Nuts, a ball and other four-letter words. A young man’s journey with testicular cancer. Part 2

{This is Part 2 in a series. Read Part 1 here.}

So, we’re at the doctors, like I said. I’m trying to concentrate on the really uninteresting ceiling while he feels around. It’s slow going, this examination, cause even though I’m trying to relax and he’s treating me casually, there are certain physical reactions that just happen, regardless of how interesting the ceiling is. He keeps on reminding me to relax which is frustrating me even more. Doesn’t he think I would if I could? So my sack keeps tightening and shrinking up, which is bloody hopeless for the doc. Finally, either from boredom – white ceilings aren’t really much of a distraction, or from sheer dumb luck, my body does what it’s supposed to and the doc gets a chance to check out the lump I had felt not long after Craig kneed me during the game. I’m a little bit sore and that’s a bit scary, especially when the doc covers me up and tells me to get dressed and sit back at his desk with Mum.

While I’m dressing, he and Mum are talking pretty quietly on the other side of the curtain. They’re not trying to keep secrets from me, I don’t think, but I can’t hear them properly and I’m still zipping my jeans up as I walk back to the chair by Mum. I want to say something casual and funny to show that I can take it, whatever it is,

“So, no grandkids today, hey Mum?”

But I can’t and the doctor looks me over before telling me what he’s obviously already told Mum,

“Sam, I felt the same swelling that you did and I’m a bit concerned about it. Considering your previous history, I’d like to get a closer look. I’d like you to have another ultrasound and we can see what it is we’re dealing with exactly.”

I don’t really get it, but the doctor must see that in my face and continues with more explanation. He thinks that the cyst I’ve got, a damaged bit on my ball, like a blister, is changing and not in a good way. The ultrasound is going to give a clearer picture of it, an ultrasound being a bit like an x-ray for bits of the body that aren’t bones. The short of it though is that it means another trip to another doctor; another indecent exposure and another experience of gel and a kind of microphone looking thing skidding about around my scrotum. Forgive me if I’m not thrilled by the idea!

“Shit! No.”

“Sam,” Mum starts to warn me of my language, but then must realise how I feel and breathes out deeply, “Well, yes, fair enough.”

Referrals are made and Mum and I are on our way home. I can tell she’s freaking out a bit, and I am not really sure what I am feeling. Are there emotion rules on this?

Dad and I get on ok. I’ve been visiting him every second weekend for about 8 years. Best of both worlds, Mum used to say; that I could be with her and my brother and sister during the weeks and then to Dad’s every other weekend. I used to spend a bit of each weekend riding down to this little fishing spot with my step brother. We’d sit there for hours; not always catching much, but it was good to hang out. Jake is about my age, a year younger, another thing Mum said was good about going to Dad’s, and we hung out together, fishing and biking and stuff. I didn’t tell him much about the whole check up thing. If I did have to do any explaining, if anyone asked, I’d just say I had a third nut. That was as easy as it got and it was pretty much what I thought anyway. Going into detail about epididymal cysts and ultrasounds just wasn’t a topic of conversation. Still isn’t. It’s not the sort of thing you generally share with anyone, and most of the time it was just a hassle, part of the stuff I did at Mum’s house.

Mum said that she would keep the school in the loop and I wouldn’t have to say anything. She was trying to save me the embarrassment of talking about it, but you know what? After you go through what I have in the past nine months, you get pretty casual about it. What might have been embarrassing before is now just routine. Words, technical or slang or swearing, are just words and whether or not I tell a teacher that my nut had to be removed or agree with a counsellor that I do freak out about sex and getting it up makes no difference really. Not compared to what I’ve been through.

The doctors ultrasound it again and decide that the cyst has changed some and they need to go in and have a look. My understanding of the op was that once I was under the general anaesthetic, the surgeon would open me up, like cut my sack, and take out the original cyst and kind of scrape the left testicle to get the still swollen, enlarged bits off it. So that’s what I expected to have happened when I woke up; scar and stitches in my scrotum and to feel pretty sore around the balls, as you would. When I woke up and came to, that’s not what I felt like. I put my hand down to check it out, to see if I could feel the incision, but I felt nothing. Honestly, nothing. No ball on the left side at all. What the hell? Then I panicked. What was going on?

Nuts, a ball and other 4-letter words! A young man’s story of testicular cancer. Part 1.

