I will apologise before we start, this is a wordy post, this is also the first part of a series of them, telling my story... the whole thing is wordy..! Depending where you are reading this, as in what device, you may be able to get it read out to you instead of physically reading it.
The purpose of this was for me to document it for myself and then be able to share it with the world, to sort of let other people know what to expect, what's involved and what not, if you cant be arsed reading on, I get it, but, what I will say before you minimise this window or whatever is, if you care about someone who has a set of balls... or even a pair of boobs, get them to check for ANY abnormalities, hopefully you find nothing, but, if you do, make sure you get it checked at the earliest possible time... don't ignore it... like I did...
Anyway, to the main event:
This is a story that I do wish that I didn't have to tell, but, saying that this is a story that I am glad that I can tell. There will be one person who listens (reads) to this story, and it will make a difference to them, that is why I am telling this story, my story is no 'better' or worse than anyone else's story of a similar nature, it is just MY story. If there has been one thing that I have learned over this process that everyone’s stories can be quite similar, but the specifics can be dramatically different.
If you are someone that knows me, you will know that I may be a bit loud and occasionally brash, occasionally a joker, but I am a private man, this story is not one that can have an element of... well any privacy about it. For those that don't know me, I'm an ordinary guy, a father, a husband, a contributor to society if you will. We are a family of three, we do everything together as a little unit, we eat as a family at an actual dining table, we eat good, home cooked fresh food, very little in the way of processed things, I don't smoke, I never have... I like the odd drink here and there, but, in moderation of course.
Let's start this story by going back to October 2022, life was good, we had booked a last minute trip to go to Italy as a family for the second time that year, my workplace was getting a revamp, lick of paint here and there, new desks and chairs... there were one or two of the little round bucket type chairs, I was wearing all my work kit and personal protective equipment, I'm not the smallest of people, but with all this on, I was a bit bigger, of course, playing the joker, I jumped in the chair, I fit, of course I fit, I was uncomfortable, but I fit. I sat with my laptop on my knee, working away. After a while, I started to get a pain in my groin, well, the pelvis sort of area, it was a pain like that if you've ever had a dead arm, it was numb almost. I was conscious that my belt was digging into me, I stood up, readjusted slightly, and sat back down, the pain was still there but did eventually seem to die off. Now, why do I tell you this, well, occasionally, when people encounter testicular cancer, they can recall an event, a pain, or similar. Now, I am not saying that this is the case for me, but it is the only thing in recent times where I had consciously had such an occurrence.
A couple of weeks later, whilst I was getting beach body ready and packing my budgie smugglers, I noticed that my left testicle... yes, I said a funny word, even as a 'mature' person, another funny word using to describe myself, we cannot help but giggle with these types of words, why is that..? I'd suggest, just to get it out of the way and make yourself giggle, just say it out loud now, the word testicle is just so amusing, as a term of endearment, a funny name to a colleague or just an 'oh bother' type of word... anyway back to my testicle... it had grown. I questioned myself, has it actually grown...? It was always bigger than the right one...? It seems lower than it normally does... but it has always been lower than the right one. I resorted to the fact that it was me, just being silly. I even harked back to a conversation that I had in a hotel room with a male and female colleague of mine... that may be a story for another time...? No, I think I need to clear that up now that I have mentioned it as well as the fact that it is relevant in some way. So, back in 2020, a work colleague, good friend of mine passed away whilst on holiday visiting his family in Czech. Myself and a select few people were honoured to be able to attend his funeral in a time of Covid restrictions. The whole experience was surreal, anyway, one evening, whilst we were in our shared hotel room, drinking a few beers, one thing led to another... no, no, no! This isn't one of them stories... Tim's bed was on the opposite side of the room to mine and we were all sat there chatting away, when at the same time as me looking over at Tim, who was lying on his back with his legs up and crossed, saw what I can only describe as one massive testicle, if I was to have a guess, it would have been his right... I never asked that... anyway, Kat, who was a female and a good friend shouted at Tim, to alert him as to his wardrobe malfunction. A conversation then ensued about boys and their testicles, one is sometimes bigger than the other, one hanging lower than the other, some not even descending into the scrotum at all. We discussed that my left testicle had always been the bigger of the two and sat lower than the right one, so there it was, it was all in my mind. Anyway, back to this story and off we jetted to Italy, where we had an amazing time, travelled about on the train to various places that we wanted to visit, places we missed the previous time as well as the same places that we liked that much, a few pizzas and coffees later, we came home. The remainder of the year went well too, we had a few more trips out as a family, off to London for a weekend meeting up with a good friend, then over to Oslo for our wedding anniversary in November and then Christmas came. As a family, we had a thoroughly enjoyable and action packed few months.
