Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Cancer, Cardiff, and Catherine



This blog started life as the ramblings of a gaming geek living in the past, only to quickly die for about a year. Well, after checking in and seeing the old posts still getting pageviews, I figured I'd get back to it. And what better way to do that than to go completely off topic about my past year, paying special attention to a bollock that decided it wanted to kill me?

Before I get into it, I just want to add that I'm going to be pretty detailed in this post, and probably treat the issue quite flippantly. That's been my way of dealing with it I think, but I realise that might not be great for everyone especially relatives of those with the disease. I write this like I'm talking to one of my mates, but if you feel like you might find that sort of tone upsetting on this issue maybe don't continue reading.

Sometimes life can suddenly become filled with what I like to call "BIG SCARY WORDS". So lets start off with BIG SCARY WORD number one -

CANCER!

The testicular variety actually. To be more specific, a stage one Seminoma that manifested itself as two LUMPS inside my right testicle. (That was BIG SCARY WORD NUMBER TWO by the way.)

Our story starts about a year ago. I was having the usual man-fondle of my bits when I noticed that my left bollock was massive compared to the right one. Not being as familiar with my my spud sack as I thought, I assumed the left one had swollen for some reason and that the right one was the normal size they should both be. There was no feelable lumps on the outside of either, and so I took my tennis-ball-and-peanut-sized set of balls to the doctors.

Initially I was just prescribed some antibiotics on the assumption that it was a water infection. When that didn’t work I went for an ultrasound scan, and lay in a darkened room while a middle aged gentleman lubed up my balls and rubbed his equipment over them. I just hope the whole experience was as good for him as it was for me.

During this examination the Doctor found two small lumps on the inside of my right testicle. That’s right folks, you can check your balls all you want, feel no lumps and still have cancer partying up in your private bits. These two lumps had strangled the bollock, and it was essentially dead. The doctor performing the scan's job was not to interpret the images of my maracas, they had to be sent off to a specialist to be had a look at, and so I was sent on my way with the knowledge that something was wrong, and didn't know what, yet. I've had nicer feelings.

A few days later me and my girlfriend Cat had an airbnb booked down in Cardiff for a few days, and we had no real reason not to go, even though niether of us felt like it. "Maybe it'll cheer us up" we thought.

How wrong we were.
Me, enjoying the view of an industrial estate
Were I in my late teens/early twenties, down for the weekend WITH THE LADS, WEEEEEY! and didn't have a massive imaginary "C" hanging over my head constantly, i'm sure I'd love Cardiff. As it was, we booked a place that while nice on the inside, was miles from the city, in a block of swanky flats in the middle of an industrial estate. Everyone was tanned, lithe, and wore sports gear at all times to get in their shiny Audis to go to or come from the gym.

Then there's me -
I didn't really fit in.

Amongst the chain pubs and shops that you could find in literally any town or city, there was very little else to do. We hopped on the train to Barry Island one day, and that's best described as imagining Rhyl, with even less stuff to do, but with pictures from the TV Show Gavin and Stacey EVERYWHERE. I had a slush puppy in the shadow of a nine foot cutout of Mathew Horne, so if that's on your list of things to do, you know where to go.

So Cardiff was a bust. We head home, and back to the hospital. The bollock specialist had had a look at the scans and had come to the conclusion that it was either cancer, or this other thing that affects something like 0.01% of white males but 19% of black males. I could make a mildly racial joke here about my genitals, but I'm not gonna. You're imagining it anyway, but no. Not going there. 

Problem was they couldn't go in and check, because if it was cancer the surgery might cause it to spread and do more damage. My options were A) Leave it, wait and see, or B) Rip the fucker out. Given the highly unlikely chance of it being the "not cancer" thing, I did my research, asked the doctors opinion, and everything pointed pretty much to option B.  Bye Bye Bollock!

The surgery happened, and I opted to have a prosthetic ball put in, and I've got some things for anyone in that position to consider when making that choice. I never had anyone who had been through this to talk too, so I'm hoping I can pass this knowledge along to help someone.

However old you are, you've spent your life subconsciously having a harmonious relationship with the way your balls move. When you roll over in bed, when you sit down, how the two bounce against each other, you've never stopped and thought about it, but it's happened. When you have a fake one, suddenly all that changes. Even almost a year after the surgery, I'll still roll over in bed and accidentally crush the remaining ball between my leg and the fake one. They're a weird shape as well, kind of oval but flat on one end.

They feel exactly like those small bouncy rubber balls you'd buy as a kid before hurling them at your little brother, the rebound sending it off never to be seen again. Literally seconds of fun were to be had with those.

Oh and when the hot weather hits and you get a case of "long balls"? Yeah thats weird now too.Your ballsack still expands to accomodate two balls, but the fake one is fixed in how high or low it can go, it doesn't descend like a real one does when its warm. Imagine a fleshy sock with space for two golf balls but only containing one banging between your knees and you're halfway there.

If I knew then what I knew now, I'd still have it because the sense of balance was and still is most important to me. But it'll be a personal preference for you, and you can always change your mind. As an aside i'd like to mention how amazing our NHS is, it's the greatest thing Britain ever created, and the fact that we have the current turmoil and threat to it is pathetic.

