I woke up feeling like I experienced a midday nap, then came more Fentinol and Hydrocodone for luncheon. I had undergone an orchiectomy (removal of a testicle). Let me tell you how it happened and how through my wife’s observations, and my instincts led me on this medical adventure. Before I received this education, I would have thought an orchiectomy was something out of science fiction, something to do with orcs.
It started two months ago. My wife noticed my scrotum was larger. I dismissed it at first. “I probably got hurt, darling.” Maybe I lifted something too heavy at work. Soon, I couldn’t sit in the car comfortably, and dress pants and jeans became uncomfortable. Finally, it just got heavy and I knew I had to do something. I reported to my physician.
The GP ordered an ultrasound. Ultrasounds are generally smooth passages I’m told. But, when an ultrasound tech is gliding a device against your scrotum, it hurts. I would have thought I was on one of Mort Kunstler’s magazine covers about hidden torture camps.
This pain wasn’t expected by the tech, and what the radiologist gleaned was life altering.
The ultrasound happened on a Wednesday. A telephone conversation told me that I had to report to the urologist on Friday, as they suspected torsion or a mass inside my scrotum. On Friday I met with the urologist, and I heard words that would change my life forever.
“This looks like a testis cancer.”
I started pulling on my hair in shock at what I just heard. My life changed in that moment. I’ll be twenty-five in June 2015, and any shred of youthful invincibility I had is gone for good, as I told my family later. The doctor spoke as I rubbed my hair and face with nervousness. He explained that testicular cancer is 99.9% curable.
We discussed the orchiectomy, that same Thursday afternoon.
“We can do it tomorrow if you’d like, Mr. Hovey.”
“Doctor, I’m sorry. I need to talk to work, and I need to prepare for what’s ahead. Plus, I’d be a liar if I told you I wasn’t scared. I need to mentally prepare.”
“That’s fine, but we cannot wait long. This cancer is aggressive.”
The doctor agreed on Tuesday for the date of the surgery. I had a meal with my wife and parents at The Fox Pub. I told them the news there and not over the telephone. I informed them what I heard, and what I needed to do to get well. I then drove downtown to work and told my colleagues. I’m on medical leave right now. To give you an idea of how great my colleagues are, they sent a get well card that I received just a day after the surgery. I’m humbled and honored to have such brilliant colleagues at the American Red Cross. Friends and family called, and sent cards as well. I felt supported. But, I was still scared.
While I waited for the surgery, I had fun with my wife and family. We visited the Pekin Marigold Festival and indulged in our favorite restaurants. We watched comedies and laughed much, laughter is a fine medicine. But, cancer is not something you cannot stop thinking about. My anxiety was high.
On Saturday I started to realize that this situation wasn’t a bad nightmare it was reality. My life was altered. I was going to fight this cancer and put it down, any time, any place.
I prepared myself for the surgery, but in the process I discovered some things. This was the first “real fight for my life.” School wasn’t a fight for my life. Getting a job and navigating through corporate ladders is not a "fight for your life," although it seems that way. This cancer is a fight for life. All past battles seemed now insignificant and on September 4, 2014, I realized that. Life is a gift, and we need to live it well and live it right. I decided that I was going to make some changes for the present and the future.
I have come to the conviction that we sometimes need to see our reflections in the grim reaper’s scythe to make us appreciate life more.
I buckled down and finished proofreading my second novel, Burgers, Bloggers, and Cops. I published it Sunday, and by my surgery on Tuesday I was glad I didn’t have to worry about that. By the time Tuesday rolled around I actually had a night’s sleep longer than two and a half hours. It was actually a good night’s rest. I had an incredible team of nurses: Dusty, Diane, Luz, Beth, and many others were involved in my care, and they made a difference.
On September 23, 2014, I was told that my testicular cancer was of the Seminoma variant. This type responds best to radiation therapy and or chemotherapy. As for the stage I was told it could be stage two to stage four. Again, this disease is highly curable, but I’ve not slept well in a long time, and I doubt I will until this is over.
On September 25, 2014, I was told that my testicular tumor was 105mm in diameter.
But, I’m not writing this to just tell my story. I’m not Samuel Pepys, I’m Brandon C. Hovey. And, let me share some lessons I’ve learned through this Medical Exodus. The first is: Appreciate your life. As, I said before, I’ve had some struggles; (school, getting employed, etc). But, this is the first real fight for my life. A career is not a life, and a life isn’t a career. Unfortunately, this is a lesson I just learned.
Secondly, forgive. Stop being held hostage by grudges. I’m working on this harder than before now, and that’s because I want this next stage of my life to be better. And, if I’m going to make that happen, I need to tear down the walls holding me back. Grudges are the number one barrier, and no longer will I be a hostage to them, although I’ll still be a sensitive human being.
Thirdly, there’s a billboard often seen, and that’s the one about men dying of stubbornness.
I’m as bullheaded as Yosemite Sam. Just ask my wife. Yet, I understand that billboard now. There comes a time, where you’ve got to go in and get checked out. No matter where that place is. Testicular Cancer is curable if detected early, and my doctor told me I’m not in a bad position at all. After all, if Elvis Presley were here, I know what he’d say/sing: “We can’t go on together, with a suspicious mass.”
Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road,
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go.
So make the best of this test, and don't ask why,
It's not a question, but a lesson learned in time.
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