Things that make you go, “Hmm.”

Sometimes families are wonderful. I love my ‘little’ nest of people and the small menagerie we have accumulated. Sometimes they drive me to distraction or make me long for a distraction, sure, but they are there and they love me. They tell me so. In words, in teacups, in cooking, washing, technological assistance and cleaning up cat poo.

Sidenote: I am a grown woman with 4 children but I cannot clean up after cats without gagging. This appears to be my kryptonite. Which, when you think about it, makes far more sense than actual kryptonite. Pretty green stones vs icky cat mess. It’s a no brainer.

Anyway. Love is obvious in these and many other ways in my household.

Throughout my extended family, love is shown in other ways. We don’t live in the same city, so visits are always wonderful. Phone calls, texts and emails are also appreciated. Invite me to stay. Pay for a trip. Buy coffee. Hug me. Talk. All say, “I love you.”

My in-laws are a mystery to me. They say “family is everything” but I’m left wondering when inaction speaks louder than words. And even of words, there are few. Mostly mine.

The kids and I will be in town for these dates. Let me know when we can see you, please.

Nothing.

Arrive tonight. Let me know when we could catch up.

Nothing.

?????????

What is going on? I do not understand. No acknowledgement. Certainly no possible plans. Just nothing.

Hmmmm.  I’ll try Facebook. I’ve seen your posts, I know you’ll see this.

GROUP MESSAGE:
Kids and I arrive tonight for 7 days. We are planning our time and would love to see you. Will you let me know what might work please?

An hour later, I receive one (of 6 possible) replies:

I’ll let you know. Busy with work as I’ve been promoted.

I get it. Work is busy. I know that in my own life. But 24/7 for the next week? No time for coffee? Hmm.

A day later:

***** has left the group.

Well, that’s pretty clear.
And after that:

One (who is widely considered THE most unreliable in family) writes:

How long are you here for? I’d really like to introduce my new partner. My phone number has changed since last time so if you’ve tried to text me, I didn’t get it. New number is *******. I’ll call tomorrow when we can work something out.

Well, seems like the same old deal. It’s always this way. He’s rubbished by many family members and sometimes drives you nuts, but he ALWAYS makes time for us. ALWAYS. Actions, right?

The week before, having received no reply via text, I created a Facebook event for the youngest’s 3rd birthday. His actual birthday is just days after we go home, so why not get everyone together for a little cake? Right? Nope. Not a single rsvp from the same people. Friends from my high school days, some of whom I know better now via FB than I did at school, have replied in the affirmative. Family in law? Not one. (This happened for two consecutive years!)

I don’t know what else to do! For my own sake, I couldn’t care less, but for my children and my disappointed husband, I care a lot. What message is this sending them? Hmmmm.

Let me tell you what I’m hearing:

– You aren’t worth my time.
– I don’t want to see you.
– I don’t care that you live at the other end of the state.
– Niece? Nephews? Grandchildren? Who?

And that hurts me for their sakes.

What I want to do is tell (some of) them where to go. I want to send them this rant. I want to go visit and say it straight out. I want a reason. I want my husband to feel like a valued family member. What I want to do is tell (most of) them to stick it.

What will I do? Probably make a phone call and try to squeeze ourselves in. Make children visit so they can be roundly ignored for the allocated hour; or be told how naughty, rude, goth, lazy etc they are.  Try to make polite conversation and hope that I can communicate, pleasantly and perhaps too subtly, how important family is to us.  This will be agreed with and then ignored again til next time. Try to comfort my husband by playing nice and making more of an effort to insert ourselves where it appears we aren’t wanted so that others don’t look bad for not having seen us.

Things that make you go, “Hmmmm.”

Veritas,

Eski

Underneath It All

If you, like me, have battled, are still living and expect to keep dealing with depression, and if you, like me, have children who also have anxiety and depression as a constant illness, then you, like me, should not listen to “Dear Evan Hansen” music alone in an office at the end of a long week.

If you don’t know the story of Evan Hansen, you can find the full run down on the Wikipedia page. Warning: I’m likely to give away at least some of the story here.