Occasionally, when shifts and life allow it, our ideal Sunday morning has sort of come to be a bit of a slow start, we will listen to some music, make a coffee and have some poached eggs sourdough toast, and we sit down and have a chat as a family, deciding what adventure we will be undertaking that day, like we are sat in our very own modernistic hipster branch of Costa Cleggy.
We had an extremely good New Years Eve, the first one I have had off in many many years, was spent with just the three of us, cocktails and some amazing food all made by my fair hands, played monopoly, the Christmas edition, whilst watching Jools Holland. On Sunday the first of January, we had got up together and made breakfast and the coffee. Living with two females, they had gone upstairs to get ready for the day’s activities, I sat on the sofa, with my 'blankly' on my legs, over the top of my dressing gown, not wondering if the extra cocktail I made was a good idea or not, I had resorted to watching Sunday Brunch on channel four. Whilst I was watching it, there was a guy that came on, I didn't really know who he was, he was familiar, but I couldn't place him, he was called Richard Herring and he was talking about his new book, one where he talks about his testicular cancer. As I sat there listening, I got thinking about my left testicle and how big it was... but... don't be daft... you've not got cancer, you've just got a massive ball... which you may or may not have had forever... I went upstairs to get ready myself and when I was in their bathroom, I decided to have a bit of a good old rummage around my testicles as you do... well, as you SHOULD do. Would you believe that I found what I thought was a lump on my rather large left testicle, it was about the size of a lentil. A little bit of panic set in then. Almost instantly I recalled the pain that I had at the start it October and then noticing, or at least thinking it had grown in size at the end of October. Don't fear, google will help... or will it...? The old Google (of course, other search engines are available) is a good tool, but, in these situations, could cause you a lot more and unnecessary worry, I am, rather infuriatingly to many people that know me, extremely laid back, I would also say that I am quite open minded and my mental health is on the whole really good, so for me, using google to work out how long I had to live was not really an issue, but I am more than aware that getting in a wormhole or research on Google can be more disruptive than it needs to be on a person, so do it lightly and with a pragmatic approach. There is a lot of waiting round between appointments in the whole cancer journey, so people are more likely to turn to their own research for possible answers and outcomes, be careful. As a result of my search, according to Google, there could have been a number of things that it could have been, but, with my university of Googlesville doctorate, I could easily discount the majority of them due to my specific circumstances. It wasn't a testicular torsion, this is caused by a lack of blood flow to the testicle and often come with a severe pain and swelling, you would need to present at hospital with it and when you do, they have to act fast to remedy the issue, quite simply, I'd had my 'swelling' for too long, it would have been dead and gone gangrenous, which I'm sure I would have noticed. There is an infection called epididymitis, I had ruled out that it wasn't that either or any other infection really, for the same reason really, they're borne from sexually transmitted diseases or urinary tract infections, and I was more than confident that these were not an issue, three months would have been a long time to live with either and would have many many other symptoms along with it. There are a number of other things that it could potentially have been, cysts, a hernia and even a swollen vein, these were all ruled out by me for a number of reasons but all along the same vein as the other things really, they all have their own specific symptoms that were not present in my situation and they'd have all been quite monumental ones that I'd be aware of... obviously, I'm not a doctor and it was all summation really DO NOT RELY ON GOOGLE! Of course, there was only one thing that it could have been in my mind... but, I needed a second opinion from an actual doctor, and of course, when I told my wife, that's what she told me to do. On Monday morning, I googled...
