My Epitaph

If you don't question everything, you will know nothing and believe anything!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Another victory in my life (and something I obviously forgot to post after I got back from California in June)

For those of you that are able to see my posts on Facebook, you already may be privy to this update on my life from 2016.

Two weeks after turning 40, I had to admit to myself that I needed medical attention.  Of course, being a man, I did not go seek medical help on the day I noticed I had a problem, but went ahead and slept that Wednesday night with the wishful thinking that it would somehow take care of itself overnight.  The only thing I did that Wednesday evening was to slowly walk across the street to the West Ventura Medical Clinic to check what time they opened up in the morning in case it would still be a problem in the morning.

Sure enough, as soon as I awoke I could feel the swelling that I had painfully noticed in the shower the day before that made me realize I needed to see a doctor because it hadn't gone away overnight and weighing painfully down on my groin.  When I entered the clinic that morning and gave them my insurance card and photo ID I stated I needed to see a doctor about some swelling.  Momentarily later, I was asked if the swelling were in my right or left knee.  I replied that the swelling was on my right side but that it was not my knee.  I thought I was answering loud enough and with proper diction when asked what exactly was swollen, but she immediately indicated that she was unable to comprehend the proper medical terminology I spoke.  Again, and a few decibels louder and slightly slower to insure proper enunciation I reiterate myself "My right testicle is swollen!" For a second time she failed to grasp the nature of my medical emergency by iterating her incompetence to understand my English by repeating her questioning of exactly what was swollen as I came to the realization that I may as well do what I could to enjoy my situation!  How she could ever have not heard me slowly, and with focusing on clear diction, state the nature of my visiting the prompt care clinic across the street from the apartment complex in which I was living at the time, I will never know how I could have been unclear?  Taking a deep breath and looking to my left at the doctor who would eventually break the news to me later that day, I state, pretty much as loudly as I could to make sure everyone in the building could hear me I basically yell "MY RIGHT TESTICLE IS SWOLLEN!!!"  Looking back, I wonder if she would have understood right away if I had used any slang term for testicle instead of the proper, medical noun the first two times?

Looking back over my left shoulder, I make eye contact with the doctor I would soon see.  The night before, I did something well out-of-character for me: I spent time online seeking what other possible causes would cause testicular swelling (my right one was about the size, and texture, of a large lemon or small avocado) in the futile hope that it could possibly be anything other than testicular cancer.  The first doctor ordered an ultrasound "stat".  Although I was in pain with every step of my right leg (five years after getting used to my left leg sometimes failing to swing past neutral in a stride because of the injuries sustained to my spine at 35), I left the prompt care and walked my normal circuit out to Ventura Point and C-Street to make some phone calls while watching the waves.

My first call was to a friend of mine who had told me a story the third time we made it to 5 AM drinking all night about going through testicular cancer at 15 while living in a halfway house awaiting being old enough to seek emancipation.  He had a true empathy to my nervousness of facing testicular cancer, as well as agreeing that it would not be nearly as traumatic for me to experience at 40, 5 years after having my life changed by a handful of spinal fractures, than it was for him at 15.  Then I left messages for both my father and brother, my voice being normal until I came to the actual words no one ever wants to say "to see if I have cancer" where my voice became weak and breaking, successfully holding back tears while fragilely uttering those words.

Being the luckiest man alive, I scored a ride across Ventura to get the ultrasound instead of having to take the bus where, once again, I was in a situation where I was using my sense of humor as a defense mechanism.  (You can read about other medical emergencies and my sense of humor somewhere in My First 100 Days.)  It definitely took a few minutes of the ultrasound for me to warm up to my standard one-liner used with x-ray technician: "You're about to see a side of me not many women have seen before!"  (And one male x-ray technician.)  Indeed, she was seeing a side of me no one had ever seen before!  I think it might be safe to say that that young woman had probably never laughed so hard during any ultrasound examination she had worked before, but it also wasn't the first time I had used my sense of humor as a defense mechanism, although it might have been my best improv routine during a medical situation.  After I had been molested by the ultrasound equipment and was dressed again I enter the hallway and see her in the room across the hall processing the ultrasound images for the report to the doctor.  Again, loud enough that I should have been heard by even the others in the waiting room my "stat" status had cut in front of their waiting, I "say goodbye" with yelling "You call THAT a happy ending?  That's the last time I come here!"

