper for the Vermont State Police. At just 29, he says he was the picture of health.
"I was very active," McMahon said. "I played a lot of basketball and was always doing something."
One day he started having some discomfort in the groin area.
"I was in some pain and swelling," he said.
McMahon's doctor told him he had an infection and put him on an antibiotic.
The pain did not go away.
At the time, the Vermont State Police Department was handing out literature about testicular cancer to troopers and their families. One of those brochures turned out to be a lifesaver.
"Actually my wife, Teena, is the one who diagnosed it," McMahon said. "She said, 'I think this is what you have,' so we went to a specialist, had an ultrasound and that's when they saw the mass."
McMahon was diagnosed with non-seminoma testicular cancer, a treatable, but aggressive form of testicular cancer.
The intense chemotherapy treatments ahead would be grueling.
"I remember the doctor saying, 'We want to take him almost to the point of death because this is curable, but it's a very aggressive cancer.' Once you get it, it acts real fast," McMahon said.
For weeks, he would undergo treatment in and out of the hospital. It was debilitating. He had to depend on his wife to take over the household.
"My children were, I think, six and four, so I couldn't really go out and play with them," McMahon said. "You lose your hair and I could barely walk from the chair to the bathroom."
All along, doctors told McMahon he would be cured and he was, but he admits that had it not been for his wife and his faith, he's not sure how he would have pulled through.