The journey has already begun

IT was less than two weeks ago. I went to the doctor for a checkup and knew that I needed to discuss the strangeness that my right testicle had become with him as well. Before he even examined me, I explained what was going on down there and he said, matter-of-factly “Well, you just ordered yourself another ultrasound.” See I had an ultrasound about two years before when I had complained about pain in the same testicle, but nothing at all came of it, and the urologist at the time advised me to “switch to briefs,” which I dutifully did.

I knew something was not right this time when my doctor’s nurse returned to the examination room and told me that she had squeezed me in for an immediate ultrasound. Nothing in the health care system works that fast unless it has to. It wasn’t long before I was back with my doctor. “Look at this,” he said, “we just met and here I am telling you that you have cancer.” It was a funny statement in that it induced a bit of nervous laughter from us both.

But it wasn’t funny.

The next day, I was sent to a urologist, who confirmed the likelihood of cancer and proceeded to squeeze my diseased testicle in such a way that it felt as though several large men were repeatedly kicking me in the nuts. It hurt like hell. He immediately advised that I have surgery as soon as possible to remove the testicle and the tumor that was growing within it.

So, one week ago today, my wife, mother-in-law and brother-in-law walked with me the two blocks to St. Mary’s hospital here in Madison at 7:30 a.m. to have what is known as a radical inguinal orchiectomy. Why it isn’t called a testectomy or a nutectomy or something we could all understand, I do not know. It was out-patient surgery, and less than twelve hours after being admitted, I was hobbling toward my bed, high on pain meds, but feeling every step.

Since the day I returned home from surgery, life has seemed to zoom past as I have shuttled from one doctor to the next, one test to the next, or, as I’ve really seen it, one needle prick to the next. I have thus far had two CT scans, one of my abdomen, and the next day one of my chest, had my chest xrayed, and endured an MRI just today. Tomorrow I will have something called a PET scan. All of this has come about because my doctors may have been overly optimistic about my prognosis in the beginning. They hoped that the cancer was contained in the testicle tumor, but it is not. It seeped out, taking a ride in my blood vessels, and taking up shop in my right lung instead, where it has formed three new tumors. There are other somewhat troubling signs, but the lung is the main focus now, and the reason that I will begin chemotherapy next Monday.

There are other things to consider, of course, like the potential for infertility–a potential that has led my wife and I to the decision to bank my sperm while I’ve still got it. But more on all of that later. I hope to keep a daily log here of my treatment, its trials and tribulations so that my friends and family can keep up with what’s going on and so that the writer in me can feel as though there is still work to be done.

I will do my best to keep the informative links going too, so if you see text in this post or any other that has a sort of light brown highlight to it, you can click on it and it will take you somewhere to explain the word, phrase or concept in more depth. I know it’s nice to have a simple click take you to a site to explain something in more detail, so I hope this helps.

That is all (for now).


8 Responses to “The journey has already begun”

  1. Georgia Weithe Says:

    Mike, what was the MRI like? I know you weren’t looking forward to it (understatement) and as someone who would also not look forward to having one (BIG understatement) I’m wondering what the experience was like for you?


  2. It was not as bad as I imagined, but the Valium helped a great deal with my pre-test anxiety. I told Dawn on the way to the test as the Valium was kicking in that the next time I saw Dr. Arbaje (the oncologist), I was going to “give him a big kiss!” I was grateful for the drug to lessen the anxiety. If you look at a picture of a modern MRI machine (which you can find on the MRI link in the post itself), you will see that it is open on both sides, so that it is just a fatter donut than a CT scan. The real claustrophobia comes from the contraption they put on your head, covering most of your face. But, in the end, it was not so bad. Partly because the monster machine I envisioned was not the reality, and partly because the Valium eased my anxiety.

  3. Ann Kjerulf Knien Says:

    Just was wanting to send my love to you and Dawn from Austin. Thinking of you, and wishing I could be there to make you chocolate chip cookies or double fudge brownies or maybe even a blackberry cobbler. Come to think of it, I am not sure what your favorite dessert is, so I should probably find that out before trying to brave the kitchen flames… maybe I should just buy you a pack of Newman’s Ginger O’s. 🙂

  4. hey, mike… just thinking about you. it’s good to read your words. keep writing… -seema

  5. Michelle Polgar Says:

    Ditto to Ann’s posting. We’re thinking of you and Dawn and wishing we were all closer. Where do we ship the Shiner? Glad to hear the MRI wasn’t as stressful as you anticipated. xo,

  6. Just heard the news. Our thoughts are with you. Keep writing, stay focused and stay strong. We’re here for you!


  7. Keep writing Mike and we keep reading and we keep both of you as ever in our heart and thoughts. But what a ride. Hope to see you soon. Fanou

  8. I just want to say thank you to everyone who has been reading my blog, and to those of you who have left kind words here. This blog has generated so much more readership than my work/research related blog over at ecoTheater. I think I have figured out how to attract readers — get cancer! Okay, I’m kidding. But seriously, thank you so much for all of your support. It makes each day much easier to deal with. I can only imagine what folks with more “serious” cancers must go through each day, just in their minds alone…

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