Say uncle

16
Dec
2010

I had an odd dream last night. I was on a road trip with my uncle in an ugly Ford Taurus. We were moving incredibly fast though, through fields of smooth cut grass berms we couldn’t see over, zooming around curves. I felt the centrifugal force quite strongly and asked my uncle to slow down. We then stopped along the way at some weird technology center. We started wandering the grounds, alternately sure we were there to attend some conference and just stopping along the road to find a place to sleep like it was a motel.  We then stumbled into a kind of precocious children’s school on the grounds, and we agreed to talk to the teacher there and try to write an essay or poem or something but we were having a very difficult time of it. We spent many hours trying to compose, each of us separately, a good essay or poem. I noticed I was working with line ruled paper and a nice, somewhat heavy silver pen, both long lost items from my childhood. The bell rang and we had to turn in our writing which wasn’t finished at all. Then the teacher did an analysis of our work and the work of her three other students, three young women, one of whom was suddenly my friend Ruthbea. The teacher berated all of us for the terrible quality of the poems we had written, then talked about how renowned she herself was at this, and talked about how she would be coming out with a new book soon. Then her three sudents started in with silly, fawning, accolades to curry favor with their teacher. I was disgusted by the transparency of it, but the teacher seemed to respond well to their sycophancy.

Vestiges of Pain

8
Dec
2010

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.

The Girls from the Revolutionary Cantina

6
Dec
2010

I have had a lot going on in my life recently, but I finally finished reading a book I have had for a while, “The Girls from the Revolutionary Cantina“, by Mike Padilla. (Full disclosure: Mike is one of my best friends, and I have more than a passing shame at waiting so long to have read his first novel, which came out a few months ago). The book tells the story of a group of Latina friends in the San Fernando Valley, centered on the main character of Julia. I was completely riveted by the unexpected twists and turns in the plot, the story a compelling and relatable soap opera of friendship’s ups and downs and evolutions. And when I say soap opera, I mean it in a good way. Mike has an amazing way of making disparate events come together in believable, thrilling climaxes. He is able to capture something essential about the flavor of his characters’ lives while reaching into all of ours. In particular the idea (that has long been central in my own experience) that one never knows what is “good” or “bad” as the events of our lives unfold. And how so very often the seemingly worst events turn out to be the best thing to happen to us, altering our lives in incredible ways. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip I took with these characters (I would love to see this made into a movie), and I highly recommend it.

Grandma’s got a bomb

2
Dec
2010

I have been back in New York for a couple of days now and inundated with work (thankfully), but I did have a bit of an odd TSA adventure on my way back. I had to walk through one of those new body scanners, so I did. But then when I came out, they told me the image was blurry and they would have to give me the “enhanced” pat-down. The agent helpfully explained everything to me and at no point did I worry about my “junk” being fondled. It did take an awfully long time though, and I kept pointing over to Josh (who for some reason did not have to go through the machine or pat down) and telling them that he was a far more dangerous criminal than I could possibly be. But alas, this fell on deaf ears. The whole thing was a little inconvenient, and I was a little bugged that I had to do both the machine AND the pat-down because of their bad technology. But that was nothing compared to what I saw behind me. They made a little old lady in a wheelchair stand up and get into the machine. When they saw that she was too unsteady to raise her frail arms over her head in the machine, they led her out of it (almost causing her to fall) and back into her chair for an enhanced pat-down. The massaged every part of her and it was embarrassing to watch, so we turned away. But pretty much everyone was horrified. I mean, really…was this frail granny at all likely to be hiding a bomb in her fundament? Maybe a little profiling isn’t such a bad idea after all. Then again, the reason she got the pat down, the reason I got the pat down, and the reason Josh didn’t is supposedly random, and therefore more democratic. Theoretically, we all want to be treated equally and truly random scans such as this enforce fair and democratic ideals. That said, the reality is this is security theater and the aesthetics of security more than it is actually making us safer.