April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, a cause that is very close to my heart—or more accurately—my groin. In an effort to spread awareness, I’ll be sharing the story of my testicular cancer diagnosis in a four-part series here on my weekly column. It’s the saga you never knew you needed to hear. The journey began with Part I: Lefty’s Rebellion and continued with Part II: Many Hands Make Light Work.
This week picks up right after my doctor tells me that I will have to entirely lose my left testicle due to suspected testicular cancer.
“Look, I’m going to be straight with you. Based on the ultrasound and what I just felt, you have testicular cancer. We’re going to have to remove the left testicle as soon as possible.”
Remove my left testicle? That’s not what he meant. Surely, he must have misspoken.
“Dr. D, you said you needed to remove my testicle. Do you mean the mass around it?”
“Unfortunately, we have to take the whole thing.”
“But—what if it’s not cancer? Shouldn’t we do a biopsy first? This all seems a little drastic.”
He explained to me that due to the anatomy of the scrotum, you can’t do a biopsy of a suspected mass. While I don’t remember exactly why, it had something to do with throwing off my equilibrium and possibly spreading cancerous cells faster.
I suppose I did want to avoid the whole cancer-spreading thing. Yet, I had still had some more questions about this testicle removal business.
“So when you say as soon as possible. Are we talking like a week or two?”
“Well, not quite. More like tomorrow. Testicular cancer is highly aggressive, and we need to get this out as soon as possible.”
This conversation was occurring on a Wednesday evening. Grasping for an out, I said I couldn’t get off work with such little notice, but deep down I was debating going through with the surgery at all.
I had grown rather attached to my testicles over the past 25 years, although, I suppose it’s more accurate to say they had grown attached to me. I wasn’t ready to give one of them up quite yet. I told Dr. D that I needed some time to think.
“Take as much time as you need, but you need to make a decision soon. You’ve been smart up to this moment.”
Take my time, but make a fast decision? Seemed kind of contradictory to me. I drove home in a haze, wondering what life would be like without one testicle.
Would it feel weird?
What would it look like?
Would it increase my odds of winning the Tour de France?
As soon as I got home, I broke down in tears. With the benefit of writing this piece about two and a half years after this event, I can say that this was one of only two times I would cry during my cancer experience—the other occurring much later in the journey, for a more serious fear. However, this was the worst outcome I could think of at the time. More questions, but no answers.
Would I be less of a man?
Would I be the epitome of having “no balls?”
Would I now be eligible for a walk-on role in “Two and a Half Men?”
I decided that while I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about the surgery, it was a choice between life (with one testicle) or death (from cancer). While neither were exactly ideal, I decided that life as a half-sack was better than no life at all.
Later that night, I called Dr. D back and told him I would begrudgingly go through with the surgery. He said he couldn’t even imagine having to make such a hard decision, but he knew it was a smart one. He also inquired if I could do it on Friday morning. I’ve got to hand it to him—the guy really knew how to drive a hard bargain.
Long story short, I managed to make arrangements to get off work. It’s funny how quickly you can get a day of leave approved when you mention cancer and emergency surgery. I was wheeled into a prep room that Friday morning.
Dr. D explained the procedure, which was different from I had anticipated. Instead of flaying my scrotum open like an even more terrifying Venus flytrap, he’d make an incision on my hip and essentially suck the testicle out from the canal it had dropped down from when I was an fetus.
Before I was taken out of the prep room, the anesthesiologist began counting me back from ten. However, I remember having a bit of a smirk on my face. The last thought I had before going fully under was that I had inadvertently become a prophet.
After all, since becoming a member of working-class America, how many times had I cracked a joke that I would give my left nut for a three-day weekend?
The saga concludes in Part IV: Sacking Up and Speaking Up. Click here to read.
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