The confirmation that it was cancer came when the the doctors were finally able to have a good rummage around the bollock once it was removed. This might seem like the surgery was a bit of a gamble, but with bloodwork showing evidence of cancer and the doctors previous experience, we knew what it was way ahead of time.

After surgery I had Chemotherapy, and in all this, the visits to the specialist Cancer unit at Birmingham Victoria hospital were the worst part for me. Seeing people my own age and older going through this is something you can deal with, but seeing children with it made me go a bit light headed like when you've had a massive shock. It's when you see these poor little toddlers being wheeled through on a bed, and they're wired up to all sorts of machines, with their little bald heads, but amongst it all they're sat reading a thomas the tank comic book or something similar. It humanises them through all that medical equipment and you realise this is the same as any other child. Suddenly all at once you want to cry for them and rage at this invisible thing that dares to exist.

Feeling anger at something so intangible was a first for me. After my first visit I think I may have broke my ultra cool exterior and had a bit of a cry when I got back home. Poor little buggers.

The next time, I took backup and moral support in the form of two of my best mates, Gaz and Nick. The merciless piss taking I recieved all day was just what I needed, leading to facebook posts like this-



Honestly the best thing you can do if someone is in a situation like that is just be normal with them. Me and my mates rinse each other constantly all the time, if they'd acted any different that day it would have worried me a hell of a lot. I'd like to say thankyou to those two horrible bastards.


(Little edit here – after posting this I had a phone call from my brother Joel, who between him and his fiancĂ©e ferried me to every other appointment both in Shrewsbury and Birmingham that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to get too. For some strange reason he was a little annoyed at having been left out of this post?!?!............... Yeah fair enough, sorry bruv. And thankyou both one hell of a lot.)
 
And of course, my bodies' reaction to the Chemo was to actually put on weight, rather than lose it. That's no excuse for my current lardy shape though, I GOT fat because of the chemo. I'm STILL fat cos i'm a lazy bastard.

In my head throughout the entire thing, it was weird. To the outside world, people would say I was being brave, but I wasn't. I wasn't even putting on a brave face. I'm not sure how to word this properly really, but I never felt stressed, scared, anything, and it wasn't like I was having those feelings and suppressing them, they just never occured to me. I could understand the barebones facts, as if I was hearing about it happening to a stranger, but actually associating it with myself never happened. I found out long after that my girlfriends mum had said to her privately, when we were round for dinner, that I talked about it as if it was happening to someone else. That was never a concious decision on my part, but she was right. I think perhaps that was just my brain's way of dealing with it.

Months later, after the dust had mostly settled, a British soap called Emmerdale ran with a storyline where one of the characters got testicular cancer. Now obviously I'm way too cool to watch Emmerdale, but if i'm about i'll happily start my day with a bit of Lorraine. (A British morning show, hosted by Lorraine Kelly, who is a total MILF). The actor from Emmerdale was on there to talk about the storyline and a new awareness campaign, and it was like I could feel my head melting as every single thought and feeling I probably should have been having throughout the ordeal collapsed onto me while I had my weetos. I'd best describe it as like when Tony has his panic attacks in the Sopranos. I'm not about to self diagnose, but what's represented on screen is what it felt like.

There's no great mystery as to why this happened, I've got zero mental health training but an idiot in a hurry could see that my head initiated some sort of lockdown on all the bad stuff that ultimately wouldn't have helped if I had been experiencing it at the right time.

And finally, last but by no means least, there was my girlfriend Cat, there all along. I was helped by many people, family and friends, and I couldn't repay the gratitude I feel towards them in a million years. But she lived the whole thing every day, taking care of me when I was a grey "Oliver shaped" energyless blob after chemo and just being a rock throughout.

Afterwards she would tell me how, during it, she was so worried for me, spending nights when I was stuck in hospital sat up crying. But she never showed me that side of her because she didn't want to add to what I was going through. That takes strength, and I'm a very lucky man to have her. Love you Cat! xxx


Now things are returning to normality. Everything downstairs "functions" as it should, as the remaining bollock pitches in to pick up the slack. Cat and me have since moved into a nice house with two lil rescue cats, Poppy and Daisy, and we're now just looking forward to the future and moving on with our lives. I'm being monitored for the next five years for any resurgence, but that's ok, it just means a day trip to Birmingham every three months. Being the almost 33 year old man-child I am I like to go to forbidden planet and treat myself to a Batman graphic novel every time, it's my little treat.

Thankyou so much for reading, I really hope this post gets in front of anyone who might find it helpful. By all means if you have any questions get in touch, I think you can email me direct from this blog or just send a private message via my twitter below. 

To round it off, here's Deadpool to give you a quick message on basic ways to keep the boys checked for Testicular Cancer -


And for more in depth information, visit ballboys.org.uk


Feel free to come say hello, hurl abuse, or give me your comments about the article on twitter, @themightyodog. And if you're feeling extra nice, give me a follow and a retweet :)

Olly.