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.

Guest Author – Freaking people out since ….?

I’ve been invited to read a memoir I wrote a number of years ago to our Year 12 English class later today. My previous teaching partner asked me to do so as I’m not teaching Year 12s at present and they’re learning to write memoirs. This was a pleasant boost to my ego. However, I’m not sure the students will feel as excited. Here’s why:

They’ve been told they’re being visited by a “Guest Author” capital letters and all. They have NOT been told it is me.

In my Creative Writing class on Thursday, one of the Year 12s said to me,
“Apparently we’ve got an author coming to speak to us on Tuesday.”

Just before I open my mouth…

“I hope it’s someone interesting, not just some random.”

Well, my dear boy, you have about 10 hours to hold onto that dream. Then, prepare to be disappointed.

Not great for the ego! However, life is full of surprises – for me as well as students – they might like it.

More on the memoir in posts to come.

Veritas,
Eski 🐛

Veritas, Eski

Sensory Overload

I am utterly blessed. In the midst of an overload of senses; no, through them; God has blessed me.

I have a hot little hand on my face as I try to read. It pokes me and twitches at the entrance to my nostril, making breathing odd. If I turn over, I’ll have, instead, little untrimmed toenails in one of two choice spots: kidneys or buttocks.

A short reach away, I hear the thunderous roll of snoring. I prod and suggest turning over and for a moment, the storm abates. But only for a moment. Without any lightning to warn of its advance, the long drawn in breath offers new meteorological mysteries.

Further distant still, the irritating whine of machinery. It’s monotony is broken only by the insidious, regular alarm throughout the night.

Dogs, ours, bark at intruding nothings. Loudly.

If I leave this horizontal plane and venture out, I will likely find lines of light break through the darkness. Here and there, I will hear more cacophony to interrupt my rest. From one doorway, little light accompanies the pings and whirs of levels unlocked by a well known Italian plumber in overalls. From another, brighter light pops out, as unyielding as the so called notes screamed by a boy-man wearing more eyeliner than I ever have as he bemoans his newly single state.

Should I turn and retreat, my hapless tarsal structure is likely to be assaulted by weaponry at floor level. Possibly this time, I will encounter the string of a cheap bamboo bow. As I lightly sidestep the threatened trip, my other foot may find the arrow; or Danish building materials with spiked edges; or an assortment of miniature bovines cavorting without care near an enclosure of even smaller dinosaurs; or a shadowy feline hoping for food.

But despite this risk; this riot; this rude interruption of horizontal calm that I say I’d prefer; I am utterly blessed.

Little fingers and toes are not a blessing all who wish it share.
Snoring means he’s here with me.
The whir of machinery speaks of luxury others do not have.
Lights and music mean my children are home safe. They can be and do just as they wish without fear of persecution, despite my musical preferences.
Even the scattered hazards of a family hall shout freedom, safety and luxury.

I am utterly blessed.

Veritas, Eski

Creative Writing – A Journey Part 6

“Hem, hem.” The wolf cleared his throat nervously. “I suppose you’re all wondering why I’ve called you here?”

“No, some of us are pretty sure we are going to make your next meal a little sweeter, really,” muttered a stout pig in the corner.

“Well, let me tell you a story. You may think you know how it goes, but I beseech you to listen closely. My reputation, such as it is, is on the line.”

“There I was, wandering through the forest, sniffing here and there, marking out my territory…”

“If it’s going to be THAT sort of story, I’m out of here!” A slender red squirrel twitched her sleek tail and made to leave, but those around her tutted as the wolf continued and she sat down again, clearly miffed.

“…red satin. Bright as a poppy flower it was, flashing here and there as this young miss skipped across all parts of the forest, leaving divets in the floor, ripping out wild flowers willy-nilly. You know the sort! Jolly ecoterrorism in a pretty dress, thinking they own the place. So I stopped her. Right rude she was too. 

