It has been a pretty difficult last week on the health front. Hell, the past year will go down in my personal history as bar none the worst, health-wise, of my entire life. Let’s hope the coming year is a better one. The latest health saga is perhaps the scariest, given its location and preliminary diagnosis. About a week ago, I started feeling a sharp pain in my right testicle. Thinking perhaps I had somehow pinched it in my sleep or something, and sick to death of the medical establishment by now, and not wanting to make a big deal about it, I tried to ignore it.
A couple of days passed, and by Friday it was feeling quite a bit more painful. For the guys out there, it felt exactly like I had been kicked in the balls, albeit repeatedly and with any minor brushing against anything. Standing motionless was bearable, but walking, moving in any significant way, pulling on or off clothing — anything that touched it even slightly was like an electric shock extending up through my groin and into the lower abdomen. I didn’t really feel at this point like waiting the weekend to see if it got even worse, so I called my doctor and tried to get in to see him for a quick checkup. After hearing my symptoms over the phone, he told me to go immediately to the emergency room, they needed to do an ultrasound and he was very worried about something called “testicular torsion” which is basically when the ball twists in place, cutting off the blood supply. Left too long, it dies and they need to remove it. I took a cab to the emergency room, grimacing with each pothole the cabbie encountered along the way.
When I got there, they fairly quickly moved me from triage to a curtained off area where I had to undress and put on one of those really stylish backless dresses, and then I saw the doctor. She examined me and told me that it was probably torsion or more likely an infection of the epididymis, but they would need to send me upstairs for an ultrasound to be sure. She then explained that in my condition it would probably hurt quite a bit and instructed the nurse to bring me some strong pain meds. After getting in to see the ultrasound technician, I was told to pull up my skirt and hold my penis out of the way while she rubbed ultrasound gel on my scrotum and started with the wand. I told her I hadn’t been this intimate with a woman in quite some time, and asked if she would be making me breakfast. She laughed, and then got to work. It was funny, the noise coming from the device was just the same as you have heard on TV or seen in person when someone pregnant is getting scanned. Just as I was going to ask her if it was a boy or a girl, she told me to sit still a few minutes, she had to confer with one of the docs. The other doc came back with her and they continued doing more of a scan and asking me to “bear down” from time to time (whatever that means, I am still not quite sure. But I guess I was doing it ok as they nodded approvingly). I hear a few “hms” and “uhhhs” as they looked over the results, and the senior tech then tells me they will send me back downstairs to see my doc, and that the good news is there is no torsion. But the bad news is they found a lump that was of some concern.
After they wheel me back downstairs, I wait for what feels like an eternity for my doctor to analyse the results and get back to me. Finally she comes to see me and tells me they need to take some blood tests to check for cancerous cells, just to be sure. It is not an infection and not torsion, that much they know. She gives me a script for some pain meds and then she tells me that have transferred my info to a specialist (urologist/oncologist) and that I really need to see him as soon as possible and to call on Monday.
Why does this kind of shit always seem to happen on a Friday afternoon? I spend the weekend slightly panicked, scouring the internet for any info I can find on my symptoms and testicular cancer. One of the things I seem to have going for me is that most testicular cancer does begin with a lump, but not usually with the sharp pain that I am experiencing. On the other hand, of all the other pain-in-the-balls ailments I can find, none seem to match. I call on a number of friends for support, and for the most part they are wonderful, trying to allay my fears and asking to help in any way they can. I decide not to worry my family (except Josh) until I know more, and the weekend crawls by.
On Monday, I call the specialist, and they have my files and tell me that it is very important that they see me this week, but they are unfortunately booked up. They promise to call me back with an opening as soon as possible. A day later, with no more info from them, I call back and they tell me they are still trying to fit me in. At that point I decide to try to find another urologist, and my primary doctor helps me do just that and gets me into see him yesterday afternoon. Armed with my labwork and ultrasound, I go to see the guy and he spends some time with a colleague analyzing my results before coming in to talk to me. Finally, he tells me that he thinks it is my appendix.
“Come again?” I say, “The pain is in my right nut.”
He then explains that he means the appendix of the testicle. Apparently, men have an appendix in each of our testicles. It is a useless, vestigial organ, around since fetal development. And like the testicle itself, it can in rare circumstances (I should play the lottery with this luck) have a painful torsion. And this torsion pain is almost identical to a regular torsion pain, which is why the doctor was right to send me to the ER. And as this appendix is filled with blood and twisted the way it is, it can very much resemble a bump or small tumor on the testicle (though it is not one), which is why they were so concerned in the ER. I am very much relieved to hear this, but still want to know what to do about the pain. He examines me and then prescribes some medicine and hot soaks and tells me he will see me in a week. If it starts to resolve itself, great. And if not, they will slice open the scrotum and take it out. As gross as this sounds, it is not particularly dangerous, although it won’t be a lot of fun to recover from. He feels that there is a good chance it will resolve on its own though, and I dearly hope he is right.