There was a monster nearby. He came after me but I never saw him. I never heard his name, so I ignored him. But he threatened my self-image, my sexuality and, finally, even my life.
When I found him, testicular cancer was in the very last stage. The cancer normally attacks young men aged 17 to 32. I was 34. I tried not to think of the hard spot I knew was there. I was afraid, but I wouldn’t admit I was afraid. And the cancer grew.
It spread into my abdomen and throughout my lungs. This monster was one of the fastest growing cancers alive. He kills you in a year, two years max.
One day after I first showed up at the doctor’s office, they operated. Next came the chemotherapy. The doctors hoped the monster’s venom was losing its sting, but they would not tell me I would live; they said they did not know. However, there was this chemotherapy, still somewhat experimental, but it tended to tame the beast.
As I pondered my life as a semi-eunuch, wondering where all my masculinity would wander off to, it’s odd I didn’t think first about my life being at stake. Perhaps I would rather have it kill me than live without them. Women are so much better at dealing with this sort thing. They deal with it and move on. But, they don’t have male ego to contend with.
Four times I spent five days at the hospital while I felt like they brought me to the brink of death on the chemotherapy. The venom still stung; it stung badly. After each hospital stay, I was sent home for three weeks to recover; once I needed four weeks.
During the second round someone sent me a teddy bear to keep me company. I was bewildered; why would anyone send a grown man a teddy bear? A nurse set it on a window sill. During all that misery I grew fascinated with that bear. It had almost human-like eyes. Though I never saw anyone touch him, the bear was looking in a different direction every time I noticed him. I caught myself glancing at the bear to see where he was looking. He had a Mona Lisa smile and depending on the direction he looked, his smile seemed to change, too.
Perhaps the medicine affected my brain, but I spent a great deal of time watching that bear. I almost refused the final chemotherapy treatment.
For the fourth round, nurses sedated me so I could sleep through the chemo attack. Again, women may deal with this better than men; that’s what the oncology nurses told me. After each day’s bag of chemo I awoke late, near midnight. My eyes looked for the bear. Where was he looking; was he still there? I was hungry but refused all food. Bear be damned; I didn’t care about any stupid bear. Now he kept looking at the same corner as I remembered last time. OK, I’ll take a little food.
Today there is good news for the young men who must look the monster in the eye. The cancer almost always inhabits only one testicle, it leaves us the second. The good news? The monster almost never comes back for the other one. God in all his glory gives men an extra. One testicle is all that’s needed; losing one won’t slow a man even a bit.
Testicular cancer has gone from being one of the most deadly, to one of the most curable of the cancers. Indeed, the venom had lost its sting. There may be a rough road ahead with the chemo, but the awful/wonderful drugs don’t devastate everyone. And now that we know the monster’s name, maybe we can catch it while it’s small, so it can be treated with much easier radiation. When every young man checks for hard spots every time he showers, this monster’s power will disappear.
Male ego is a sorry thing, and it almost killed me. What else can it destroy? Sure it will make us late because we will not ask for directions, but what role does it play in our relationships?
Have you ever met a man who couldn’t utter the words “I don’t know”? We may need to check with the opposite gender. From what I can tell, most every woman should be awarded a Ph.D. for knowing the ins and outs of male ego. Men are so out of touch. Oblivious.
So all’s well that ends well with me. But I still cannot, for the life of me, understand why anyone would send a grown man a teddy bear.
Tom Scholl is a resident of Macon. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.