Saturday, December 1, 2007

Jingle Balls

I am a double Scorpio with a Gemini moon. This is my way of excusing my intensely private nature. Even though I have spent the last decade writing about my life and half that time talking about it daily on the radio, there are still vast aspects of my life I prefer to keep to myself. In the finale of Six Degrees Of Separation, I find my life’s thesis. I too am not interested in reducing (and thereby diminishing) every aspect of my life to a witty anecdote, parsed out at luncheons and swank cocktail parties. But in this case, I am willing to make an exception because I am an inveterate storyteller and can’t pass up the opportunity to tell what I think is a particularly entertaining tale about myself, no matter how personal it might be.

A few weeks ago, I was in the throes of another birthday. I don’t relish getting older, but as my mother has always insisted based on no evidence whatsoever, it beats the alternative. So it was in this mindset that as I was soaping up carefully in the shower, I found a lump in one of my testicles. Normally, I am a vigorous sudser, working myself up into a lathered frenzy. But just days earlier I had strained my back while aggressively shampooing (still better than the alternative? I wonder) so I was trying to be a little more cautious. In my lack of haste, the lump became apparent and right there in the shower the end of my life flashed before my eyes. Cancer! Balls chopped off. Chemotherapy. My beloved hair in clumps in my hands. If Sweeney Todd had left a straight razor in my shower, I’d be dead right now.

Hurried scans through and Wikipedia assured me that even if it was cancer, it was 95% curable and likely would only require one of my balls to be chopped off. In this case, I mused, it would beat the alternative. But since I live in the world of worst case scenarios, I prepared myself to hear six months to live when I saw my doctor a few weeks later. I scheduled an appointment as soon as I could but in the meantime, I did have a previously scheduled dermatologist appointment. So I figured, one doctor was as good as another in doling out the bad news. So when my dermatologist asked “Is there anything else?” I happily journeyed outside his specialty with him and encouraged him to rummage around in my junk like it was a yard sale and see if he could find anything worthwhile.

My dermatologist, ever a good sport, obliged my mania and felt me up. He groped behind my left testicle and felt what I felt. He opined that it was probably nothing but that I should keep my appointment with my regular doctor and have him run some tests. The following week, I was in my regular doctor’s office, my underwear around my ankles, my junk on display again. This time, my doctor had real difficulty finding specifically what I was freaked out about. He said he felt a “fullness” but not a mass, which he suspected was not cancer. Besides, he assured me with all late 30s of me hanging out for the world to see, that testicular cancer is a cancer of the young and therefore probably not a worry for me. So he ran some tests and gave me a referral for a scrotal ultrasound and a visit to the urologist.

I know that some men guard their genitals like they are state secrets in a time of war. Personally, I have never understood the notion of being pee shy. Yes, it is annoying when you are trying to urinate in a gay bar and some guy leans over so far you start to know what a drinking fountain must feel like. But as a rule, if someone wants to see my cock and balls, what do I care? I am perfectly content with them, so have a look. It’s not like I haven’t been looked at before. When it comes to disrobing for doctors, I am even less shy. In order to work successfully in retail, you have to take the attitude that the money changing hands is not the same as the money in your wallet, and I imagine genitals are the same way for health care professionals. They dispassionately count it out and put it back in the drawer, like a bank teller in a white coat. This attitude was seriously tested however at the ultrasound.

First of all, since it was an ultrasound, I journeyed to a women’s clinic and naturally was the only man sitting there. Having seen plenty of medical shows, I knew how an ultrasound worked, and I imagined that running that wand over my balls would be a fairly zippy procedure. I was directed to a small changing room where a shorty pink robe awaited me. I changed and dashed across the sterile hallway to the exam room. Being nervous always activates my already weak bladder, so the second I laid down I had to pee. But it was already too late. I had to just go for it and hope that I didn’t accidentally pee all over myself in the midst of the exam.