Yes, I had about as good as an attitude anyone can have to be told they have any form of cancer, especially since I was basically living without friends or family and would soon come to realize the man I was renting a room to suffered from a few (or more) serious mental illnesses (other than talking shit behind my back to the few acquaintances I had, including the apartment complex resident manager who would eventually tell me that my, by then, ex-roommate turned into a "real dick" near the end that I explained I had put up with that for months and when I left and gave hime 30 days to leave he had no one else to hide his truly insane self from like how he would yell at me and then be able to go "charm" others so that he showed everyone that he was the one they should never have believed in terms of his childish slandering of me).  I also happened to have the easiest form of cancer for a man to beat, so long as he catches it on time.  The only thing I required to eradicate the cancer from my body was to have the tumorous testicle removed.  The oncologist I was to see could retire at any time.  The first visit I had with him he stated that in his early days of practicing medicine he would have ordered me to undergo radiation therapy, but that he/they had learned since then that radiation therapy can actually cause more harm than good in situations such as mine where the tumor was caught in time and removed before it could become more aggressive.  He also stated that he had another seminoma (the exact type of testicular cancer I had) patient that had not caught his in time (I sure don't know how I could have ignored mine for more than the night I did) that needed more aggressive treatment than what I would need.  He called the post-operative treatments I needed by the terms "wait and worry".  I told him that I would do the waiting and he could do the worrying about it coming back.  For five years, though, I did need an annual CT scan and chest x-rays along with blood draws four times a year.

On Wednesday June 1st, 2016, I became an official "cancer survivor" when I saw my oncologist for the final time and was told that I could officially cease and desist with the blood draws and annual CT and x-rays!  (If I didn't have insurance I probably would never have done any follow up at all, but since I knew my insurance could refuse to pay if the cancer came back and I hadn't been going through the testing, I did the requisite minimally invasive testing.)

I can admit that I suffer "survivor's guilt" to an extent because not every person told they have cancer can as easily survive the years after original diagnosis without any real treatment as I have the past five years.  But, I also don't mind placing "cancer survivor" in my list of adversities faced, even if it is definitely not the first of adversities conquered, nor the greatest hurdle my life has had to clear, it still was a milestone to be freed from the daunting shadows cast by any form of cancer.

I had to have my own "standing up to cancer".  When I came down with the tumor, I was living in Ventura, California and surfing two to three times a week (and being bedridden for the days between, it doesn't matter if it's surfing or sex, any physical activity that makes life worth living will come with its related high cost of two days being bedridden because of my bad back).  I was supposed to catch a train to South Orange County, for a birthday party (Saturday) the weekend after I knew I had a tumorous problem.  Instead of taking the 4 hour train trip as planned, I spent that Friday resting after having dealt with walking a few miles after the ultrasound to come to grips with the fact I was facing cancer on Thursday (stopping in every bar for a shot to help with the pain of trying to walk with a swollen testicle).  So, I caught the train Saturday morning for the birthday party that Saturday night.

On Sunday, I had my friend pack two wetsuits to go down to surf Trestles, but I don't think he really thought I was going to paddle out because he didn't pack another board.  Once he came in from his surf session, I struggled into the second wetsuit and grabbed his board to go out to have my symbolic "stand up to cancer" by catching three final waves while still having a "set".  If only the waves had actually been big enough that anyone would have proclaimed that you would have needed huge balls to paddle out into it, it would have been more fitting, but all I knew was that I would never have the balls to catch another wave, or ever have the balls to do anything again in the very near future.

When my back was fractured when I was 35, I didn't want to live to be 70 so I wouldn't have to had to suffer half my life with chronic back pains from said fractures.  Within 30 days of turning 40, however, all that changed and I hoped to be able to make one-ball man jokes for half my life, hoping to live to see 80 instead of desiring to die before 70.  And, one of the primary reasons I want to make it to at least 80, now, is so that I can play and sing my tribute song to my cancer as part of my "Standing Up To Cancer" for half my life.  The song was originally written by Willie Dixon and was called Back Door Man; the Doors had the version I knew best.  Maybe you have guessed it by now, but I rewrote the lyrics and call it One Ball Man eventually I will get around to recording it and posting a link to it as an edit to this page.

Don't expect it by tomorrow because I should have posted this last June after I got my cancer clear from the oncologist.

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