That moment you're checked to see if you have cancer.
Warning: this article contains some not safe for work subject matter, and an inappropriate view of life.
I was 14 years old playing Super Nintendo when my little brother's neighborhood friend raised her thick plastic glittery shoe, and, without warning, planted it straight into my crotch, crushing my left testicle. It was the worst pain I felt in my life. I crawled to the bathroom and threw up. Hours passed before I was able to feel around and assess the damage. My left testicle was swollen, and that's how all this started.
Growing up, it bothered me, and I worried about it, but health issues have always paralyzed me with fear. By the time I turned 20, like most of my health issues, I learned to live with it. Around this time, MTV show host Tom Green publically documented his testicular cancer removal. Assuming the worst, I thought this was me. I thought I had testicular cancer just like Tom Green. My left testicle had been a little bigger than a racquetball for the last 6 years. During my youth, I was always taught that if you didn't have money to do something, then you simply cannot do it, so I simply did not go see a doctor. Growing up without money or without knowing your basic fundamental human rights can really do a lot to shape a person's outlook on life.
My defense mechanism for everything is humor, and believe me, I made lots of jokes about it with my friends. Everything from naming them David and Goliath to getting drunk at house parties and showing it off to people who were drunk enough to dare me to prove it.
By this time, I was neck deep in handling full-time college, a full-time job, lots of side projects and consulting, a part time internship, and maintaining some semblance of a social life. Right after, I moved to California and my career took off.
Before I knew it, I was 29 (still can't believe it). For 15 years, my testicle was still the size of a racquetball. For 15 years, I did nothing. Then something (still unknown) happened a few months ago that caused it to double in size. Suddenly, I had a grapefruit swinging between my legs. It was difficult to sit down, impossible to cross my legs, and alarming in more ways than I care to document on this blog.
I did what any person this day and age would do; I self-diagnosed myself on the Internet. It was clearly evident that I had testicular cancer from the symptoms: rapid abnormal growth, fatigue, a heavy feeling in the testicle, dull pain in my scrotum and abdomen, and a big fucking lump. Tired of having to smash my testicle up into my pelvis region every time I put on my underwear, I gathered my balls and called One Medical. Finally, I saw the doctor. Fifteen years of fear and a self-diagnosis can really do a lot to shape a person's outlook on life. Imagine how I felt whenever the doctor told me that I had a hydrocele, or a hernia, and I might have cancer, but he recommended a specialist. All my nightmares were true.
Next was the urologist. Make your jokes now, because he had a difficult time finding my testicle in the mess that was attached between my legs. And then this moment happened:
The best treatment to make this go away permanently is a surgical procedure, he said. You'll need a few weeks to recover and it's --
Do I have cancer?, I asked a little too abruptly.
I'm not sure, he said. Let's find out.
Internally, I proceeded to freak the fuck out. He performed a high frequency ultrasound, and spent a long time looking at blood flows, my epididymis, and the general structure of my testicles. He looked stern and frowned often while he did this.
Nope, he said suddenly. Looks okay to me.
For 15 years, I worried and struggled to ignore reality in hopes of one day it would all go away, and it all could've been avoided for a five minute ultrasound. After, he did mention that it's still possible there is something he can't see in the ultrasound because of how large the hydrocele was, but he wouldn't know until he opened it up to take a look. Open it up? As in cut open my scrotum?
A hydrocelectomy is a procedure to where they incise your scrotum, pull out the hydrocele itself along with your testis (I repeat, they pull your testicle out of your scrotum). They then puncture the hydrocele, drain it, cut out excess material, careful not to harm tiny blood vessels, and sow it all back up. General anethesia? Yes, please.
The day of the procedure, I was a little nervous. I rather liked my testicles, even if they were abnormal, and I was apprehensive about having them dismantled. The surgeon was running late, so I waited for three hours thinking about my decision's permanent consequences, thinking about freezing my sperm, thinking about changes to my hormonal levels, thinking about running out of the hospital in my purple gown, ass showing in the back.
Finally, the surgeon showed, and my humor was my only defense.
When can I resume sexual activity? I asked. That's all I really care about.
Anytime, the doctor said, you just can't use your penis.
In the operating room, they started to administer the I.V. (because the nurse had previously failed to find the vein in my hand an hour before), and when the valium hit my bloodstream, that's when I knew I was brave enough to go through with the procedure.
I said, All right. Hope you all had your morning coffee. Everyone know what they're doing? Left hydrocele. Try to stay in that area. I better wake up with a penis. By the way, I'm starving. Do you guys serve food after this?
About that time they put me under. And I woke up in a pain that can only be aptly described as feeling like having your scrotum cut open. Two Percocets quelled my anguish. Hours later, I woke up again to a delightful serving of crackers. Whenever doctors operate anywhere near your genitalia, they force cranberry juice down your throat until they are confident that you can pee, otherwise it's the catheter. What they don't tell you is how painful it will be to do anything. The nurse opened up my purple gown, and gave a look down my jock.
Your penis is pointing to the right, she said, much to my joy learning that I had a penis. It may be easier to sit down and aim it out the side.
I crab-walked my way to the bathroom and tried sitting, only to be consumed with pain. Clearly the nurse never had a hydrocelectomy before because her plan wasn't going to work at all. Instead, I got the job done in a more creative manner, but I'll spare you the details. I was clear to go home.
It wasn't until two days later that I was able to take a look at the new me. I couldn't believe what I was seeing, a pair of even-sized, albeit swollen, testicles, but there was something that wasn't right. Above the left testicle was a huge lump. I went in for a checkup.
Yeah, that doesn't look too good
..are words you never want to hear your testicle doctor say. Upon further examination, another ultrasound, and a nurse that morbidly told me about prosthetic testicle complications causing men to lose their entire genitalia, I was diagnosed with another series of problems: hematoma, a cyst, an infection, and dangerously severe swelling. Furthermore, it was painful. The sutures (dissolvable stitches) inside an inner layer surrounding my testicle had come apart too early, causing blood to leak everywhere, causing the infection. After the antibiotics and needle point extraction that pulled out a goo that looked like grape jelly, I started to feel normal again. I was walking to work again, saw what the inside of a gym looked like, and even found out that my testicles worked properly. ;)
Moral of the story: Don't hesitate when it comes to your health. Seek a professional, and educate yourself. This story could've easily gone the other way.
What started with some asshole kid 15 years ago ends with frozen blueberries. Now all that's left is to heal: