It's Man UP Monday! I'm proud to be a member of the Team Single Jingles Man UP Monday PARENT BLOGGING TEAM! Today, I'm doing my part to spread an important message about Testicular Cancer. This post is in support of the Testicular Cancer Foundation (Team Single Jingles) which provides education and support to young men in order to raise awareness about testicular cancer, the #1 cancer among men ages 15 – 35. It's important to know this ahead of time because I rarely talk about my genitalia.
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Every guy has a good story about testicles, either theirs or someone else’s, and usually they elicit some amount of sympathy. Whenever someone mentions they were whacked in the nuts by a baseball bat-wielding toddler, or shares how some guy they know had his genitals squashed against the steering wheel during a car crash, every male, young and old, within earshot will wince as sympathy pains suddenly coursing through their groin and a wave of peculiar nausea rises up in their stomach.
I, of course, am no exception to the above, and could, in fact, recount a number of stories—mostly of others—that would make even a eunuch cringe. Of these, the one that stands out from among the rest occurred while I attended the Army’s Airborne School, a three-week meant to teach willing participants how to get sucked out the door of a perfectly good airplane as you kiss your ass goodbye.
On the day after our first a fellow student, who I never talked with before approached me in the latrine.
“Can I show you something?” he asked. There was a worried look in his eyes, and I didn’t know what to expect, which is why there was so much trepidation in my voice when I said, “Sure.”
That’s when he unbuttoned his pants and pulled out his privates. “Do you think I should get this looked at?”
At first I thought this would turn out to be some sort of crude joke or perhaps worse until I saw the one inch tear the base of his testicles. I winced and nearly threw up as he explained how when he jumped from the plane earlier that day, the jarring yank that occurs once your parachute pops open caused one of the loose harness straps running between his legs to slice into his—well, you get the picture.
Under normal circumstances the answer to his question would be obvious; however, to do so meant being recycled into another class to repeat training. So demoralizing is this possibility that given the choice between this and having your balls ripped off, one is faced with a legitimate conundrum.
“Oh man, that’s a tough call,” I replied. “Could you tape it maybe?”
He nodded his head. “That’s what I was thinking,” he said. Then he pulled a wad of Army-grade toilet paper from his pocket and stuffed it against the wound before buttoning back up and heading to the harness shed to suite up for another 800-foot jump.
I’m not sure if this chap ever graduated, of if he ever had children, but you can be damn sure I cinched down my leg harness tight enough to cut off the circulation to my feet. I didn’t need any further motivation for keeping what’s naturally mine, which is why I recently went to see the doctor after my right testicle started hurting. My lone hesitation in this, however, came at the thought of my doctor, Dr. Zhu, a middle-aged Chinese woman who stood no taller than the average 4th grader.
The idea of Dr. Zhu inspecting my package with her tiny child-like hands was enough to make me rethink my concern over the dull ache I had been experiencing over the last few days. Fear of the unknown won out, though, that and the impossibility of finding a make physician on such short notice.
What if it’s cancer? The thought both scared me and gave me a slight thrill over the attention I would receive. Ignoring the fact that my symptoms failed to coincide with testicular cancer, I started picking out colors for awareness wristbands I would give to friends and sell through an Etsy store.
Whatever the case I needed to know the answer sooner rather than later which is how I found myself with a miniature Chinese woman fondling my testicles which at this point looked like two overly ripe, fleshy grapes sporting the long, scraggly beard of a homeless Vietnam vet working the intersection of MLK and JFK. In the vet’s defense, he probably smelled better.
Dr. Zhu did not go about her work quietly as she pinched and squeezed the way people check for fresh produce at the grocery store.
“This hurt?” she asked.
“No.” The hesitancy in my voice more than conveyed my embarrassment over the present circumstance.
“How ‘bout now?”
I jerked away wincing.
“Ah, I see,” she said rolling a few feet back in her stool.
By her tone I knew something was wrong. It was only a matter of how serious, and I braced myself for the worst while settling on blue for the awareness wrist bands.
Tossing her extra small latex gloves in the trash, Dr. Zhu took a deep breath. “You have more than one par-ten-ner?” she wanted to know.
More than one partner? The question was so absurd it hardly registered until I noticed she was waiting for an answer.
“Whaaa? No. I’m married!” As I said this, it occurred to me that being married could be taken as a flimsy excuse for why I shouldn’t have more than one partner, but it did not rule out the likelihood.
Of the three possible diagnoses for my discomfort, two were STDs including gonorrhea while the third meant I should be doubled over in extreme pain. By simple process of elimination I started to doubt myself. What if I did have an STD? How would I explain this to my wife? I visualized her setting me on fire as I slept in our bed.
It seemed my doctor had her doubts too. “We order more test,” she said, scribbling on a note pad. “You need urine test and ultrasound.” Then she added patronizingly, “Just ah to make sure.”
During the car ride to the hospital my wife asked what Dr. Zhu thought.
“Well, uh, she isn’t sure and won’t know until after the tests.” I tried to disguise my nervousness which I hope would be interpreted as trepidation over the inconclusive diagnosis. This same nervous feeling stayed with me as I explained to the hospital admin checking me in that I was here for a sonogram.
The admin quickly glanced at the doctor’s orders. “You mean ultrasound.”
“Ultrasound, sonogram. It’s all just semantics. Am I right?” I tried to joke, but the admin didn’t laugh. Instead she gave me a disapproving eye as she read through what Dr. Zhu wanted to confirm or rule out.
After a two hour wait, a radiology technician lead me back an exam room and told me to take off my cloths. He bore an uncanny resemblance to Seth Rogen, and I wondered how often he got the lucky job of pouring a thick, oozing goo onto another man’s genitalia in order to rub some plastic device over every hairy inch. By the confident manner in which he instructed me on the strategic placement of several hand towels meant to prop things up, I figured it was pretty often.
Moments later Seth Rogen returned to find my unkempt homeless vet setting prominently in a way that made me think it was holding a sign promising work in exchange for a good shave. What followed were the most awkward and intrusive twenty minutes of my life thus far. Thankfully, the technician made no attempt at small talk. For dentists, a little conversation is fine, but when it comes to touching another man’s balls, outside of a consenting relationship, there are rules about such things, rules each of us was not about to violate.
With the procedure done and after nearly another hour in the waiting room, the test results were in. Seth Rogen’s doppelganger put me on the phone with Dr. Zhu who explained everything had come back negative, and the source of my aching pain was nothing more than a fluid buildup that should go away in a few days.
Although a part of me was relieved to learn I wouldn’t have to tell my wife about a mysterious STD, another part of me felt slightly disappointed over the blue wrist bands. My emotions, however, shifted to both panic and hope. I forgot that I had scheduled a full physical with Dr. Zhu which included a peek at my prostate. Maybe the wrist bands would be a possibility after all.
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Did you know that Testicular Cancer is the #1 cancer in young men ages 15 to 35?
Did you know that Testicular Cancer is highly survivable is detected early?
Did you know that young men should be doing a monthly self-exam?
What can you do?
Stop by the Testicular Cancer Foundation website for more information on Testicular Cancer
Request a FREE shower card with self-exam instructions - it just might save a young man in your life!
And if you're feeling just a little AWKWARD about this conversation, check out this video from some parents who feel the exact same way!