Me and my balls

This post is prompted by the recent confluence of a couple of things: a visit to the ultrasound clinic in Victoria, and my friend Carmen’s  recent blog post titled Me and my breasts (the adventures of a mammogram “abnormality”)

The icky bits: Some months ago i began noticing a lump, you know, down there. Inside my, er, scrotum. Oh hell, ball sack. Uninvited lumps are generally not good news anywhere in the body. (Here’s where i feel like  i’m supposed to add “especially not there,” thereby playing along with the cultural imperative that no part of a man’s body is more precious than his “family jewels.” ‘Fraid not, though. They’re just another body part, and frankly i don’t get a lot of use out of them. If it came to a bizarre choice between my balls and, say, my knees, i know which i’d pick in a heartbeat.)

This lump didn’t hurt, it was just there, noticeable where i had never noticed one before. I monitored it like a good body owner/operator ought, and added it to my running list of things-to-mention-to-the-doc when i finally got around to my every-5-years-or-so obligatory check-up. Impossible to keep the C-word from coming to mind, given its ubiquity in the mediascape and the zeitgeist these days, but i took some comfort from the odd statistic that at 55 i was too old to be in the high-probability bracket for testicular cancer. And anyway, if it was cancer then it was cancer; worrying wouldn’t fix that. I did succumb to the occasional yikes moment, because that’s just who i am, a worrier — but i was surprisingly shruggish at the prospect of cancer.

Dr. J felt me up, said hmm, and thought we (doctors always say “we,” and i always wonder if that means him and me, or him and his colleagues) should take a closer look with an ultrasound scan. Tonquin Clinic made me an appointment — down in Victoria, which is a full-day bus trip from Tofino. They can do ultrasound in Nanaimo, only a half-day away, but if i’m going out of town for a medical procedure i’ll make a little holiday of it and visit a few friends.

I went to the appointed address, thankfully well before the appointed hour because the receptionist at the clinic had sent me to the office that books ultrasound appointments, not the place that does them (take note, Tonquin clinic!). I caught a cab to the Royal Jubilee Hospital and, thanks to a sympathetic young lady ultrasound tech who stayed late for me, spent a slightly surreal ttwenty minutes lying on a gurney having a wide-ranging conversation with her about her schooling, Winnipeg, Tofino, the medical system and i don’t know what else while she ran a jelly-smeared, hockey-puck sensor back and forth across my balls while staring at a screen. I was curious to see the ultrasound screen but the geometry of the set-up wouldn’t allow it, and besides, she said, it wouldn’t mean anything to anybody but a radiologist. “And i can’t tell you anything about the results,” she said, to which i replied that i wasn’t worried in the least anyway. (I do have this innate conviction that, if my body is going to entertain something serious in the way of disease, i will have some intuitive forewarning of it.)

I went on with my Victoria visit, came home, and forgot about it for a couple of weeks. Until a couple of days ago, when i read Carmen’s blogpost about her abnormal but healthy breasts. And until this morning, when Dr. J called to say it was just a simple cyst and the best thing to do was leave it alone, unless it started hurting. (Actually, i think that’s what he said; it was noisy, so let me check the message one more time….) Yep, i’m in the clear, the whole rest of my life ahead of me … spiced with the added frisson of a hint of mortality.

P.S. — Thanks, Carmen, for being brave enough to openly bring up things we all deal with, but which for some obscure, unexamined and unhealthy cultural reasons we are strongly encouraged to never talk openly about. As if repressing stuff ever made anything better; the whole twentieth century should be adequate testimony to that.

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