      “I know your sort,” she said to me, snootily averting her gaze. “You’re trying to lure me off the path so I can be your next meal!”

Well, I was appalled at the idea, as well you can imagine! Eat her! I shouldn’t think of what that would do to me. Human-intolerant, you know. I have many eating choices, but she isn’t one of them.”

The wolf looked around the group gathered before him, smiling what he considered to be a winning smile. Unfortunately, he met the terrified gaze of a young rabbit whose second cousin had unwittingly crossed his path around lunchtime two Thursday previous and had not been heard from since. The wolf quickly looked away. Perhaps now was not the time to be persuasive.

Part 3 – Creative Writing – A Journey

Thanks to Grace, of “Practical Creative Writing” we used this exercise today:

There are ten exercises below and each one comprises a simple set of three questions. Each one should be answered as quickly as you can. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers – only ideas. It is up to you to decide whether the ideas appeal to you enough to make you want to develop them further. I suggest trying them all and see what happens.


One

1. Who is coming round the corner?

It is Lilly. Her green dress flaps wetly around her legs. There are flicks of mud stuck to her stockings at the back that show she has walked swiftly through the rain for sometime. She is hurrying and takes no notice of where she has headed. Fortunately for both of us, I do.

2. What is their secret? 3. What are they carrying?

Lilly is huddles over. She has her arms wrapped protectively about her chest. At first glance it appears that she is trying to keep warm, but her thick wooden cardigan belies the action. The day is not so cold. She is rushed and flushed, her cheeks unnaturally bright in the greyness of the dim twilight. She does not notice me, but, trained as I am to observe, I notice the gasp as I catch her shoulders to avoid knocking her into the street. I notice the gasp and the clutch of her hands to her midsection. Lilly is pregnant and I don’t think that it is what she wants.

Two

1. Why did Peter lose his temper with Joanna?

Joanna laughed smugly, knowing that this time the tables had turned. Peter would be the one to leave their home today instead of her. She sat back comfortably on the white leather couch, watching as he scrabbled for his keys and wallet in the African earthenware dish they’d fought over early in their marriage. She knew it was the right thing to have by the door; he felt it was worth the yearly income of the small African village it had ostensibly come from. Just like today. She knew that selling their home was a bad idea; he believed that they needed to downsize. Phhht! Downsize was only a word she wanted to hear in relation to her wardrobe or her waistline.

2. Where did he go after he stormed out?

Peter headed to the late night cafe only two blocks away. He knew he was in no fit state to drive. This latest argument with Joanna had left him in no doubt of the state of their relationship; it was over. A fact he should have known any number of years ago. He and Joanna had been at loggerheads even before they married. As he drank his mildly bitter, styrofoam infused beverage, he knew that they were best described in terms of the fashion houses Jo was so fond of. She was Dolce and Gabbana and he was Dollars and Sense. It was ill fated from the start.

3. What happened to him when he got there?

An hour and a half and three lukewarm cups of coffee later, Peter knew the showdown that he’d been expecting wasn’t going to happen. Wearily, he walked the now quiet streets back to the atrocious and ostentatious villa. It too was quiet. He turned his key in the lock and made his way to the crisp perfection of the spare room.


Part 3 – Creative Writing – A Journey

3) Write a setting based on the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen.

Tasmania. Dove Lake. Snow capped mountains rise, blurry in the distance, around a gorgeous blue green lake. The air exits my mouth in cloudy puffs, drifting slowly in the calm air. The rough cut planks of the walk way form one of few human scars amidst the clumps of prickly heather. Heather is one of those mysterious plants that look round and soft and even a little fluffy from a distance. Up close, I notice the rough stems and gaps in the semi spherical blobs on the rocky ground. Dove Lake lies a few kilometres hence, glassy in the quiet of the mid afternoon. It’s enticing waters are as alluring as a siren’s song, and just as dangerous. Despite the smooth beauty of the surface, this way lies a swift and glacial freeze.