The ultrasound technician was a very nice young black woman and the first woman since being a baby to manhandle the goods. She was very dignified about it, casually draping a large paper napkin over my genitals and directing me to slide it up over my stomach so that my penis could be simultaneously covered and pulled out of the way. I described my lump and where it was and then she set about to map my reproductive system like a cartographer. She squeezed the gooey ultrasound gel on my balls like ReddiWip. The wanding went on for what seemed like forever, and on top of wanting to pee, I also had the desperate urge to fart too, which I knew would be the height of rudeness with her hand on my balls. So like my terror, I held it all inside while I tried to read her blank expression for sudden signs of cancer discovery. Her expression never changed and after twenty minutes of mapping she asked me to point out directly where the bad lump touched me. I pointed it out and she went over it from every angle. “I am just going to show your film to the doctor and then we should be all done.” She declared dispassionately and left me alone in the room.

Moments later, a nice Asian lady who looked to be about 14 years of age came in and announced that she was the doctor. She told me that she had looked over my ultrasound but was still unclear about the location of this lump I left. I rummaged around in my junk like it was a disorganized handbag trying to find what I was looking for. The gel made grasping any part of my balls slippery work, like trying to rescue a panicked bird from an oil slick. In my fevered attempts, I had significant trouble finding it myself. I tried staying on my back, then moving onto my side, and finally, standing up. At this point, I abandoned all hope of dignity and just let my junk swing in the wind as my hand molested my ball sack. “I am not crazy. I know it’s in here,” I insisted, filled with panic that she would now think I was some kind of weirdo that got off on exposing himself to the ladies in a medical setting.

We both looked at the monitor together. “That’s your testicle” she told me, pointing to an egg shaped pale mass. I marveled at what a perfect oval I had, which temporarily distracted me. There was a sea of darkness next to it. “Those are blood vessels over there. It seems like you just have a lot of blood vessels, which might be what you are feeling. It is not uncommon to have extra blood vessels it is just unusual that you just now noticed it. But we will send off the results to your doctor in the next four days and he will go over it with you.”

"Big blood vessels," I thought as I put my clothes back on, gingerly trying to avoid getting the gel that was all over my hands and balls on the rest of my outfit. Maybe I had a blood clot in there and at some point it will travel from my balls to my brain and give me a stroke! Sometimes you don’t even need to consult a doctor or the internet to get crazy ideas. So I will see my urologist and my regular doctor in the coming weeks and likely will hear that the only issue with my balls is a lack of symmetry. Not the worst thing that ever happened to anyone. As usual, the worst things in my life are happening in my own head and my genitals are merely supporting players in the larger drama of my life. But I guess it beats the alternative.


Anonymous said...

Hey Derek. What a great post. Really glad everything turned out okay. Thanks for sharing such a personal experience. XOXO Sam

Andy said...

I'm glad your balls are okay! I don't like when anything goes awry in that region.

My brother-in-law just had to have surgery to widen his pee-hole due to some scar tissue problem that was making it difficult for him to pee; so there's one more example of where your situation beats the alternative!

Oh, and I almost lost control of my walnut-sized bladder when I read the line, "I rummaged around in my junk like it was a disorganized handbag..."

Love the blog.


qball said...


Thanks for so beautiful and wittily telling your story.. been thru a similar situation.. twisted blood vessel. Your junk is your junk! Fingers crossed for a happy result!

Happy Holidays and Thank You for sharing!

Dale said...

LOL, great story. At one time I was attending a medical training school for sonography (ultrasound). It turns out I switched to another program because they convinced me it hard in many places for a male to get hired (since ultrasound is usually associated with obstetrics and many women don't want a male doing the procedure). But I wonder what it would be like to check guy's balls all day.

Anonymous said...

I know it's scary when something like this happens but reading about it.......hysterically funny!!! Best line was I pointed out where the bad lump touched me bahhhhhaaa!!!

Glad everything is okay.