Until recently, I didn’t know of it either, but my daughter started to share the music and I noticed a theme running through the lyrics. Although the story is not scene for scene the story of my family, too many of the lyrics ring true. Here’s the parts of the first song, sung by two very different mothers, both trying to negotiate normal families, social anxieties and, unknown as yet, suicide attempts.

****

Can we try to have an optimistic outlook, huh?

Can we buck up just enough to see the world won’t fall apart?
Maybe this year, we decide
We’re not giving up before we’ve tried
This year, we make a new start
Another stellar conversation for the scrapbook
Another stumble as I’m reaching for the right thing to say
I’m kinda coming up empty
Can’t find my way to you
Does anybody have a map?
Anybody maybe happen to know how the hell to do this?
I don’t know if you can tell
But this is me just pretending to know
So where’s the map?
I need a clue
‘Cause the scary truth is
I’m flying blind
And I’m making this up as I go
Another masterful attempt ends with disaster
Pour another cup of coffee
And watch it all crash and burn
It’s a puzzle, it’s a maze
I tried to steer through it a million ways
But each day’s another wrong turn
-happen to know how the hell to do this?
I don’t know if you can tell
But this is me just pretending to know
So where’s the map?
I need a clue
‘Cause the scary truth is
I’m flying blind
And I’m making this up as I go
As I go

****

Now I am aware of the normalities, anxieties and ideations of my family, I think, and I am flattened once again, knowing that I have still not been successful in ‘fixing’ those. So, alone in the office, I cry. And sing along.

Were this anyone else’s post, I would be hitting the comments button and assuring them that no one’s mental health difficulties are my responsibility, but parents and significant others in my situation will testify that it isn’t as easy as telling yourself that. That’s my baby, despite the age; that’s my responsibility.

I used to be able to kiss it all better and now I cannot even slightly improve your outlook with a million hugs and kisses; ongoing psychiatric or psychologist appointments or 20 iterations of medical prescriptions. I hear you. I see you. I love you. And yet, that isn’t enough. God formed you, I carried you; and I would carry you in my arms again if that would mend your broken heart/soul/feelings/brain/self-worth/mental health…….but it doesn’t and I can’t.

I feel responsible because of the statistics that I have seen. Approximately 1 in 7 young people experience an affective depressive disorder (beyondblue.org.au) in Australia. Children whose parents have experienced the same are 4 times more likely, and children who have one or more grandparent who have experienced mental health issues are apparently 20 times more likely to experience some sort of mental health concern than others. How could I not feel responsible? This has been my story. And now it’s an inheritance.

Mostly, mostly, I don’t get stuck in this state. I don’t know why today is different. Perhaps because I feel alone when I’m surrounded. Perhaps because I am tired and need a good sleep (for a few weeks). Perhaps it is musically induced melancholia. Perhaps, and not so surprisingly, perhaps it is my depression coming to the fore in response to all of the above. Whatever.

Mostly, mostly, I live a Nike slogan and JUST DO IT. Whatever it is on the agenda for that day and planning for the next few. Just the same as people everywhere ad infinitum. I’m not alone in it, for which I am grateful and neither are you, for which I am exceptionally grateful.

So, what now?

Now I pack up my today; pick up another child and go home. Now I buy bread and milk and ice cream, because they are the essentials tonight. Now I wipe my face, put on different music (duh) and then cry by myself in the car, wipe my face again and smile hello as I greet my family. I’m going to be ok and, God help me, they will, too.

So despite ‘evidence’ seen from outside, we will keep doing what we think is right. We won’t push for employment and we will ignore or face down detractors who believe we are enabling millennial entitlement. We will smile, a little stiffly perhaps, at those who believe, “If you just….(insert your values here)” it’ll all be ok.

And maybe every now and then I will cry with and for my family and make all the plans, suggestions and appointments (even with bloody Centrelink) that I think will help in any small way. And I will write my fears and feelings – and lyrics that I think 5 Seconds of Summer should record. And despite my best efforts to the contrary, I will listen to musical soundtracks like “Dear Evan Hansen” and “Be More Chill” (don’t ask, the trend is actually alarming me). And I will keep going. And I will be ok. And that’s what it is to be honest, and live and love. And that’s good.

**An hour later**

I have travelled the gamut of emotions in the past 60 minutes.