Enough with this googling... my doctors to see if it was open, with it being a bank holiday Monday and all that, I didn't hold out much hope, but I did check just on the off chance... on the website, I was surprised to see that I could get a telephone appointment, but, I needed to go to the actual doctors with this I think, so I left it, I had pondered the walk in centre, but, thinking on, its probably better to get to the actual doctor, it will be them that does all the referrals and whatnot.. right...?
Tuesday the third of January, I was back at work, working an early shift which on this occasion was an 0700-1700hours, I had one goal, one thing was on my mind, getting a doctor’s appointment. I knew it would be tricky, we had new students starting but I knew that there was a bit of a schedule, and I could probably slip out to ring the doctor when they open. Now, I have been 'healthy' all my life, I have hay fever and occasionally my sinuses get a bit dodgy, I had my tonsils out at about twenty two years old... other than that, I've never been ill, I was lucky enough to get Covid once, when it wasn't really a thing any more, but it had been a good seven or eight years so I am a bit rusty about hope you actually get an appointment and the process that you now have to go through, especially since Covid... I totally understand that probably sounds ridiculous. I searched for my doctors online again and opened their website, just to check that it was 0800 that they opened, when the site opened, it took me to a patient thing where I could book an appointment online, navigating my way through, I found that there were no appointments available. Anyway, time ticked on and I was clock watching, waiting for 0800 to come... at 0810, I crapped myself, I had got carried away and missed it, I left the room and went and stood on a quiet corridor to ring them, I was caller twenty seven in the queue... as I stood there, the corridor that was normally quiet, it was of course, now the busiest thoroughfare in the building, everyone walking past me, observing me on the phone, judging me because I was just casually stood on my personal phone, chatting some nonsense... that's what I thought anyway... It then dawned on me, whilst I was stood there, the person I speak to is going to want to know what is up with me, so I am going to have to verbalise that to someone, which again, may sound silly, but I'd not actually had a think about it and done it... I know that some Police Officers, the first time they arrest someone out in the big wide world and caution the suspect, they can quite literally lose their breath and not be able to speak, they know what to say, they've even rehearsed it, but they can’t get the wording out straight away... would this be a situation like that for me? As I had now decided that I was in a relatively public space, I just hung up. I looked back on the website and noticed that the appointment section was open... but I could only book a telephone consultation... I don't need a telephone call, a doctor needs to physically see this, so I left that and resorted to contacting them later in the day. When I rang back, a few hours later, I was in the car park at work, waiting for my colleagues so that we could go out, I was mindful where I was stood and again, who would see me on the phone for the second time that day... imagine. When I got through, I spoke to a lady, and asked for an appointment, she explained that there weren't any and that the best and quickest thing to do would be to book an appointment online, when I questioned that and explained why I felt I needed to actually see the doctor, I was informed that its standard practice, book an online one tomorrow.
