Two days ago I learned that April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, I learned this by searching for information about testicular cancer, in April. What are the odds of that happening? Probably higher than the odds of getting it.
But I don’t want to write about Cancer, I want to write about balls.
TLDR: If something feels wrong with your balls, don’t rest until you see an Urologist.
They say a man thinks with his dick, but the male subconscious, I’d argue, is located in the scrotum: this sweaty, squishy awkward bag stuck between our legs and butt, this source of discomfort that’s always crushed to our seat and to the back of our mind. If the penis is where a man misplaces his pride, his scrotum is the seat of his shame and anxieties (regardless of how much enjoyment one can derive from scratching it).
I say scrotum and not balls, because that’s how I first experienced it: a squishy sack with a single lump in it. I remember the sense of discovery when I found my other testicle, small and further back. Suddenly, I was whole. This was the pair of balls the other kids were talking about.
I’ve had problems with my balls over the years, they’ve been a source of some shame (how small! surely you can’t be fertile!) and discomfort, compounded with the body issues of being fat. For years I’ve had some discomfort in my crotch, which I tried to talk to a doctor about. My current GP offered to refer me to a pain clinic after examining me and finding nothing wrong.
Anyway, probably two months ago, I felt something odd in my front (i.e, left) testicle. It felt very hard, swollen and painful. I googled it, and google said “how to check for testicular cancer”.
So I think to myself (a) this is terrible timing, Dafna is currently pregnant with twins, I can’t leave her in the lurch and (b) maybe it’ll just go away?
On March 14th I went to my GP. He examined me while his intern looked on. Lying on my back, he told me to pull down my pants, prodded my balls. I could feel my testicles sink away, down into my scrotum and folds of fat. “Looks OK”, he said, and I wanted to protest “but you haven’t even touched them!” I don’t know. Maybe because I’d already come to him with a crotch problem, maybe shame, and maybe that idiot disregard for reality made me walk away.
But the pain didn’t go away. Last Tuesday (after more then a month!) it got particularly painful, I left work late and found myself walking funny. I realized I needed to do something about it. I found a seedy-looking clinic in Rehovot where for 87 shekels (and a sales pitch for a subscription plan) I got to see a doctor. She heard my story, said my GP was an idiot and referred me immediately to the hospital to be checked out by an Urologist and have an Ultrasound.
After 21:00 in the evening is a good, quiet time to go into ER. A diligent young Urologist checked out my symptoms, and found the lump in my testicle, which was confirmed by the ultrasound, 2.5 centimeters in size. “You’re probably anxious,” he said to me, “we’re admitting you to the Urology ward tonight, more senior doctors will go over the findings, you’ll probably be operated on during this stay. Things are going to move fast”.
The next day I went to the IVF department for Sperm Preservation (because with twins at 48, we’ll probably want even more kids sometime…?) and did a chest and abdomen CT (which found a suspicious lymph node in my back). The day after (Thursday) I had surgery that removed my left testicle (goodbye, you inflamed cherry tomato). Friday I was discharged. Biopsy results in 3 weeks, and then treatments. But I was told I’ll probably be OK, because this is an easy cancer, most people survive it.
I think someone might have saved my life last Tuesday. I’m not sure if it was the young Urologist, the clinic doctor, or me. But I hope someone did.
PS: Telling your family you have cancer isn’t about exposition, or storytelling. I hope I’ve botched my last chance at it.
PPS: They asked me if I wanted a prosthetic testicle. Seriously. Some people want them.