I picked up the recently employed child who offered to buy me dinner – win! We had a wonderful time and I felt a bit better, which was nice tonight. However, as I have explained, I am exposed to new music via my children, and tonight was no exception.

“Mum, I really like this song and I don’t really know why. Can I play it to you?”

“Sure.”

I’ve linked the song he played below. Your job now is to decide whether my reaction was:

A) understand immediately why he liked the song and proceed to have discussion on the merits of music genres followed by singing along to John Denver and The Proclaimers (separately, ’cause that’d be weird). This interspersed with buying previously mentioned milk, bread and ice cream.

B) crying silently with my face tilted slightly away from the passenger seat because the song describes and repeats what my eldest has tried to describe and repeat, underlined by minor chords. This interspersed with buying previously mentioned milk, bread and ice cream.

C) both A and B and wanting to vomit and gripping the steering wheel tightly in an attempt to distract one pain with another.

THE SONG

The ice cream was mediocre btw.

Modesty – is it just for girls?

Why do we teach girls and young women modesty? Huge amounts of resources are put into educating (mostly young) women to dress modestly, to be polite and to attract boys with their personality rather than their body. Books, music, social media posts, entire Facebook and Instagram pages and a bunch of other stuff is dedicated to this topic. Why? Y’all are teaching the wrong people!

I hate that young girls are taught that they have to careful on how they attract boys or what boys notice about them. It’s wrong. Though I’m sure it’s out there, and it definitely should be, I’ve never encountered this same level of educational resources and encouraging media educating boys and young men to respect women for their brain, not their body.

Even within Christian circles, I don’t see this. There isn’t a whole section at Koorong for boys called, How to Look at Her Eyes, Not Her Chest. Why aren’t there books, music, social media posts, and entire Facebook and Instagram pages dedicated to educating young men to notice her personality and not her tight jeans?

Young women shouldn’t have to worry about where guys are looking and what is noticed about their physical appearance. We should be teaching our boys to have self-control, not to exploit insecurities and to put respect first.

I know there is a very small amount of this sort of thing being taught, but I don’t believe it is done well enough or to the extent that it needs to be. This idea of respect is only shown very subtly to boys and it’s done in a very summed up and harsh way:

“Sex is for marriage and if you even notice that she has boobs you’re going to hell.”

I know that many young men, including myself, experience the guilt of noticing a low cut top. We’re taught that physical attraction is evil and wrong. It’s not. It’s human. And it’s okay. There is a difference between lust and noticing and we need to make sure that men, young and old, are taught to know and value the difference between them. Boys and young men also need to be taught how to show affection that isn’t always physical, but that you don’t have to feel guilty for finding her physically attractive.

#ThatChristianVlogger suggests that noticing that a woman is attractive is not a sin, but lusting after her is. He outlines his reasons, quite soundly, in this video.

So, what are your thoughts? Who needs to do what?

Much of this post was originally posted to Facebook by Harrison Seydler.

Where is the boy I kissed?

Where is the boy I kissed?

I thought to look for him on Facebook, but I didn’t want to spoil his 14 year old beauty. The deep brown eyes and hair; the baby face he hated but we girls sighed over. Never quite as tough as the black-jeaned, long haired big brother and the wannabe metal band boys my parents nicknamed “The blackshirts.” He was beautiful and silent. Probably with fear, but to my 15 year old self, he was mystery personified. We stopped a game of spin-the-bottle once, this beautiful boy and I, simply by playing. Turn for turn, the bottle spun and lips met. Darkness, excess sugar and a tiny bit of Southern Comfort set the mood and he spun and it turned to me. Game over, baby. And we were both babies, really, but for that next 45 minutes I knew nothing but his kiss. Actually, I did know. I knew we’d stopped the game, but I was more proud than concerned. He was gorgeous; he was sexy; and he was safe. And that was all.

Where is the boy I kissed?
Same house. Same friends, almost. Same silly 15 year old me. An older, less safe, less sexy, similarly bedecked young man – for man he was, barely. Not the same sweetness and more driven by lust than wanting to play the game. I was innocent, confident in myself and in romance. Would I like to listen to a new guitar riff in the caravan? Ok. Kiss me. Ok. Where is the boy I kissed? As far as I know, still on his back on a cramped fold down caravan bunk. Just where I left him when I realised I was skin to skin shirtless on his chest as he offered, no, demanded, more. Just two words. Four letters and two letters and, this time, not kiss me. I’d never been so shocked, hurt and angry in my life. And I left, fast. And that was all.