Wednesday came, not before some more goo... internet searching on Tuesday night of course. As soon as 0800 came, I was on it, I knew what I needed to do, I clicked the 'any doctor bit' and the first appointment, which I think was 0950 that same morning, it then prompted you to write what is wrong with you, so I typed it out, the full thing, all my symptoms, concerns, almost like war and peace... Of course, you can only have one hundred and fifty characters in the box and when you click enter, the text you've carefully written out vanishes and that appointment is no longer available. So, frantically, I clicked the any doctor button again and then clicked the next appointment which I am sure was the eighteenth of January, I then quickly wrote the words 'testicle swollen to size of kiwi fruit and has a lump on it', pressed send and that was it, my appointment was booked. Around twenty minutes later, I received a call from the doctors, I am one hundred percent certain that it was the same lady that I had spoken to the previous day, she said that she would get me an appointment that day as what I had written was concerning and needed to be sooner than the appointment, I had booked was... now we are getting somewhere. The only thing was, there was no time allotted, it would be an ad hoc type of call in between other patients, all that I knew was that it was just going to be before 1300 that day. I waited around, well, pottered about for as long as I could, waiting for the call, it didn't come. I couldn't do any more pottering around, so, off we went, we bussed up, one colleague and myself along with three people that I had only met the day before, I wouldn't be comfortable talking about this stuff with the doctor, whilst my mate was there, never mind these new people. I had it planned that if I got the call, we would pull over, I would jump out of the passenger side and take the call at the side of the road... anyway, it didn't come... until that is, we were pulling on to the M60 and were accelerating down the slip road, I knew that would happen. I couldn't leave it, so, I answered it, I had to tell the doctor that it wasn't appropriate to speak at that time, she was ok about it and then said she would call me back later. A couple of hours went past, and the call came whilst I was at a different work complex, again, I was conscious of who would be watching me walking around on my phone and who could hear the conversation. Anyway, the doctor was good, she asked loads of questions and then said that she obviously needed to see me, sooner rather than later and could I get there for 1650 that day... I mean, in an ideal world, no, I don't finish work until 1700, but, obviously, the appointment is far more important than work, so I would do anything to get there on time, it goes without saying really that I would make sure that I would be there. The more and more I was thinking about it and searching the internet, the more I was residing to the fact that it was cancer and I'd rather someone tell me that my ball has always been that size, stop being silly.
I finished work and quickly went home, had a quick wash, and changed out of my uniform, splash of the old Brut eau de toilette, or Old Spice, I can’t remember which now, and took myself off to the doctors. I knew that the doctor was a female, I knew that she needed to see... well, everything... but... it was still... odd, I guess you could say. I quickly got over this, as my plums, which I affectionately dubbed 'the pride of Manchester' were to be gawped at by many many people in the coming days, anyway, I digress. I explained to the doctor, everything from day one of me noticing until now, she asked what I did for a living and when I told her, she laughed and said that's why it was such a good explanation that I had given, anyway, the time came, step behind the curtain and 'drop your kecks pal'. So, there I am, lay on the bad whilst she is putting gloves on, I had all kinds in my head, do I leave my boxers up slightly, do I hold my penis out of the way and save what bit of my modesty I have left...? Who knows...? Well, I opted to do both. She looked at it and commented on its size straight away, yes, I am talking about my testicle, she felt around, and she found the lump. It probably sounds odd, but I was relieved that she did, I now knew that I hadn't imagined it. The conversation after the examination was brief as is usually the case in these types of situations... She explained that it wasn't a testicular torsion and that it wasn't an infection as there were no other symptoms and again, I had had to for far too long for these things... See, see, I was right... She also said that it needed someone to look at it sooner rather than later and that she was going to book me an urgent ultrasound. Phew... I was happy as it was all moving forwards now.
Thursday the fifth of January, well, I was excited about today, I was going to be having a bit of fun at work, doing something that I really enjoyed doing, something that I think I am particularly good at and something that would provide great value to the new students. Now, months down the line, this is one of the things that is playing on my mind, an aspect of my job that I loved and was pretty god damn good at, even if I do say so myself, I am wondering if this will be the last time that I will ever have done this now, let alone the job as a whole... but, that's enough of that for now. Anyway, as part of this, I would need to wear my overalls for work as a posed to my regular uniform. I remember, whilst stood at my locker, with all my kit on, thinking that I didn't have a lot of room around my testicles, I was now conscious of it, adjusting my overalls and belt a bit to make sure it was all comfy... I hadn't been conscious of it before... but when I thought about it afterwards, I probably had been but had got used to it, moving my balls to a certain side, adjusting my boxers and what not. I even looked at myself in the full-length mirror as I walked out of the locker room. I had no issues all day... thankfully, but, whilst scaling an eight-foot wall, kicking things, lifting things, smashing things with force... I was very lucky. It is worth mentioning that a normal working day for me, and this day, posed so many little risks as well as some bigger. Now, I mean that, if i had have been silly and jumped in a chair again, got knocked or kicked, whether it be accidentally or purpose, this would have been excruciating, and would not have been worth the risk. This is something to think about... does bring a tear to the eye thinking of it though.
