Archive for May, 2009

My Boys Won’t Swim

Posted in cancer, Cancer Life, testicular cancer with tags , , , on May 24, 2009 by lawler

I’m in Eugene, Oregon this weekend attending a conference/symposium/festival called Earth Matters on Stage. It’s essentially a meeting of we theater artists interested in so-called green theater. It’s been a blast to be here, and it has served to remind me of why I love the theater, and how I hope to contribute as an artist in the future. And really, how I hope to lead my life.

While here, I have had the opportunity to catch up with both old friends and people whom I’ve until recently only known through the written word, or rare phone conversation. My brother Steve also made the trip down from Tacoma, Washington the day I got here to see me, stayed the night with me at the hostel I’m at, and then headed back home on Friday. It was great to see him, as always, and he was sitting with me when I received the following email from my oncologist, Dr. Arbaje:

hi Mike,unfortunately, your sperm count is zero so you would have to use the banking.
keep me posted about the MRI
feel free to use this route.,
Yamil Arbaje, M.D.

Here’s how it looked to me:

unfounouohn YOUR SPERM COUNT IS ZERO lkjlkmlkmvlkerouo lkjloijuou lkmlm
kjhknkln iaoierj MRI
l;iuouone
lkyoum, MD

Should I start over? Okay…

Part I: Say the word, “deaf.”

“You need your ears cleaned!”

Ever heard that from anyone who thought you should’ve heard what they had to say to you? I have. My dad used to say something to that effect, but far more colorfully.

Nearly two years ago, on the same day my primary care physician told me that he thought I had testicular cancer he told me that I needed to have my ears cleaned. Naturally, the cancer took priority and the ears were not thought of again until over a year later when my hearing emerged from high dose chemotherapy treatment in a bad way.

The other day, my local oncologist, Dr. Arbaje, recommended that before I had a hearing test to determine the level of damage I’ve been left with that I have my ears cleaned out professionally. So, I did. It was brief, and the result was gross. I won’t go into that.

My hearing emerged from the cleaning as different, but not better. I had a hearing test immediately following the cleaning, which confirmed that my hearing is impaired, severely so in the higher frequencies.

Both of my ears dip sharply once they reach higher frequencies and the hearing loss for both ears in that range is severe. The surprise to everyone was how my right ear starts at a point that is barely in the range considered normal hearing, and is, across the board, much worse off than my left ear. I was told by both the audiologist and the ENT that hearing loss associated with chemotherapy is generally equal in both ears.

The ENT recommended that I have an MRI in order to rule out the possibility that (“considering your history”) there is a benign growth that has caused the more profound hearing loss in my right ear. I tried to stay calm when she started explaining that if something were to be found I would need to consult a neurologist. I said, “could it be malignant?” And she said, “I have never seen a malignancy in this area causing hearing loss.”

I had the MRI on Monday, and was not worried. I know that my hearing has been uneven for years, and that there are many, many reasons (most of them impossible to determine) for the discrepancy between my right and left ears. On Thursday the ENT left a message on my phone letting me know that the MRI came back all clear. Good news.

In other news, the audiologist said to me, “I think hearing aids would help you, but I don’t want you to use them for at least another six months.” Why? Because — and oh how I wish someone, somewhere had told me this six months ago — in the case of hearing loss like mine (from toxicity), the potential for further damage to the ear is greatest in the first year after initial damage. This means that I need to keep my ears very protected from any potential harm, especially overly loud noise for extended periods. Oops. The hearing aids, of course, are simply amplifiers in my ears, and could potentially further damage my ears. So, in the beginning of 2010 I will revisit the audiologist and determine if I do, in fact, want hearing aids.

Part II: Kokopelli is the Man (apparently)

Infertile. So what, you think, right?

I had no idea how upset I would be about the prospect of becoming infertile, let alone being informed that I am indeed so. It’s an odd, frustrating, often angering predicament. So much so that I am a bit speechless about it at present.

I can say this: I did bank sperm, as many of you may recall from my posts about the so-called Collection Room, and we’ve been paying rent on the stuff (about $50 a month) for nearly two years — insurance does not cover this. We have only just begun to take the steps necessary to even really learn about the process involved in putting my frozen boys to use. It looks to be an interesting, emotional, potentially tiring and aggravating journey. We are frightened of it, but joyous at its existence, for its potential. We recognize that not everyone feels as we do, but we have strong desires to be parents…so, we’ll see.