Saturday, 1 February 2014

A ball-ache at 48

Courtesy of stockimages -

As I zipped up my trousers, my physician peeled off his latex gloves. ‘In light of your age, I’ll refer you to urology for tests’ he said. We can’t be too careful.’

It was 2006, and my 48-year-old right testicle had begun to ache several weeks earlier while watching a TV program about how men are prone to neglect their health, particularly if the problem relates to their dangly bits. I clung to benign explanations for the pain: perhaps my budgie-smugglers were too tight, or maybe I had unknowingly crushed the sensitive orb when I crossed my legs?

When the pain persisted, my hypochondriacal curiosity prompted me to enter ‘testicular cancer’ into the search engine. Reading the symptoms – a lump in part of one testicle, a dull ache, or a heavy scrotum – triggered several days of cupping, prodding and mirror-gazing that only aggravated my pain. I relented and visited my doctor who in turn was now propelling me towards the specialist.     

Three weeks later I am sitting in the urology waiting room at the local hospital, fearing the worst, and visualizing malignant cells multiplying and stomping, jackbooted, into the neighbouring testicular tissue like the Nazi invasion of Poland.

‘Mr. Jones, please?’

I turn to see an attractive young woman in a white coat smiling, and beckoning me to follow her. She has sallow skin and ebony hair, tied back in a bob. I follow her like a faithful puppy-dog to the consulting room, feeling a rising sense of unease in anticipation of my indecent exposure.

Once inside, after exploring the history of my problem, she rises from her chair, moves a couple of yards away from me, motions me to also stand, and asks me to let her ‘have a look’. I lower my denims and briefs to allow the front-room furniture to swing fee. Standing there exposed from waist to knee, I fidget, not knowing where to put my hands. She peers at my genitalia, ‘to check for symmetry’ – apparently, observing whether my right ball is hovering at a different altitude to the other. Disturbingly, as she scrutinizes, she purses her lips and tilts her head. I conjure up lusty thoughts to try and inflate the pipe-work a bit but, alas, all in vain; in the cold consulting room my meat and veg resemble Bob Cratchit’s turkey, the last one in the shop.   
Courtesy of hyena reality

While I remain standing, she approaches, squats before me and digs her finger into the suspect testicle.
‘Does that hurt?’ she asks.
I yelp, providing her with an answer. She continues the examination by manipulating each ball between her thumb and forefinger, and cupping each in the palm of her hand (presumably checking for the diagnostic heaviness – if not, I’d been the victim of sexual assault). After returning to her full height she instructs me to lie on the bed. Any embryonic ember of sexual excitement is immediately quenched by the comic image in my head of my shuffling across the room, hairy arse on view, trousers around knees, like a floundering contestant in a sack race.

A male colleague with cold hands joins us and more prodding ensues. At the end of the examination I’m told that my testicles feel ‘totally normal’ but, in light of my age, they will arrange for me to return to hospital for an ultra scan ‘just to be on the safe side.’

Two weeks on, I am laying on a bed in the X-Ray Department, ubiquitous blue gown raised to my hips, while a black man, with hands the size of pit shovels, moves a wand-like object three inches from my gonads as if searching for precious metal. His verdict: ‘apart from a slight, non-significant aberration in the right testicle, they appear perfectly normal.’ He also tells me that the pain is probably due to ‘post-vasectomy pain syndrome,’ a discomfort experienced by one-in-three men years after the operation – a fact denied to me when I had the snip a decade earlier.  
‘If this was your testicle, would you choose to undergo any further investigation?’ I asked.
‘No,’ the radiographer replied, ‘I’d leave it well alone.’
‘That’s good enough for me,’ I said while rising from the bed, thoroughly reassured.