Friday the sixth of January, finally, a rest day... I woke up in the morning and my left testicle was suddenly, painful. I'd not had any pain until now, I discounted the pain in October as I had put that down to my duty belt digging into me. This pain was... well... believe it or not painful. It was on the left side, the same side as the larger testicle and it lasted for most of the day, but subsided, I didn't want to do anything about it as I was awaiting this urgent referral, that would be coming soon, surely. Now, I guess I will never know, but did the exertion of swinging a crowbar around, smashing things up, moving heavy items around, did this exacerbate it, is that why the pain appeared?
I woke up on the Saturday morning and I was in pain, real pain, it was like I had two Oompa Loompas in my boxer shorts who were using my left testicle as some sort of training aid for an upcoming UFC bout against Connor McGregor. The pain went up through my groin, into my hip then up and into my stomach. The pain was so bad when I woke up, but it got progressively worse throughout the day. You hear people say, 'I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy'... this pain was worse than that pain, I guarantee it... I would not want anyone to feel like that at all, It was making me feel sick, that's not me. The majority of us blokes have had a knock to the old goolies at some point in our life, I played a lot of rugby, they were practically used as target practice for the opposing team at sometimes, I know what a sore ball feels like, you know what a sore ball feels like... think of this pain as more of a paper cut versus an axe wound type of scenario.
Again, over time, I came to find that having this pain was extremely beneficial to me, pain is not a 'usual' symptom for testicular cancer, I know that my diagnosis journey had already sort of started, but little did I know that this would put it into overdrive, and it would start moving as quick as the stars do in the opening sequence of Star Wars.
I had ordered something for my wife's birthday and had to nip to the village to collect it, getting in the car was a feat, managing to get out was a miracle, I walked down the street and I was in pain, it hurt when I walked, I say walked, I was sporting more of a waddle, I could feel my testicle moving up and down, it was like it was in slow motion and it felt like I had a bowling ball on an elastic band in my trousers, it was making me feel sick. I was concentrating that much on my testicles and the pain that I was in, I walked further than I needed to and totally missed the shop that I was going to, I had to cross over and walk back to the shop, causing more pain. I felt guilty, I didn't know the lady in the shop per se, but I had been in before with my wife, she is a lovely person and I know that she would have recognised me, not only visually, but from the name on the online order, I felt as though she would have made conversation with me and it did look like she would have chatted, and the usual me, would have entertained this... however, I felt like I was going to throw up and I didn't want to do this in a fancy ladies wear shop, so I left rather rudely, in my view. As I am a male, I now know that I of course ordered the wrong size, why wouldn't I.? My wife went in to the shop to exchange it a few days later and when she did, the lady actually got speaking about me and then my wife has since told me that the reason why she took a couple of hours at the shop was because she ended up confiding in this impartial person, who was kind hearted and listened to all that was being said... she had a right good cry in other words. At this time, I had not told a sole really, there was only one person that I had told and kept on mithering and updating with my situation, but that was my choice, I didn't want to become some sort of pity patsy for everyone else, everyone has their own lives to lead, they don't want to be bothered with my nonsense tale of woe. What do you say to people with Cancer? You'll beat this, good luck, let me know if you need anything, I may be a bit callous in saying it, but that's not really what I want to hear repeatedly from people, I'd rather just have a normal conversation about normal things. But what does my wife do, who can she talk to, this now, did upset me a little and I thought back to the almost stranger in the shop who quite literally shut up shop and offered a shoulder to cry on as a random act of kindness. She couldn't speak to our friends openly because we hadn't told our daughter the full situation or we just hadn't told them, I am so glad that she got to spend the afternoon with someone who listened and ultimately helped her process what was going on to her husband and her family and it made me think that I was probably a bit selfish about not telling people sooner than I did.
