Friday, 23 January 2015

Musing on my bollocks...

You never think it'll happen to you. Horror stories, appeals for help for sick and dying children, images flooding the television screens with the effects of smoking. All of that happens to other people.. right?

I quit drinking 15 years ago, and smoking 8 years ago. I have other health issues, but a cancer diagnosis was probably the last thing I'd ever expected.

Two years ago, my right nut started to expand in size. Subtly at first, then it seemed to get quite big within the space of a week. Being a former nurse, I wasn't overly concerned. I assumed I had a hydrocele; a collection of fluid which causes swelling of the testes. There's a simple test for hydroceles.. You hold a torch behind your nuts and see if they are transparent. If they are, chances are, you have a hydrocele. My self performed flashlight test was... inconclusive.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you look on it, I've had every indignity known to man thrust upon me in the past, by way of medical examination. As a nurse, I saw pretty much everything imaginable. So I have no qualms in letting a Doctor have a fiddle with my nuts. Unless it's during an examination for my headache. I draw the line there.. It just doesn't feel right, somehow!

My GP was wonderful, did a flashlight test, which was inconclusive. To be honest, they always are. They are an indicator. Nothing more, nothing less. So if you have swollen nuts, don't stick a torch between your legs and pray. Do what I did.. Get your arse to the Doctor.

Within a week, I had an appointment with a urologist. Jolly good.. My nuts hadn't been fiddled with enough, so it was nice to let someone else have a go..

As it happened, he recognised me. My face. Not my nuts. That would have been weird. I had staffed clinic for him before when I was on the nursing bank. Slightly cheeky to get preferential treatment the same day, but he wrote up his notes and sent me off for a CT scan and an ultrasound. CT scans take time to examine, but the ultrasound.. I could see on the screen, without anyone telling me, that something was wrong. Very wrong. My nut was pregnant, with a nicely developed "something" growing inside.

At this point, you still deny in your own head that it's cancer. After all, that happens to other people. Not to me..

The next day I was back at the hospital for blood tests and another chat with the urologist, who hit me with it.. "You have a tumour. We won't know much more until we remove the testicle".

Ok.. And the results of blood... Wait, say what? You're removing my bollock? Erm. Ok. "Would you like a prosthetic one" I was asked, as the consultant brought forth a tray of silicon testicles, which, with hindsight, would make a great name for a jazz band. "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the stage.. The Silicon Testicles"! I declined, as they can cause infection issues later down the line, and my age, my nuts seldom get used, so...

It's at THAT point it hits you. This could fucking kill me. Oh. Bugger!

I have a phobia. I cannot STAND vomiting. The thought of it induces severe panic attacks. So my primary concern wasn't, believe it or not, the cancer. It was the anaesthesia. "Could you possibly do it with an epidural" I asked, explaining my reasons. A lot of people have commented on the bravery of having a radical ingual orchidectomy (your nut, and the seminal tube removed) whilst wide awake.

Trust me. It had jack shit to do with bravery and everything to do with not wanting to honk my innards out, post surgery. I was told I'd be given a strong sedative, anti sickness drugs etc during the operation. I asked, for reasons best known to absolutely no-one, if I could see the extracted testicle. After all, it's not every day you get to look at your own nuts. Not outside of their comfy, wrinkled little purse.

I was told I'd probably be "too out of it" to remember.. I was spaced out during the surgery, and unbelievably comfortable under a giant, warmed airbag contraption. But I remember. I even waved it goodbye!

I was sent home the following day, sore, but reasonably ok for someone who'd just had part of their genitalia yanked out of their scrotum like giblets ripped from a turkey.

I had a follow up scheduled for a week later. Now THAT I was dreading. Part of me was still hoping they'd dissect the nut, find a benign tumour, and I could go back to worrying about less stressful things. Bearing in mind my phobia, the thought that it probably was malignant filled me with terror,mad I anticipated chemotherapy, radiation treatment and plagues of locusts.