Where is the boy I kissed?

This one is trapped inside a green exercise book in a future my 16 year old self created for him. With me by his side, of course. But he didn’t know about the life I had planned for us. He didn’t know that we were supposed to be looking after 6 children by now. He didn’t know how close I was to saying yes to the same question asked by the manboy before. This one asked more sweetly, more softly, more subtly. But he still asked. He didn’t know how nervous he made me. I guess he didn’t know why I said no. And I didn’t know then, that later, after he stopped asking me, another man asked him. And he said yes. And that was all.

Where is the boy I kissed?

The one who took six months of my none too subtle flirting to realise I liked him. The one who bought me red roses and a pendant to go with my 17 year old birthday outfit to show me he’d realised and reciprocated. Who held my hand through ‘Aladdin’; walked me to his home with our friends who we proceeded to ignore as we kissed on the couch. A lot. The one who patted my back as I cried for no reason. A lot. The one who kissed me despite gross chicken pox. Mine. A lot of them. The one with whom I scrimped – a lot; saved-hardly; screamed; psycho’d and loved. Where is the boy I kissed? He’s here. And that is NOT all.

Where is the boy I kissed?

There are three. Faces in sequence squishy, soft and scratchy from shaving. I have kissed all of those quickly changing, growing boys for the past 18+ years and I will continue doing it. My boys. My sons.

And that is all.

***********************************************************************************

And now, as I go to press POST, the nerves rise below my sternum just as they did for the boys I kissed. Not the butterflies in anticipation of sweet lips, but the charging elephants that stir anxious thoughts of your judgement, my friends.

But as always,

Veritas,

Eski

Not my story, obviously.

I can see why some people aren’t sure if Sam’s story is real or not. I mean, I’m a 41 year old woman, not a 16 year old boy. I don’t have the requisite parts to have testicular cancer. This is true. And so is Sam’s story.

“Nuts, A Ball and other 4-letter Words.”

He’s a real person. Not his real name for the sake of privacy. This is his journey for a short/horrifically long period of his life so far. This is the story, too, of anyone who has been dealt the punch to the face (knee to the groin?) that cancer is. It’s also the story of winning. Of not spelling cancer with a capital C. Of making it. Of living life anyway, of growth and regrowth. Of sharing instead of hiding. Of kissing and sex. Of separation and belonging. Just Life. It’s the story of family and yet it isn’t.

I spoke to most of Sam’s family while his personal story bubbled in my head and came flowing out in words both his and mine.

I spoke to his big brother who, although uncomfortable in some ways talking to a relative stranger, made his love love for his family, even an annoying younger brother, very clear.

I spoke with his little sister, who thought I was a little crazy and made a rude comment about my shoe choices….fair call, though. The two of us forged a friendship that was close, for a while, and sang the real lyrics to Mumford and Sons’ ‘Little Lion Man’ really, really loudly, just because we could. Now she’s not a ‘little’ sister any more, but a beautiful, engaged young woman with whom a coffee date seems elusive. And I spoke with Mum.

I wondered if she thought I was odd, a teacher and mother of children of my own, befriending her kids. Apparently not, thankfully. And I loved them. Hearing their stories; getting a little into their lives.

Weird, isn’t it, how quickly that depth of feeling can come? And go. Not the feeling, just the actual spending time. It just drifts off sometimes. I don’t really know why. Happens far more often than I’d like, that sort of fading. Anyway, I’m getting morose.

So Mum let me hang out. And talk to her kids. And to her. She told me all of her experiences of Sam’s diagnosis, treatment, surgery and eventual recovery. I think I expected more tears, more drama. But you’ve already read that’s not her style. So it was fact and explanation of both circumstances and emotions.

I always meant to write the whole story. The whole truth for the whole family, but I couldn’t write Mum’s perspective. When I voiced her, my pen stopped. I, who had children of my own and knew how mums felt when their children hurt. I, who could scrawl out the story of a teenager’s masturbation and fantasy, couldn’t find the words to share this mother’s battle for her boy.

Why?

