Vestiges of Pain


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.

Worried, upset


My fucking shoulder. I am so over it. Over the past few days, it has started hurting more, not less, and I am worried that something is terribly wrong. Reaching for things a week ago didn’t cause the jolts of pain I am now feeling at even the slightest extension of my arm. I go see my PT tomorrow and will ask her about it, but I have a yucky, sinking feeling in my gut about it right now. Like something ripped or tore inside. If this damn operation didn’t work, after all I have gone through, I will go postal. If after over a year of increasing pain, multiple failed therapies, and finally (being assured by my doctor that this would be the fix) a 10,000 dollar operation that I can’t afford and still haven’t paid off, this all amounts to nothing? Do I get my money back at least? Do I sue? Or am I likely just screwed, totally screwed? What is the process? I am just venting right now because I need to. Because I am over this pain and many months of never having a full night’s sleep. I am over all of it, and depressed as hell at the possibility that it is getting worse, not better. Thanks, readers, for letting me get that off my chest.

Are you nervous?


“Are you nervous?”

“Aren’t you nervous?”

“How are you feeling, worried, nervous?”

I can’t believe how often this question is asked of me by people who know I am going into surgery tomorrow. The very idea of surgery clearly touches a nerve (pardon the pun) in people. Well, if I wasn’t before, I am now. Thanks everybody.

In all seriousness though, I’m not all that nervous. It will be what it will be. My worries are more about how quickly I will be able to resume work, and (thus) how quickly I will be able to pay off this rather expensive operation. I do wonder though what prompts this particular question from people. What is it they imagine when they pose it? That I won’t wake up from the anesthesia? That they will operate on the wrong body part or otherwise botch the operation? That they will find cancer? That it will be painful? I have been through operations before that were no picnic while convalescing, at least this one isn’t directly in my head like my previous sinus surgery. Sure, it won’t be fun to sleep propped up for a week, and the idea of not showering for 4 days is kinda yucky, but I will survive. (Unless I don’t.)

I have spent most of the day preparing as much as I could, and trying to do things that would be difficult right after the operation, like shaving and trimming nails and cleaning my apartment and such. I bought some large ugly button shirts so I will have something to wear (I will have to forsake my beloved T-shirts for some time alas). I have all my xrays and special cooling pads and documents ready to go with me to the hospital tomorrow morning at 7:15am (yeah, you read that right). I have a lovely group of friends that will be looking in on me over the next few days, and it has made me feel truly blessed.

See you all on the other side.

I told you I was sick, III


Don’t go sleep in a cabin in the woods of Tennessee and expect to come away unscathed.

Tennessee is where my months long nightmare of discomfort began. You may remember several months back I attended a family reunion, held in a rented cabin in the smokey mountains. Soon after coming back from that trip, I started having itching problems. As the weeks went by, they got worse and were pretty much all over my body, but especially inner thighs, buttocks, forearms, underarms, and many other places. The itching would subside in one area, only to move to another or reappear in that area a week or two later. I was going crazy and went to see a doctor. The first one I saw was a nurse practitioner. I duly recounted my trip to the woods, and she looked at my skin and decided that because she couldn’t see anything, I must have allergies of some sort and I  should try Claritin by day and Benydryl by night. This had absolutely no effect on the itching, but the Benydryl did make me very groggy. Not groggy enough to prevent me waking up with itching fits, however. Two weeks later I went to go see an actual doctor, and likewise recounted to him my family reunion trip to the south. I even asked him if I couldn’t have picked up something like scabies or lyme, having slept in the cabin and hiked in the mountains. He briefly looked at  my skin and said no, he was sure it wasn’t any of those. I probably just had dry skin and so he prescribed lotion to be used on my itchy areas, even though I told him my skin did not seem dry to me. Three weeks went by and my itching continued unabated. I went to go see the doctor a second time (my third medical visit about this) and told him that the itching was still very intense. He told me it was probably due to stress, at which point I said, “You can tell me it is all in my head if you want, but you sure as hell better prescribe something for my insanity then, because this is really driving me crazy.” I AGAIN relayed the story about Tennesee and he again poo-pooed it. I told him I was in intense discomfort and if he couldn’t help me, I needed to see someone else. He finally agreed to refer me to a dermatologist.

Today, two weeks after that last visit, I finally saw a dermatologist who examined me and gave a diagnosis fairly rapidly. I have scabies. While I am not thrilled to have scabies, I am thrilled that it is something diagnosed and treatable, and that I am not insane. And I have to admit, I am pretty pissed at all the people that told me that I had nothing, that it was all in my head, that I was stressed or something, all because they didn’t have the expertise to diagnose. Rather than admit they didn’t know, they foist the blame on the patient. It is way easier to just categorize all unknown ailments as hypochondria or stress than it is to actually make a thorough diagnosis.  I realize that many doctors are overworked and that a lot of patients are hypochondriacs, but you could at least run an analysis before dismissing something out of hand. ESPECIALLY when the patient himself suggested the (eventually correct) diagnosis. It also was more than a little depressing that several of my friends also suggested this was just stress, or something to be cured with a positive attitude or some alternative stress treatment. The only thing that was really stressing me out was having this untreatable itch. The upshot is, I know my body, I have been living in it a long time. I should trust my inner voice more. It really sucks when people who you go to don’t help, but apply their pre-conceived pet treatments or theories to something, rather than listening and examining and trying to see what is in front of them.

PS: Thanks for all the emails, but if it wasn’t clear from the above: YES, I now have the treatment and am starting it tonight!