One Love, One Life, One Testicle
Yup. I’m going there. My second choice for the title of this post was “There Can Be Only One (Testicle).” But ultimately, U2 trumps Highlander.
I started this blog just over a year ago (382 days ago – to be precise) when I was diagnosed with testicular cancer, primarily as a means of sharing my experience through treatment with my family, friends, and whoever else wanted to read. As I finished chemotherapy last August, I’ve continued the blog as a sort of journal effort that I can share with the world, with an emphasis on social justice I think. But I have always tried to keep this blog rooted in the life-changing experience that was cancer and treatment. To use one of the many cliches surrounding this experience, I would say that I have a “new lease on life.”
This summer brings about a reflective time for me; just last year I was sitting with an IV pumping toxic chemicals into my body, starting to feel the painful, nauseating effects of chemotherapy. Browsing through my posts last year, I see that in just three days from now (last year), I will lose my hair. Recalling this memory is … difficult. Actually, recalling many of those memories back into consciousness is a practice that remains unsettling for me and one that I actively refrain from doing. My doctor at Dana described it as a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder type experience. Those memories remain locked up most of the time, in a box of fears that lies at the bottom of the ocean of my mind. And typically that’s where I want them to stay. However, I wonder if there is a reconciliation that should/will happen eventually? Should I be able to open those memories without feeling nauseous? Maybe someday. Maybe not.
I can say this: every experience in life builds the person that we are. I am not the same person as I was last year.
I’ve got one testicle! So let’s talk about that (begin the TMI section)…I mean it is a curious thing isn’t it? Well for the guys reading this, I can lay the fears to rest – it makes no difference! How can that be?! I would wonder the same thing – but apparently that is why God granted us two. Some of my last words to the surgeon before he put me under were, “make sure you take the right one!” I have felt zero side effects of having one testicle. Seriously, it is mind-boggling I know, but it’s the truth. So non-existent are the effects that I will every now and again have an “oh yeah” moment remembering the fact that where there were two, there is now one. Speaking of which, SELF-EXAM! Whether it’s testicles or breasts, people you have to do it. Touching myself, saved my life. No joke.
In May 2009, I felt pain in one of my testicles that wasn’t going away, thought maybe I felt a lump of some sort, finally went to the ER after a week or two of “oh that will go away, I’m sure its nothing.” Now imagine if I had gone earlier?! Might have been able to avoid chemotherapy altogether. But I don’t tend to ask myself that question, I simply raise it for your sake. The question I do ask: imagine if I hadn’t gone to the doctor at all?
Which brings me back to another cliche: every day is a gift. I mean it. And not just every day, but every person, every action, every ray of sun, every drop of water, ounce of food, note of music. The simplest thing, like letting the sun shine on my skin. I couldn’t do that last summer. How wonderful it feels this summer.
Last Monday I returned to Dana Farber for one of my routine CT Scans. It is a difficult experience, with sights, tastes, and smells that set me right back to that place I was last summer. But last Thursday I returned to Dana for the good news; still cancer free. Ten months, one testicle later, I feel healthier than I have ever felt in my life. In those short ten months I’ve managed to make it on stage with U2, atop the green hills of Rwanda, across twenty miles walking for hunger in Boston, and on one knee proposing to the love my life. So many gifts. So much to be thankful for.