A number of years ago, I wrote a short memoir in first person perspective for a young man who I knew through a school I previously taught at. I had recently broken both my ankles whilst on holidays in Indonesia (perhaps more about that in another post) and needed to do something that helped me look outside myself and my situation. Here’s the first installment:

Hey,
Found you on face book and thought I’d say hello and ask you a couple of things that maybe would be harder to ask in person. I’m doing a lot of writing at the moment, since walking is out of the question, and I wondered if I could ask something. I know you’ve been ill this year (that’s about all I know about it) and I wondered if you might consider sharing your story with me. I would be honoured to write it, if you feel like sharing. Maybe it’s something you want to do yourself, so that’s ok too. I don’t know you real well, so if this isn’t ok, let me know. Just thought I could ask and you could honestly tell me what you think.
Thanks for even thinking about it,
Mrs Ross

It’s one thing being monitored for a condition to do with your nuts when you’re 12. That’s one thing, that’s a Mum thing, that’s a thing we don’t talk about. Well I don’t! It’s quite another to have to say to your mum, when you are 16, that not only have you been hit there, hard, during a footy game, but you think there is something wrong. How do you say that?

“Ah, Mum, my balls are hurt. Kinda swollen or something.”

And then the kicker,

“Can you have a look?”

Not easy to ask and harder to let her do it. You can probably imagine how it went from there. Both of us a bit embarrassed, mostly me, but this is mum after all. She’s pretty cool, but this isn’t good. Did I mention we were in the car on the way to footy training when I told her? Now that would’ve been hilarious if she’d had an accident then. Just to have to tell the police what she’d been doing and why she had her hand off the wheel. Anyway, we got through it and she agreed with me that there was something else going on. So then we take it (them? ha ha) to the professionals.

This isn’t that unusual for me. Apparently I have this hormone that is supposed to stop doing its stuff when you’re about 12 and mine didn’t. It’s caused docs some concern and I’ve had to be checked out every 6 months or so, with ultrasounds since I was 14. The first thing I thought when we got referred for an ultrasound was; pregnant women have ultrasounds, don’t they? And I’m pretty damn sure that whatever these odd hormones have done to me, I’m not pregnant!

They monitored me for changes in hormones and a benign epididymal cyst that I figured was like having a smaller third testicle and that’s what I told anyone who ever questioned me. So, having to strip in the doctor’s surgery is not new to me. About now, you’re probably thinking one of a couple of things – I’ve heard most of it before:

a) Shit! I’d hate to do that, imagine if the doctor touched you and….well, you know…?

b) Oh, that poor boy. That would be very traumatic through his puberty; I wonder how it is for his self esteem?

c) No way! Not now, not ever – keep it to yourself, man!

Or some combination of the above. So, let’s leave me there for the moment. In front of doctor, flat on my back, knees up, letting the guy with the gloves feel around my balls…

As I said, I’ve been checked out more than most guys my age, but apart from that, I’m pretty average I reckon. Got an older brother, younger sister and we get on ok I guess. My mum and dad split when I was 8 and I’ve always been pretty close to my mum. Pretty into football, been playing for 4 years and this year I’ve made the A grade. I’m supposed to make this as honest as possible, so I’ll tell you that I was pretty buff then. Training 3 nights a week and games on the weekend will do that for you. So I was feeling alright. And, before you ask, yes, I’ve got a girlfriend. She’s hot. I’m playing A grade and going out with Tash for about 6 months. School is ok. Life is pretty good. Then some *#@!wit gets his shin up hard in my groin in the second match of the season. I go down, winded, and that, I reckon, is where it all really starts.

I don’t know yet where it ends, but it’s been a long journey and it’s only been nine months since it started. There have been good days and bad, ups and downs I guess you could say. Each time I go down it feels like I can’t go any lower, but rock bottom is a LONG way down. I wonder whether it’s harder to fall when you’ve been so high before that. As I said, I’ve led a reasonably average life, but I’ve had it better than some.

{More to come next week.}

Updated: Part 2 is available here.

Awkward Eating

I’m currently at the other end of the state to where I usually am, visiting my sister and newest niece.


My own children would have liked to come with me, especially the youngest. He adores babies; we (he) often stop prams simply by standing in front of them to talk to ANYBODY’S baby. So to have one of our own is a big deal…and she’s gorgeous!

Tuesday morning on the way to school and daycare, I reminded him that I was going on the plane that evening.

“Can I come, please?”

“Not this time, I’m sorry. It’s pretty expensive to go on the plane and we don’t have that much money. Everyone would have liked to come.”

🤔 “Do you have money for YOU to go on the plane?”

“Well, my ticket has been paid and so jowett I have no money. Luckily though, when I get there, Grandma and Aunty will feed me.”

🤔🤔😕 “Do you mean like Aunty feeds the baby?”

😲😲😂😂

“No. Maybe a sandwich.”

“I didn’t think it was right but I had to see if it was like that.”

Kids!

🖒🐛

I’ve created a monster!

I have literally created a monster. With $3 worth of material; two hours and one small boys epic imagination, I have created “Theo Hulk Smash!”

image

You may now applaud. Thank you.

