A BALL GAME OF TWO HALVES
"It isn't heroic, it's just obvious when you're in the epicenter. After all, what you gonna do? Go up to your mates in the pub on a Saturday night and say 'Guess what folks, I might have cancer! Wa-hey! Anyone fancy a pint?'"
By George Berger
COPYRIGHT © 2005, 3 A.M. MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Just like the old seventies bedsit poster.
Only today has a bit more resonance for me. Because today I've escaped a) cancer and b) losing a part of my body.
It's been a long six months, living in my mind with the possibility of a) or b) happening. Keeping it to myself, living with it on my own. Which isn't heroic, it's just obvious when you're in the epicentre. After all, what you gonna do? Go up to your mates in the pub on a Saturday night and say 'guess what folks, I might have cancer! Wa-hey! Anyone fancy a pint?'
It started with an ache in my right testicle (unlike the Hot Chocolate song, which started with a kiss… but ended quite badly). I went to the doctors and he asked me if I'd started any physical activities lately? Maybe exercising? Which I had, so somewhat relieved I strolled home with the perfect excuse not to exercise until the ache (it was only ever a pain metaphorically) went away.
I'd asked when I needed to come back if the ache stayed around, and been told two weeks. So, naturally, I left it six months. Maybe three or four times I made an appointment in that time, only to then cancel it at the last minute because I figured I was being melodramatic. And no doubt my subconscious feared the worst and was terrified of going back.
I eventually went back over the Christmas period ("hmmm… six months ago" the doctor huffed) and was sent off to hospital for ultrasound tests. Up front (of my mind) I was more nervous of the practical reality of having another bloke inspect my balls than any possible outcome. A small penis doesn't come cheap in the self-esteem stakes. But he was a consummate professional, clearly adept at side-stepping any mutual embarrassment.
The sun was shining as I walked out of the hospital.
But I didn't feel the elation I expected to.
Three phrases: "you haven't got cancer" / "this doesn't mean you'll get cancer" / "but you have a greater chance of getting cancer".
The first was the most important one, of course. Because up till that point, I'd been in an extreme-superstitious denial of the 'C' word. I still couldn't bring myself to say it after the test. That part of me is still not sure I should be writing this.
Two weeks later I'm in the doctor's surgery for the greater detail. And I'm more scared because now I've opened the Pandora's Box of my mind. And so has somebody else: a cousin, who's a nurse, has had the unbelievable tactlessness to point out they might want to remove the testicle to avoid later cancer.
And this rocks me to my very being; I don't know why -- it just does. I can't picture the future like that: my self-esteem, appears to have found its Achilles Heel. And I've spent two weeks not being able to handle it. Not in the slightest -- I'm cruising on the edge of totally losing it. Punching walls after nights of absinthe -- my fingers still hurt as I type. Silent screams. A grief with a pang, for an unwelcome change.
Then the doctor tells me everything is fine. He pulls a face when I ask about the alleged bigger future possibility of cancer. Not so, he says. I've seen that expression before -- on the face of magistrates when it became obvious to them that the police were trying to fit me up. Two authorities clash. Ah, the good old days. Uncertain confusion can be so healthy. Me, I'm not looking for escapism, I just want to escape.
And today I did.
It's pouring with rain when I come out of the doctor's surgery -- a truly miserable grey British January day. And again I feel numb, neither high nor low. But somehow I feel cleaner -- I know now I'm going to live, and as a total human being. And I feel the luck of my health that we all forget when we're healthy.
I keep crying.
So, yes, today really is the first day of the rest of my life. Now all colours are brighter, all sounds are more resonant, all emotions are more comfy and all possibilities are once more possible. And more possible. Because I've got time.
And so have you -- don't waste it. Because we never know how much.
The strange thing is that whilst all this was going on, the other man in my band had a vasectomy and there were severe complications, which led to him being hospitalised on several occasions, due to infection of his testicles. It all begs for the title of our next record: "Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's Flowers In The Dustbin".
George Berger is a freelance writer, with punk rock dna. He has written for Sounds, Melody Maker and Amnesty International among others. He has also written 3 books, with one published thus far: Dance Before the Storm: the Official Story of The Levellers (Virgin Books 1999). George is the founder of Flowers in the Dustbin. He lives where the mood takes him and funds allow.