I’m sorry that I couldn’t find your voice with my pen. I’m sorry that I couldn’t express your fear, or the knowledge that you just had to do what you had to do. I’m sorry ’cause I wanted to tell of your courage, your love. I wanted to write more. I don’t think I could go there, you know, because it would have been bloody hard. I haven’t looked at my notes in years, but I have one thing that I’ve always remembered.

When mums hug their children, we often put our hands on their heads, ruffle their hair up a bit. And it’s a sign of affection, of casual ‘love ya, mate’ warmth. But for you it became more. Discreetly, under the guise of casual, you’d check your not-so-little boy’s scalp and neck for the telltale heat of fever and bumps of possible infection. I already knew how I felt when I held my ‘babies’ and I think I couldn’t find your voice cause I didn’t want to even imagine having to watch them so closely, so scared. I knew I didn’t know, couldn’t even guess and I didn’t want to do you or your feelings injustice.

So there it is. Honesty. I’ve finally made myself look at it as more than just writer’s block.

If you haven’t read Sam’s story yet, you could start here.

Love,

Mandy. 🐛<<
p>

Nuts, a ball and other four-letter words. A young man’s journey with testicular cancer. Part 5.

This is Part 5 in a series. Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here and Part 4 here.

I admired Sam’s casualness and candour when I asked him to read the fictionalised (my best guess) version of what thinking about sex and masturbation might have been like after going through chemo and trying to come to terms with one testicle. I said that it was really a way of asking him some of the tough questions – had hair grown back? How had sex been? What did he feel like at the time?

He took it in his stride, especially since we were in a food court at our local shopping centre at the time. He gave me some straightforward comments during reading –

“We haven’t. Ever.”

“I only threw up once during chemo.”

“We couldn’t kiss while I was having chemo, my white cell count was too low and I could’ve caught anything.”

“Is this supposed to be me masturbating?”

“Well, yeah.”

“Nah, couldn’t do that either during chemo, all the chemicals going down there and everything.”

So I haven’t changed it, cause apart from those comments, the ideas are right and the fears are very true. Just so you know, this 5th part, then, is fiction, for story sharing and understanding of emotions. Sometimes it’s hard to put words to the exact truth, especially when your general description of emotions is, “Like crying and stuff.”

On his better days, he wanted more than to just hold her. On his better days, his mind was clear enough to let him think at all. Ordinarily this would have been a good thing. Any thing to get out of the cloudy fog of the drug haze he was in much of the time. But right about now the only thing clarity was good for was helping him see what he was missing.

As the hours drifted by and his mind cleared, he could see her face. She was so pretty, all blue eyes and beautiful smile. She was more than pretty and she wanted to be with him! Bit unbelievable sometimes. During the chemo – when he was feeling his worst, he couldn’t think of why that was. Why would she want him? Useless body couldn’t even keep itself together, wasting from these foul chemicals, not much to look at. And that was on the good days. On the worst, he was too weak to hold his own head up while he threw up. Over and over. Hadn’t eaten a damned thing but it didn’t make any difference – he’d vomit til he felt like he was about to turn inside out.

But still, when he returned to school, she was still there, still his. He could barely believe it when she’d let him kiss her; when she’d linked her hand with his and kept it there even as the duty teacher walked by. He’d known they’d been seen; he could see it on the teacher’s face and was torn between jumping up from the bench and shouting that he didn’t need the pity, and closing his eyes and hoping they wouldn’t be reminded of the ‘daylight’ rule. Didn’t want pity, but he didn’t want to let her hand go either. Her hand was so different to his. Long, slim fingers as opposed to his shorter, thicker ones. Beautiful clean nails, beautifully soft skin.

On the bad days he imagined holding her hand even as the needle pierced his skin. It was almost enough to make him forget about the chemicals that would push him over the sick/well border line. On those days, he rested his own hand on the sheet draped over his own thigh, wishing, imagining it was hers. It had to be above the sheet, not only cause it would look suss – not that he could imagine doing that in a shared room; let alone with that damned cannula in the back of his hand. Not only because of what it would look like, but because if he touched his own softness, lack of muscle, lack of hair. Shit, he hoped that grew back! Wasn’t so bad on his head – lots of guys got around skin head and no one cared. Josh was doing it even now and he was getting along ok. No, but most other places, where there was meant to be hair, no one would think that was normal. If he touched his own hairless, smooth skin he could no longer imagine her touching him. Why would she want to? He certainly didn’t. He had. Before. Not that he’d readily admit it.