When I got home that Saturday, I couldn't sit straight, it hurt to stand up still, It hurt to walk, I just didn't know what to do, I had to get changed in to shorts to keep things loose and free as it seemed that my large testicle was now even larger, and was now throbbing. I had sort of got it in to my head that as both the doctor and I had been playing about with it, either one of us could have spun it rounds and sort of created a torsion, otherwise, where had this pain come from...? I had started to take paracetamol as I was starting to get a headache too now. My wife gave me the ultimate compliment saying that I looked unwell and thought that it would be best that I went to hospital. I agreed, I was also adamant that I wouldn't be home anytime soon, so I packed a bit off a bag, bottle of water, book, phone charger, all the important stuff and off we went. I hobbled slowly from the car park to the Accident and Emergency. Now, I do visit hospitals regularly with service users and I generally despise them, hospitals that is of course, but, I know the process... so I went to the first window where a nurse asked me what was wrong, again, verbalising it seemed odd, she told me to go to the next window and book myself in, I had only gone to the wrong window hadn't I... the second time round, I wasn't as forthcoming with the information really, I'd just given the full story to the person sat next to this person... Anyway, you just take your seat and watch the wildlife in an A&E on a Saturday evening for a few hours, wondering what is wrong with people, surely you don't need to be here... mainly because they probably didn't, people complaining as they aren't getting seen... because they had a poorly tummy... and then we wonder why the NHS is in the 'state it is. Anyway, I digress, again. When they called my name to go through to the triage, about three hours in, I thought 'this is it' they're going to speak to me and get me through to a doctor, they may also think that it's a torsion and as they are a bit time critical... I'll be straight in. I was wrong, I was offered codeine, but, I remember back to when I had my tonsils out, as I am a lightweight, it made me throw up, so decided against it and explained that I had paracetamol with me and had been taking it regularly and I was sent back to the waiting room with the promise that I would be having my bloods taken soon. I did get called through for my bloods another hour or so later, when I explained that the previous person had told me that I would be doing a urine sample, but, they had no pots, so it was a no go, they took my bloods and sent me back out into the waiting room, where the family of six, all adult teenagers, who had been playing loud music, playing games to punch each other as hard as they can to give them dead legs and dead arms had all gone outside for a joint, so it was a little bit calmer in the waiting room now at least.
When I eventually got called through to see a doctor, I was placed in a small curtained off cubicle to wait for the doctor to come, whilst there, I could hear the guy in the next bed being told that he had a herniated testicle, or something like that and that he would get an appointment in four to six weeks most probably... this made me think that I hope mine isn't something like that, I was in agony, I wouldn't last like that especially for that amount of time. The doctor came through and introduced himself as Doctor Roderick, he seemed to be a nice jovial, professional guy, I liked him. I explained again, what the whole issue was, from the start to the beginning and answering a couple of questions, he of course needed to see it... when I lowered my trousers, we laughed, he made a comment, an appropriate one may I add and my wife was still in the room, but it sort of made me feel a bit easy, as I looked at him, he had stepped back to get the full scale of the pride of Manchester, his face, he looked like he was in sympathy pain with me, he was adamant that It wasn't right and I explained that I had tried to find the lump again, but as it was so painful, I couldn't actually dig around too much. He had a feel about and couldn't find the lump. He was straight, he said that it wasn't a torsion and that it was not an infection there is not much else it can be, then asked the questions about me having a family, do I know about sperm banking and so on, he had essentially given it to me straight... without an actual confirmation, but I appreciated that. He then said that I needed to go somewhere straight away to get this looked at as it would need operating on more than likely as soon as possible. He left the cubicle and was sat at the nurse’s station directly in front of me, I heard him phoning around, there were at least three calls that I heard where he was speaking to people to try and get me an urgent, immediate appointment with a urology specialist there and then, but at 0200 on a Sunday morning, this was proving difficult. He came back to speak to me and said that he had tried, he looked genuinely disappointed that he couldn't help, he explained that he couldn't get me an appointment there and then, he would get me some morphine for the pain that I was in and then suggested that the quickest course of action would be to go to a specific hospital on the Monday morning and book in again through their accident and emergency, it would be a faff, but it'll be the best way of getting an appointment with urology straight away rather than waiting for my referral to come through which could be four to six weeks, he also told me that realistically, that could be nearer to eight.