(Battle Creek Enquirer) -- The goal for Dan Maurer, and it's an ambitious one, is to drive with his wife to Niagara Falls for the kind of romantic holiday they figured was no longer possible.
But for Maurer and his wife, Melita, it would be the ultimate step toward normalcy and a place they haven't visited in years.
"I want to get back to normal," he said. "That's the end goal."
That the Burlington couple is even discussing a future is thanks to the help and generosity of a lot of local citizens — most of them complete strangers — and a doctor with a confidence to tackle a surgery many doctors can't even imagine.
Five years ago, Maurer was pushing 500 pounds when he decided to lose weight. While exercising, he discovered his scrotum was growing abnormally large.
Two doctors had no idea what it was and he learned what it was only after a cyst was discovered inside his still-growing scrotum at Bronson Battle Creek.
Maurer was afflicted with scrotal lymphedema, a rare disease in the United States in which the scrotum grows abnormally large because of what doctors believe are blocked vessels in the lymphatic system that fail to drain fluid from the area.
Maurer's scrotum has grown to a size that makes it impossible for him to work or to walk more than 40 feet at a time. It makes driving agony.
Though variously estimated at 50 to 75 pounds in size, Maurer said he actually doesn't know how big it is anymore.
"I've never weighed it," he said. "It's depressing enough without weighing it."
But those days may be ending.
Maurer contacted Dr. Joel Gelman of the Center for Reconstructive Urology at the University of California-Irvine about a year ago. Maurer is one of the few surgeons in the country who has seen and canperform an operation to fix the condition.
Maurer made arrangements to meet Gelman last week in California and a spaghetti dinner and dessert fundraiser June 25 at the Robin's Nest raised more than $4,000 to allow Maurer and his wife to travel by train to California for a consultation with Gelman.
"The fundraiser went fantastic," said Dan's mom Connie, who arranged it. "I knew we'd have a good turnout but I didn't expect a terrific turnout. Over 200 people were there. We had three 10-foot tables of donated desserts. We were auctioning desserts like crazy. We sold a German chocolate cake for $85. We sold a pound of fudge for $35. It was just phenomenal. We just had a great time."
Maurer met with Gelman on July 24 and, almost immediately, his mind was put at ease.
"He basically came in, looked at me and said, "Is that all you've got?' " Maurer said. "It gave me a lot of confidence that he has no fear in tackling this. He comes in saying 'I've done this before and this going to be a breeze.' That's the way you want your doctor going into it."
Gelman's work with scrotal lymphedema was made famous several years ago as he served as lead surgeon in an operation on Wesley Warren, a Las Vegas man with a 132-pound growth that was featured in a series on The Learning Channel.
Maurer said he asked Gelman if he wanted to inspect the sore that had developed on his scrotum due to a constant infection.
"He said 'Why? It's going to be gone anyway,' " Maurer said. "He really seems to have his thoughts together."
The two met for close to three hours last week and once insurance issues were hammered out, Gelman shocked Maurer by scheduling the surgery for Aug. 28.
"The date is so quick," he said. "I don't know the people working on this or the attention it's gotten, but something's in play that got this going."
His original hope was to have the surgery in late fall so he could have the winter to recover his strength. But he's OK with the earlier date.
"It s scarier because you have to face things a lot sooner," he said. "You've got to wrap your head around it, but I can feel this weakening me physically and mentally. You can only deal with this for so long."
The surgery will require several surgeons and could take as long as 12 hours. He'll remain in California for several days after the operation and admits his goal of returning home Sept. 1 is probably unrealistic.
But he's been told there's no reason the growth can't be removed and his life can return to something approaching normalcy.
Though there are no firm numbers yet, Connie Maurer said the surgery will cost about $18,000 after Melita's insurance and donations. Maurer's online donation site at gofundme.com has raised more than $27,000 from more than 1,000 donors.
Maurer's public battle with his disease has sparked national attention. He said he's received inquiries from around the country as well as Australia, Ireland and Canada seeking advice.
Connie Maurer said representatives from the Dr. Oz TV show have also contacted them asking if he'd appear.
Maurer said what is certain is that this battle has changed him.
"My whole perspective has changed," he said. "I want to go from being a victim to being an advocate because there's no awareness of this."
"He wants to reach other people," Connie said. "He wants them to know there is help and he wants to be able to get that word out. We're fighting cancer and all these other diseases, but what about the diseases that we push under the carpet?"
Gelman told Maurer there are no guarantees with his surgery. The growth may not be totally removed or it may grow back. But he's not concerned.
This is his chance for normal and Niagara Falls is looking pretty good these days.
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