Chapter 9: Swelling With Pain
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[[Warning: Lots of crass teenage talk in this chapter, but I must remain real. For example, if the MPAA were rating my chapters they would have been “PG-13” …Until they labeled this one “R.”]]
My testicles must be floating by now. My scrotum was so full it was as though I didn’t have nuts anymore; only fluid. I painfully finished my intended motion and rolled back over to hit the nurse button. Hard. “Uh, hi, I don’t know any easy way to say this, but my nutsack is the size of a softball. Could you take a look at this?”
Naturally, I was panicked, so I didn’t care if I sounded crass or direct. If you had woken up with a swollen appendage like that, you’d be terse too.
This sudden event also triggered a memory of a warning my doctor offered from earlier in the treatment.
She warned about the possibility of the cancer cells residing in the testicles after treatments because a lot of the chemo doesn’t go through the testicles because the lack of blood flowing there during treatment. Somehow I don’t think that will be a problem…
She continued, stating most of the cases regarding males relapsing were from this exact scenario. So I had a moment of panic, thinking my testicles were now full of cancer (Clearly, I had little idea how the human body worked).
The nurse eventually came in and examined me. I wasn’t a fan of someone looking at my nuts like this, but it was necessary in this instance. “This kind of swelling can happen with the type of hernia you have. We’ll get the doctor in right away. Geez, when it rains, it pours, huh?”
I was pissed. How could a hernia inflate my balls like that? It didn’t make any sense. I awaited the doctor instead of bothering this pretty nurse. If I did that, I’d have to talk about my junk again, and it’s weird enough already.
The doc arrived and I was so ready to get an answer… but first, she took her hooked finger and near my member, drove it up and towards my stomach. I winced helplessly and crumbled under the pain.
I wanted to punch her then and there for the sharp increase in pain, but I knew she was only doing her job. “Sometimes during trauma, the intestines can slip into this hernia and the fluid build-up is a result of that.”
In lieu of violence, I asked, “So what’s the next step then?”
“We’ll need to put some hot packs on the hernia’s location to open up the area and reduce swelling.”
I sighed. This was going to be rough. “Okay then.” After the doctor left I tried to get up to go to the bathroom. I had to go terribly, but I couldn’t muster the strength to get up and do it. And all of a sudden, I had an urge to cough.
Every time I coughed, the surgery scars and the swollen sack tested my pain threshold. I held my provided miniature pillow against the incision. Why is it that after every surgery you NEED to cough? Do they infect you with a cold on purpose to cause you agony?! Or are the miniature pillow manufacturers “on the take” in this racket, getting a commission for every pillow sold?
At any rate, it hurt like a bitch. After another random coughing fit, the bladder was getting angry so I had to get it out one way or another. I buzzed the nurse again. She helped me trudge over to the bathroom, where I was finally able to do my business.
As she walked me back to the bed she added, “Now, because your counts are still low, we’ll get you more platelets so your incisions can heal faster. So that means we don’t want you to shower for the next few days.” I was at a loss for the proposed solution. “So what will I do… bathe?”
“Actually, you’ll have to sponge bath. We can’t risk any chance of water getting into the incisions.” I nodded. Damn. I wasn’t looking forward to that.
I sat back in my bed and she pulled out a urinal. “If you can’t make it to the bathroom, then you can use this.” We’ll at least get you to the bathroom at least once a day for a sponge bath– or for number two.”
Great, now we’re talking about bowel movements. “Okay then.”
My Mom and Stepdad came in for the day. They stayed at Ronald McDonald’s most days when they were down to visit me. I was so grateful that they were afforded that opportunity. I sucked it up and explained the situation, but this sure wasn’t a Show and Tell. It was Tell only for today, thank you.
My Mom didn’t know, but they said it too: “When it rains, it pours, huh?” …When it rains, it pours. What a bizarre saying. Stop equating my bodily mishaps to a monsoon!
But it’s my Mom. “Yeah, sure does!”
Every subtle movement was a struggle. I had to lie down for the better part of the day; I definitely couldn’t sit with this monstrous sack between my legs. I had to chuckle (as inappropriate as it was) when I was able to walk, however. I used to watch Ripley’s Believe It Or Not hosted by Dean Cain, and I would wonder how it must have felt for the folks who had been diagnosed with elephantiasis as they walked; and in a smaller, similar way, I now knew.
I would try to walk around as much as I could because I hated being bed-ridden. But every time I wanted to walk around, they would have to disconnect me from the heart monitor. It was bizarre that I even had to be on that thing, but it was standard fare in an ICU. So in the end, I wouldn’t get to walk around that much.
As each day progressed in the PICU, the pain slowly subsided, and amazingly my sack deflated. I also anxiously awaited my return to my old room where I had more mobility and privacy. The nurse was required to come in every so often– more so than the normal rooms. Again ICU protocol.
And every day, I’d have to shuffle my weak self over to the bathroom and sponge bathe myself. What a crock. I don’t know how people in the old west felt clean after washing themselves in a river, or how anyone lived without a shower. I suppose I was a privileged brat complaining about first-world problems, but the thought wouldn’t escape my mind.
Trying to use a urinal while lying on your side is an utter bitch. I wanted to chuck that thing against the wall out of frustration, but that would be a terribly rude (and disgusting) thing to do.
On the fourth day, I had been able to shake off the heart monitor permanently. Thank God, one step closer. Then by the end of the day, I was heading back onto the main floor. Progress was being made!
Even more so because on that fourth day… I was able to finally revel in a shower. It was the same cold tile bathroom flooring with no shower walls, but it was the best shower I had ever had in my life.
I was so excited to get back into my “apartment” and finish off this round of chemo. Man, that’s weird looking forward to your lifeforce being sapped away via intravenous poison, but it was more enjoyable than the past week and its nightmarish cascade of medical events.
The nurse walked in as I spoke with my Mom and Stepdad. “Alright, ready to move out of the PICU?”
“Hell yes,” I emphatically stated. “851?”
The nurses face braced for impact. “Oh, no, I’m sorry, that room is taken. We’re putting you in 857.”
Dammit. Just when I thought I’d get ONE thing that was somewhat normal, something routine, I needed to learn a whole new room. “Okay then.”
They wheeled me into the aforementioned 857 and I sat on the bed, lunch already waiting for me to dig in. I popped the cover off of the plate: a hamburger and French fries.
I hit the TV remote and flipped through the channels. I landed on CNN and lost myself in the ticker below, ignoring the talking head.
This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.
The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writer. I’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.
Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.
And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.