I’m Andrew. This whole blog kicked off because I was trying to write funny things on Facebook to make myself feel better about the process of treating my testicular cancer. Someone suggested I start a blog about it and here we are. I am going to talk about my balls. Ball. I have mostly stopped caring about appearing appropriate so if you are of a sensitive disposition, this is not the blog for you.
Earlier this year I discovered a lump on my right nut that didn’t seem normal. I went to to see my Doctor, who reassured me that it was probably nothing, but that we should get this lump checked out by ultrasound.
I made my way into the ultrasound technicians office and cracked some jokes that I can’t quite remember. What I do remember was that the gel was distressingly warm and that the technician told me she’d seen thousands of testicles and not to worry about it. I hadn’t been until she said that, then I started to wonder how my nuts compared to the legion of hairy, weird looking spheres this poor woman was apparently confronted with every day. I wondered if you could start suffering from nut shock, where you simply could no longer see the testicles before you.
While I was thinking about that the technician said the words ‘mass’ and ‘poorly defined’ and took the results off to see a Doctor.
After a while of being alone the gel had gone cold and thoroughly soaked through the towel they’d given me and into my jeans. My main worry was not that they’d come back and say I had cancer, but that when I left people would think I’d had a much better time in the ultrasound room than I’d actually had.
I cleaned off some of the gel with the provided towel and went looking for something else to wipe my nether regions down with. That’s how the technician found me when she came back, with my pants around my knees ineffectively flailing at my groin with damp paper towels. She laughed. I laughed. It was good.
Then she told me I could go home, and that my Doctor would call me and that I shouldn’t worry.
I pulled my jeans up, did up my belt and went to leave. When I did I turned back to thank the technician and for a half second I caught the expression on her face before she shuffled the professional smile back into place and in that instant I knew it was bad. I had to wait until my Doctor called me and said ‘hey you need to see a urologist ASAP’ to get it confirmed, but the moment I felt my stomach fill up with ice and broken glass was when that technician had an unguarded moment and gave me a look filled with such pity I thought she was going to cry.
Compared to that, and the litany of woe that was telling my loved ones, the process of being told about testicular cancer, and the surgery (called an orchidectomy), was relatively easy. All of the medical staff were incredibly professional and helpful and I got bundled into surgery with the minimum of fuss. By the time the surgeons came to see me to warn me about how the operation would go the lump on my testicle had taken over the whole ball and my poor righty had the feel and appearance of a aspherical golf ball.
Someone asked me if I wanted my testicle back once they were done with it.
I did not.
I wanted the damn thing taken far away from me and burned. The hospital staff sadly informed me that ritual burnings were frowned upon by local councils, but they could make sure I never had to clap eyes on my right ball again, and that was good enough for me.
The surgeons came back again and told me how easy my recovery would be, and that I could probably go home that night. They smiled and shook my hand and left. Then the anesthetist told me how it would actually go after surgery. I appreciated his honesty in the face of the surgeons’ wild optimism about my body’s healing abilities. I did get to go home that night, but I screamed every time the car went over a bump in the road, so in retrospect I think maybe I should have stayed in hospital a little longer.
Once I was home, I did heal up faster than expected. I almost managed to keep the cats off my wound, and once they figured out the optimal human comfort/suffocation position I had a furry armed guard for my convalescence.
I went back in to see an oncologist after three weeks. I had made peace with having only one nut, now named ‘middly’ since ‘lefty’ no longer applied. I was full of confidence. We had caught my cancer in time, and guys my age don’t get the really aggressive ones. The rare ones.
Maybe other guys don’t, but I had something called embryonal carcinoma and the aggressive little bastard had already colonized my lungs and would soon be making inappropriate advances on my brain. I heard the word ‘metastasized’ a lot. Somehow the cancer had skipped my lymphatic system, but it didn’t matter, it was chemo time. I was never going to turn down chemotherapy, but I did ask my first surgeon what would happen if I did. The answer was as blunt as I’d needed it to be: ‘No chemo? You don’t make Christmas.’
Well screw that, I thought, I love Christmas.
Since then I’ve been shot full of ominous chemicals in black bags. I’ve enjoyed side effects both common and rare, including one no one else thought existed (I knew I was special!) and I’ve watched all the hair on one side of my body fall out a full week before the other side. I looked like I’d had a terrible accident with a hedge trimmer. I’ve also come to find that stuff is still funny. No matter how awful things are, there’s almost always something to laugh at, so I started writing about them.
Here’s to making it to Christmas, no matter what Christmas we’re talking about.
– Andrew Jack, October 2015