He’d been home on his own. More out of boredom than real need, he’d tried to imagine her there. He could manage that bit ok, she was easy enough to picture, even though she’d been in her school uniform in his imagination – weird! Oh yeah, he could definitely imagine her there. He’d run it through in his mind a time or two; he’d seen enough to know what it was supposed to be like. In his mind, she put her hand on his and he’d pulled her gently towards him and kissed her. That bit he knew. That bit was true. But in his mind, that wasn’t the end. At home, by himself, he felt her lean over him, push him back on his pillows and stretch out on her side beside him. He closed his eyes and felt her hand (his) run down his chest and onto his stomach. Even as he felt the satin of his boxers, he knew that she wouldn’t have done that, not yet anyway, but hell it was his fantasy, so why not? So he continued, willing himself to believe she was really there. It was easy at first, the satin slid under his hand so easily. He closed his eyes and felt her fingers stroke him. He pressed up and felt himself stiffen against the satin fabric. In a very short time that wasn’t enough. He pressed up again and breathed in hard as he felt skin against skin under his boxers. Just thinking about her hand on him made him harder and his grip tightened. Ah, if only. If only she was here. If only it was her hand on him right now. If only she could be moving against him like this, just like this, and like this…ah.

It was only afterwards, eyes open, frustratedly aware that she wasn’t there and wasn’t going to be any time soon. It was only then, as he washed, that he could see it clearly. He’d heard the expression, “In the cold light of day” but suddenly for him it was, “By the cold dampness of a washcloth.” She’d never be there. Her hand would never hold him like he wanted her to. You needed to be normal for that sort of thing to happen and he wasn’t, not at the moment, not anymore, maybe not ever. He looked down at himself. Friggin’ chemo – meant to kill off the sick cells – killing off his body hair as well. Smooth as a little boy. Smooth and hairless. What the hell would she want with a little boy? Fuck it, she wasn’t going to be holding someone there. If she did, it wasn’t going to be him, smooth and hairless.

It wasn’t that he never got hard at the thought of her again. That did happen and how! But he couldn’t even bring himself pretend it was her, skin on skin – and it wasn’t even easy in the dark, under cover.

Not long after, he’d been back at school and she noticed his flinch when she put her hand on his thigh,
“What? Ticklish?” she laughed, bright eyes lit up as she danced her fingers down his leg. Her pretty fingers walked over the bare skin of his knee. He couldn’t breathe – did she notice? That he was hairless there, too?

“So soft,” she flicked a glance at him, cheeky. She couldn’t know what she was putting him through. Not soft, nuh uh. Don’t say it, he silently begged, don’t ask me if this goes all the way up. Just keep dancing your fingers over me. Don’t say soft. She obliged unknowingly, circling his knee cap with her nails,
“Round and round the garden, like a teddy bear….”
He breathed in slowly, don’t say soft, don’t say I’m soft…
“One step…” Her fingers left his bare knee as she goose stepped them along his thigh and he could breathe out again, for the moment.
“Two step…” She looked up at him as he drew in another breath, her eyes showing a teasing light. His eyes locked on hers, his breath held now. What if she stopped? What if she didn’t?

He knew the exact moment that she remembered where they were – in public, at school – and where her teasing, dancing fingers were headed. He knew exactly where her thoughts went as she laughingly began the next line,
“Tickle you under…oh…”
It was her breath that left in a rush then, her face flushing as she drew her now still fingers up to her mouth. Her eyes squeezed tightly shut and then opened just as quickly as he repeated her last word,
“‘Oh’ Yeah, I reckon.”

Neither of them spoke again for a moment. What was there to say? Too soon the bell sounded, signalling the start of afternoon classes and they were surrounded by classmates. Now what? Some invisible line had been crossed, now there was THAT between them.
“Later?”
“Later.”

She couldn’t believe her own stupidity! Now what? What if he thought she’d meant to say it? What a ridiculous come on would that be? Tickling! Yeah, that was exactly what guys wanted. Actually, how would she know what guys wanted? But she was pretty sure nursery rhymes weren’t high on the list.

