April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, and we’re grabbing it right by the balls. Every day for the entire month, we will be publishing a new story aimed at getting men to better consider — and cherish — their family jewels in hopes of helping prevent a diagnosis that, if caught early enough, shouldn’t prove fatal.
When writer and illustrator K. Thor Jensen stumbled across a Craigslist ad looking for an editor to launch “The Huffington Post for balls” in 2014, he was, to say the least, intrigued. The listing was by a nonprofit called the Kimerling Foundation, which is dedicated to raising awareness of testicular cancer. After interviewing a couple of candidates, they decided Jensen was the best man for the job. The site, called The Ball Report, launched in early 2015, with the tagline, “Beating testicular cancer one ball at a time,” and a background of illustrated nutsacks.
Immediately, Jensen got to work, researching, writing and uploading every article that exists on the site — from serious pieces like “Three Testicular Cancer Symptoms to Be Aware Of” and “A Doctor Explains How a Testicle Can Pop,” to funnier, more clickable ball content like “Guy Smokes a Lot of Weed, Thinks He Has Testicular Cancer and Goes on a Joyride” and “This Guy Ejaculated Out of His Butthole for Two Years.” “I had probably written about testicles once or twice [before this],” Jensen tells me. “But I wasn’t an expert by any means. So the challenge was, ‘How can I do this interestingly?’ And that was a lot of fun.”
Although he was working other jobs alongside editing The Ball Report, Jensen says there was always “a small, scrotum-shaped pocket inside [his] brain” where he’d “file gonad-related stories” when he stumbled across them. “I definitely became more conscious about how people talked about balls in public and private,” he says. And when he told people about the site’s ball-to-ball coverage of balls? “Oh, they loved it. It was an amazing icebreaker. I’ve written about a lot of weird stuff in my career, from competitive eating to professional wrestling, but balls are just so absurd and unexpected that it was always a hit.”
The aim of establishing this endless ball coverage was, as Jensen recalls, for the Kimerling Foundation to “do something that was very different,” as opposed to just a short-term educational campaign. “One of the big claims of cancer is that you should be checking every month,” he continues, “so by putting content out regularly online, [the foundation] could push that message really consistently.”
The Kimerling Foundation was set up in memory of New York-based sports broadcaster Sean Kimerling, following his death from testicular cancer on September 9, 2003. He was just 37 years old. Writing for another ball-focused blog, A Ballsy Sense of Tumor, Kimerling’s family previously explained: “The goal is to promote self-examination of the testicles and knowledge of testicular cancer symptoms for early diagnosis and cure. If Sean had known the symptoms, if he had gone to the right specialist, he would be alive today.”
Kimerling graduated from Georgetown University in 1988, and went on to become a two-time Emmy award-winning anchor of WPIX 11, an NYC television station, and a pre-game announcer for the New York Mets. He was, as his family wrote on the foundation’s website, “on top of the world, excited about his career” and close to his friends, family and girlfriend. In 2002, Kimerling “felt something in his testicle,” but when he visited his local doctor, he “was told it was nothing.” He then started to suffer from back pain. In August 2003, when the latter became unbearable — initially he believed it was a sports injury, though a doctor advised it was a kidney infection — Kimerling was finally diagnosed with testicular cancer, which was already at stage four. He died the following month.
Kimerling’s story was told in a heartfelt 2004 article for NBC News (and video interview on The Today Show) by newscaster Dan Abrams, a testicular cancer survivor who battled the disease at the same time and in the same hospital as Kimerling. Although he initially wanted his cancer to remain a private matter, Abrams remembered Kimerling speaking out before his death about his determination to “give something back by educating young men about the disease,” and wanted to carry on his legacy. “He can’t [achieve that goal],” wrote Abrams, “and so now, reluctantly, I will, by trying to help promote the foundation that his family has set up to educate young men about testicular cancer.”
It was another decade before the Kimerling Foundation established The Ball Report, creating a second platform for young men to learn about testicular cancer, albeit in a totally unorthodox way. Jensen never met Kimerling, and hasn’t even met his family in real life, despite working with them for six years. Still, that hasn’t stopped him from getting a clear picture of Kimerling in his head. “From everything I’ve heard, he was this incredibly engaging [person],” says Jensen. “He was so beloved by his family and friends, who really wanted to do something with the foundation because he was so young, and [his death was] so unnecessary. That’s the big thing with testicular cancer, that it’s so wrong for these men who are so young to pass in the prime of their life, [especially as it’s] something that’s so detectable, knowable and treatable. [We wanted The Ball Report] to honor that, and to bring that kind of life and energy to the project.”
And so, it was very important for Jensen that the site approach the very serious topic of testicular cancer in an irreverent way, with the aim of normalizing guys checking their balls — but by reminding them to do it (via unrelated balls-related stories), rather than finger-wagging them into it. “We wanted it to be something that, even if you didn’t have balls, you could still read it and have a laugh,” he says.
To find his daily stories, like “The Story of Scrotie, the College Sports Mascot Who Was a Dick and Balls” or “Man Gets Balls Stuck in Padlock,” Jensen used a mix of media, old and new. As well as setting up a bunch of ball-related Google alerts, he “would go historical,” using his collection of “books of historical facts and trivia” to find anything testicular that could make a post. From this research, he discovered stories like the CIA making a fake scrotum to hide a spy radio in (the thought process, Jensen wrote in 2020, “was that if their agents were captured and strip-searched, enemies would not want to fiddle-faddle around that deeply below the belt, and might miss it”), that a recently-discovered Ancient Egyptian might have had testicular cancer and that a scientist in 1944 “turned his balls into worm incubators” in the hope of, er, ejaculating them out.
In 2021, six years after it launched, The Ball Report stopped publishing (though its thousands of archive articles remain online). Jensen says the Kimerling Foundation “decided that they wanted to move in a different direction,” adding that it’s “hard to run a content site right now.” “Traffic was still fine,” he continues, “but I think there’s a hard ceiling that you hit, writing about balls.” When I ask if there’s anything more he wanted to do with the site, Jensen says: “One of the things I wish I’d been able to get more into was how COVID-19 is affecting testicular development. That’s a huge story, but the science is still being worked on — I wrote a little bit about that, but wish I could have delved into it further.”
Nevertheless, Jensen says he loved every minute of editing The Ball Report. He even tells me it would be impossible to pick his favorite pieces because he “wrote so much and had so much fun” — though, he adds, it was particularly gratifying when testicular cancer survivors read his work and reached out to tell their stories. “The site deserves love,” he concludes. “It was an incredibly funny and charming little experiment that we had a lot of fun with, and, hopefully, [even] saved a life [with]. It was a pleasure to be able to do something so ridiculous for such a good reason.”