"Stage One Classic Seminoma with a mature Teratoma". Sounds bad, right? I knew a fair bit about cancer from my nursing days, but wasn't familiar with teratomas. I always assumed they were grown in greenhouses, by dyslexic gardeners.

There are two types of teratoma. Immature (the more common, and much more aggressive), and mature (slow growing). I had dodged a bullet. BIG TIME. Two types of cancer in one nut, neither of which had metastasized.

So what fate awaited me? I had been warned that one round of chemotherapy was a possibility, so I was fully prepared for the worst. Almost fully prepared. Ok, I was shitting bricks!

"Intensive monitoring" was the oncologists verdict. Like a defendant in the dock, awaiting a life sentence, I felt like I'd just been given community service instead. Blood tests and chest X-rays every month for the first year, CT scans every six months. All a mild inconvenience and NOT BLOODY CHEMOTHERAPY!

All the time, throughout this, my intense emetophobia scared me MUCH more than the cancer. And I'd dodged it. My parents were, naturally ecstatic. I think I caused them more worry in one month than I'd achieved in my entire life. And, given I was quite the little shit (no.. surely not.. not someone as meek and mild as you, I hear you say!) was quite an achievement.

So where are we now? Yesterday marked 23 months completely cancer-free. My tests have been reduced in intensity (and my testes reduced by one!), and I'm ok. The cancer itself, beyond an amusingly large bollock caused me no pain, no illness, nothing. And why? Because I got off my arse and went to my Doctor. FAST.

And that's the key, and the point of this blog post. For the love of bollocks, don't sit on your balls and hope things will go away. Chances are, they might. And chances are, they won't. Don't gamble on it being the former. Life is too precious for gambling with, especially if the wager is a little embarrassment at having your nuts looked at.

Self examination saves lives. It's as simple as that. You don't need to be obsessive about it. Frankly, I'd advise you not to be. Some men examine themselves every day in the shower. Waste of time. In the same way you don't notice your hair growing, you're a lot less likely to pick up on any problems. Once every couple of weeks is fine. If there's a problem, go to the Doctor RIGHT AWAY (please remember to get dressed after getting out of the shower.. running into a GP surgery butt naked is likely to get you seen by a psychiatrist rather than an oncologist!). Seriously. Within a day, MAKE AN APPOINTMENT. It's five minutes out of your life, which may extend your life quite considerably.

As for me.. Yup, I still check the other one. I don't have anything to compare it to any more.. It's loving companion of 40 odd years (and some of them have been very bloody odd!) is no more. It's gone to the great bollocky heaven in the sky, where it rests on a cloud, gazing down at me. Probably.

Hopefully you've enjoyed reading this. It's quite grim in places, but hopefully the humour will lighten the burden of reading my crap! Plus, if it makes just ONE of you give your nuts a feel, then it was worth writing. And if everything's ok.. Treat yourself afterward.. To a nice, long.. WALK!

 

You can read my latest update on my experience with testicular cancer HERE and, my latest post, in which I found another swelling (thankfully, not a return of the cancer!) HERE.

4 comments:

Éponine15191 said...

I`m so glad that you`re cancer free and have faced it with bravery and humour. As a fellow former nurse, I can fully understand the ramifications of such a frightening experience, even years down the line. Good luck, and keep up with your funny tweets. I`ve just followed you and found this link, so I read it and I`m happy I did. Take care, sending you a huge hug,

Annie.

@Éponine15191

MetalOllie said...

Thank you so much.. What a lovely comment.. x

MetalOllie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott Macarthur said...

Well now, amazing. We have a lot in common. Sober since 92. Tobacco free since 95, still a nurse. Radical prostatectomy in '07 at 53, with path reports showing it was a GOOD idea to get it out. No detectable cancer for 9 years.


I do self checks monthly. Usually around the 1st. Early detection IS QUITE SIMPLY THE BEST TREATMENT. Mine showed up on a routine PSA annual test.

Well met. From NURTZFELLER