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Monday, October 15, 2012

Oh Nuts

So I found a lump near one of my testicles last winter. I can assure you, that's a tough pill to swallow for a dude. And since it's breast cancer awareness month and my story might help a girl or a guy find a lump before it's too late, I'm going to tell you all about it.

When you find a lump, a million things race through your mind. The first three are four-letter-words that start with F. You automatically assume the worst. At first you're afraid to tell anyone. Maybe if you don't acknowledge it, it really isn't there. You tell your wife and see the fear in her eyes. Despite the fact that you're just as scared as she is, you look deep into her gorgeous eyes, smile, and tell her everything is going to be okay.

You are sure that when the doctor is finally able to fit you into his busy schedule (you'd think that when you tell them you found a lump, they would fit you right in) he is going to tell you that you didn't catch it soon enough, and at best, you have like three months to live. I had almost three weeks to think about my imminent death before finally getting in to see the doctor.

When you're sure you're about to die, three weeks is a very long time to wait. You start thinking about all of the things in life you did and didn't do. All of the things you're going to try and accomplish before you're gone.

When I first found the lump, I was a few pages into a new-to-me book The Rise by Paul Schullery. As funny as it sounds, one of the things that panicked me the most wasn't some bucket list of dream vacations or extreme adventures I wouldn't be able to experience, it was the possibility that I wouldn't get to utilize some of the things I was reading about. That led to a deep fear that I wouldn't have enough time to read all the books on my amazon wish list, or the 24 or so recently added to my bookshelf. I was prepping for a reading marathon of epic proportions. Three months to live, and all I wanted to do was read old flyfishing books....

Since it was January when I found my lump, I started thinking about the first places I was going to fish when spring came. When you haven't experienced a spring on your northern Michigan homewaters in over five years, and you're sure you're about to die, this is a really really tough decision. Do I go to that stretch I've been staring at from New York on Google Earth for the past three years? Or, do I go back to that bend with the beaver dam I've fished 100 times?

As the date of that doctor appointment approached, I'd accepted whatever the outcome might be. If it was cancer, I was going to kick its ass.

If you ever find a lump, when you finally make it to that day at the doctor's office, the nurse won't look at you funny when you tell her with a straight face that you’ve got an extra ball down there. The doctor will do a thorough examination, but he isn't going to handle your balls any more than he has to.

If you're as lucky as I am, he is going to smile, tell you it isn't cancer, make an alternate diagnosis that's really no big deal at all, and send you on your way. If you're as lucky as I am, you'll get to tell your wife that everything is going to be okay, and you'll get to take your time reading all of those books. You’ll get to fish the beaver dam and the new spot.

If that little lump was cancer, it could have killed me. Fortunately, it wasn’t. I found it while it was still very small, so had it really been cancer, I'd like to think my chances of kicking its ass would have been fairly decent. Whether you're a man or a woman, I can't urge you enough to perform occasional self-examinations of your parts (see links below). Hopefully you won't find anything. If you do, hopefully it's as it was with me, and no big deal. If you do find something out of the ordinary, it's probably going to be pretty scary. But with the help and support of your loved ones, you will make it to and through that first doctor appointment.

For the guys, Everything you ever wanted to know about a self testicular exam.
For the ladies, Everything you ever wanted to know about a self breast exam.

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