It was that time of year again…a time I dreaded for so many reasons.
I was sitting in my car, waiting for Stephanie and Benjamin to arrive at Sam’s school. I was killing time in the parking lot, as we were all going to meet to watch Sam read a petition at the school mass. I had maybe five Angry Bird flicks in when my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number. Who could it be?
“Mr. Duffy? This is Rolanda from Pratt Cancer Center. We need to schedule your testicular ultrasound.”
You can’t imagine the sheer lack of joy that comes from this phone call every year. And before we go any further, this is exactly what the name implies. Every year, for the rest of my life, I have to subject myself to one of the most humbling experiences you can possibly imagine: the balltrasound.
I have a great oncologist named Burt Needles. He’s aggressive with his treatment of cancer, and his track record is extraordinary. He’s also one of those guys that never takes a chance. So when it came time for my jewel heist back in oh-two, they subjected me to something that I’m not sure I can fully describe.
So I walked into the ultrasound waiting room, and it’s filled with pregnant women, which is what you would expect an ultrasound waiting room to be filled with. And here I was…29 year-old male with a busted walnut. And after just one too many stares of, “What’s this icky boy doing here,” I actually pointed to my bits and said, “Lefty’s leaving.” No one cracked a smile, but I had a had a hearty chortle…internally, of course. I had to keep some modicum of decorum.
And of course, these were the days before HIPPA, so when Nurse Ratchett opened the door to call the next patient, she used my first and last name. “Dan Duffy?” I could instantly hear the murmur: “He’s that guy from the Steve and DC (radio) Show.” This was going to be a super experience!
So they brought me into a really dark room with the ultrasound machine, a broom closet for changing into the bottomless gown, soft music and a vase with a single red rose in the corner. I immediately surveyed this room of seduction and thought one thing: please God don’t let the tech be hot. Give me someone matronly, bigger, hell, even a gay guy…not that there’s anything wrong with that. As long as it’s not someone screaming hot, I won’t have to worry about pitching a pup tent.
And unfortunately, this is a very real, albeit unexpected, event. You don’t expect it for the sheer lunacy of the position in which you find yourself. Picture this visual: I’m lying down on my back. My gown is pulled up. I have a towel that is basically keeping Mr. Happy out of the way by plastering him to my FUPA (Fat Upper Pubic Area). The twins are exposed, but they’re riding bareback on a towel to keep the jelly from going down my inner thighs. Oh, and like a total guy, my socks are still on. I know…sexy. But because of the position, and the pressure against my body, I had to think about baseball.
Thankfully, a mid-fifties woman named Rosemary came in. She was four-feet-eleven, a bun hair-do, and glasses. In other words…perfect. She sat down next to me and said, “So why are you here today?” I go on to tell her my cancer story, and how my doc wants both of the boys checked to make sure that Righty doesn’t try to kill me like that jacksauce Lefty did.
So Rosemary picked up the goo bottle and squeezed for a good three seconds. I was making a fist with my butt because I was expecting it to be freezing cold on my bits. But no one told me that the jelly has a new chemical in it that makes it warm when it touches the skin. I have to say, it was a nice surprise.
Rosemary manipulating the wand like a stick shift was not a nice surprise. I quickly learned that it’s not the most delicate procedure, so I shut my eyes and prayed for it to be over quickly.
“So what’s it like outside?”
Seriously, Rosemary? You’re going to try to have a conversation with me while I’m in this position? Next time, I would pray for a guy to do this. He would understand, be a little more gentle, and wouldn’t try to ask, “Have you tried the new oven roasted turkey at Panera? It’s to die for!!!”
But then Rosemary told me something that I wasn’t quite expecting. “You have some calcium deposits on the right side.”
Calcium deposits, or calcium scarring, is an odd thing when you’ve had testicular cancer. The problem is that docs aren’t sure what it means. 50% of them will say it’s a natural occurrence. 50% think it’s a precursor to cancer. And do you know what that means? It means that once per year, around late May, and because Burt Needles doesn’t take chances, Rolanda calls me from Pratt saying, “It’s time to schedule your 3 minutes of humiliation, Mr. Duffy.”
It happens every year, like clockwork. I get the call, I mope about it, I go in, I put on the gown, I lay on the table, and I chat with Rosemary about the new menu items at Panera. Oh sure, there was that one year where the visiting nurses association…ALL OF THEM…decided they wanted to see a balltrasound performed live. Apparently, they’d only read about it in mythology. But for the most part, by the time it’s all over, I laugh off my little indignity.
Which is exactly what we have to do. I’m a proud survivor of cancer, but I also know that I would not want to do it again. So if this is my penance for my amazing life, then so be it. And besides, in the grand scheme of things, I know I have it easy. My wife, to whom I pledged my life, love and heart, has absolutely no sympathy for me. “You think that’s invasive? Let me go into detail about a gynecology exam.”