When we were at Spotlight today, Theo chose some green fabric. When I asked what it was for, he said it was so he could be Hulk.

image

He then asked the assistant, “Lady, you have purple Hulk shorts, please?” Thankfully, she did.

I spent a fun two hours this afternoon making it up as I went along and I am really pleased with it, especially how the green legs bubble out beneath the shorts.

Goodnight!

Eski 🐛

Another child arrives

This morning, for the first time in a long time, all 6 members of our family have piled into the van. It’s quite fortunate that this hasn’t happened any earlier, as up until last Wednesday, I had the back seats rolled down and the back of the van absolutely chock-full of costumes for the upcoming school musical, ‘The King and I.’ I was fortunate enough to be able to borrow them from a friendly teacher at another school just before the holidays. We’d picked them up, stuffed into the boot, with all good intentions to go home and sort, select and allocate them. This did NOT happen.

We got home and left them there. For two days. Then they were unceremoniously dumped into a spare space in our house for 6 weeks. Untouched. Then piled back into the car for the short drive to school….for the whole week BEFORE I went back to school. They’ve since been taken out, and so I have the opportunity to head out in the family van, with said family. We don’t want to rush these things.

(I share this with you not because it’s necessarily important to this story, but in the interests of being real. I found out that I’d ‘scared’ a friend with my plans to sort, select etc. Far too organised for holidays apparently. Never mind Miss J, I promptly went home and began real holidays. Novel reading reigned supreme! So, in the interest of not having what I term a ‘Facebook status’ type relationship with anyone, I like to share the reality of life, disorganisation and mess and all its glory!)

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Back to the titular role of this post; we are expecting another child today. Mr 16 is from Thailand. We are volunteer hosting him for the whole of this school year. He is the youngest of two boys with parents who are a doctor and professor of paediatrics in a university city. Mr 16 has been an excellent student at his school and expects to follow the rest of his family into the medical field. He would like to experience the world, see what other options are available in the world and improve his English. And he’s chosen to do this with us!

Having Mr 16 stay with us was definitely a God-driven experience. Miss 15 is particularly keen on participating in an exchange to the US next year. She and I went to an information evening to see what was to be done to drive this. In the midst of other information, we were given a sample profile sheet. This was to show the prospective students how their information would be displayed to their possible host families. As we read through the profile, Miss 15 and I enjoyed pointing out to one another the things that would have fit in to our family: he liked games; he liked nerdy card games; he enjoyed anime etc. Whilst still listening to the presenter, I texted my husband in the normal detailed way that usually accompanies my spur of the moment ideas: Hey, want to be host parents? Pause. Sure. Great.

And then I prayed. God, if this isn’t the right plan, please don’t let it happen.

At the end of the presentation, we asked questions relevant to Miss 15’s exchange. We explained how we’d enjoyed reading the sample profile and that we’d have liked to host that student, but we’d apply for hosting anyway. The presenter smiled, “We aren’t silly. He’s the last student we need to place for January.” And so they did.

We’ve chatted via Facebook with Mr 16 and his mother and I’ve been so excited to have him arrive. Today’s the day. Mr 2 ran straight to him and gave him a cuddle! Icebreaker achieved. We’ve spent the day together, just sharing ideas, playing with playdough and getting to know one another. We Skyped his Mae and Papa, who were very pleased to know he’d arrived safely. We’ve established the few basic house rules that we have and are now all safely tucked in (some sooner than others) for a reasonably early night.

What will the future bring? I don’t know, but it looks pretty good from here.

😍 Eski

To my child

I want you to be independent, but I like being needed.
I want you to learn from your mistakes, but we’d both be more comfortable if you didn’t make any.
I want you to grow, but you’re so cute and little.

I just haven’t met you yet… (🔊)

Before you arrive, I wonder who you’ll be. What will you look like? Me? Dad? Will you be happy? How will I know what’s best for you? I’ll you even like me?

Sometimes, probably not, I’m sure. In fact, I think that’s my job. If I’m not irritating you fairly frequently during the teen years, there’s something odd happening.

For the one that got away

What was that I did that made life different for you? Why couldn’t it all be figured out? Why do I feel like such a failure? I tried so hard to keep you. I did all the things I knew how to do. I wanted us to be a success story, but it was not to be. I feel like I failed.

Broken

“I think I’ve broken this one.” I wonder if other people ever think the same? Bloody stupid genetics. Personalities are one thing. This is life. And it’s hard. I’m sorry.

FTW!

When you are smiling; when you laugh; when life gives you lemons and you make sorbet, I love it! I’m so happy for you. When you have problems and we can find solutions, we are an unstoppable team! When you cry and I can be your comfort, I feel invincible…and just a little bit devastated at the same time.

I’ve always wanted you. I always will.

😍 Eski.