Nuts, a ball and other four-letter words. A young man’s journey with testicular cancer. Part 3

This is Part 3 in a series. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

I don’t think I have ever been so devastated in my life and I never want to be again. I’ve never had to use the word devastated before, but that’s what I was. I’ve lost my left ball for fuck’s sake! I cried until I couldn’t breathe and then I cried more. My body hurt like hell from the surgery and my lungs were gasping for breath and still I couldn’t stop. At the time I couldn’t think straight and even when I could, I couldn’t get my head around it. Why would they do that? I’m only sixteen. My body hasn’t got enough testosterone to make me fully a man. One ball, that’s like half a eunuch / half a gelding – good for nothing. What if my voice doesn’t finish breaking properly? Will I LOOK lopsided? I’ve only just got most of my body hair, will that go too? Of course, I don’t want kids now, but I might, later. I haven’t even slept with my girlfriend – will I ever get to do that? Oh, Tasha! I’ve read in books sometimes that “he cried like a little girl” but I didn’t. I bawled and screamed and cried and sniffled just like a guy whose life has been cut off, just like his left nut, before he’s had a chance to do all that bloke stuff. I must have passed out again then, what was I gonna I tell Tash?

The doctor and Mum explained it to me more once I was fully awake, but it felt like the worst nightmare ever. I was trapped in it and couldn’t get out. Instead of a cut in my sack, I had stitches and pain just above where my pubes had been. That’s a story in itself, the shaving there. So, pain and stitches on what they called the ‘bikini line’ – yeah right, bikini line! But I’m getting a bit off track. It turns out that when I was fully under, the doctor had another grope around and didn’t like the feel of my left ball. Great. So, for some reason I still don’t fully get, they cut me to the left of my dick and pulled the whole ball up through there. When he saw it, the doc went straight out to Mum in the waiting room,

“Ms Brown, I think its cancer.”

I reckon he probably told her more than that. All the technical stuff that she has always known more about than me; the fact that the cyst had overtaken the whole epididymis on my left nut and that the reason it stayed enlarged was that as the swelling from the knock to the groin was going down, cancer was coming in and taking its place. Mum reckons that there had always been the concern that my cyst might go cancerous, but we hadn’t talked about it – Mum’s a ‘don’t borrow trouble’ sort of person.

Right now though, she wasn’t borrowing trouble, it was standing in front of her and Gary in surgical scrubs offering to give her the lab results just as soon as he’d finished cutting my nut off, stuffing what was left of me back in, stitching me up and dissecting the traitorous, disloyal, backstabbing thing. I don’t blame my mum, I wouldn’t have wanted to hang on to a cancerous nut, but shit it scared me when I first felt it gone. What is the world coming to when you can’t trust your own gonads?

Later, after my chemo, I was allowed to wear a beanie to school. A teacher at the Junior School called me on it when we were over there for the some assembly or service. I can’t remember exactly what she said, but it definitely had the words “disrespectful” and “inappropriate” thrown in for good measure. I could have done it any number of ways, but I thought, damn it, she’s being so rude to me, getting up in my face. So I snapped,

“I’ve had cancer!”

I felt like adding, “Bitch” but managed to stop myself. I made her feel like shit though, which felt pretty good actually. She knew who I was, I suppose stories like mine are too good to stay secret, not that it was ever supposed to be a secret.

“Oh, you’re Sam,” and she walked off, no sorry or anything. Bitch.

After my surgery and chemo, I started riding my bike again – had mates ask about that – the pressure on my groin was obviously not a problem when I stopped catching the bus and started riding to school. Mates are funny like that; maybe it’s a guy thing. We are always, according to my sister, giving each other stick about being a man, or not. She’s probably right though, way back in Primary school I remember playing footy with my mates and it was a badge of honour to be able to walk after a good hit to the groin. So most of them knew a bit about what was going on, but not much, and while I reckon they cared, what could they do? I had a third nut, and then that I’d lost my nut in surgery. Not much chat, guys don’t do that,

“You alright?”

“Yep.”

And that’s it. Miss reckons that girls would have laughed and cried about it together and talked about every little feeling. I don’t get it.