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In-And-Out Fred Testicle Burger

May 24, 2012

I stood in front of the doors that led to the surgery admission room of the Stanford Hospital. Man, I have to walk in here and get operated on because of cancer. There is no way to get around this.  I sigh and mutter, “This is a fucking miserable life.” I put on the game face and go into the room which is packed with people who have all sorts of illnesses and are either accompanying patients or are patients. I see a man in his late sixties,  gray hair, weak and collapsed in a wheelchair. Beside him, a woman obvious his wife with a sad, taut look of strained tension of suffering on her face. Everyone looks so bad it’s like being in a bus station waiting ro0m. There even a couple midgets–er, little people, walking around (maybe getting surgery to have lifts put in their feet, who knows?) Other people are talking loudly and making jokes, or on laptops.

And I’m worried about whether or not I will come out of the anesthetic and about METSA or SEPSIS or other infections from surgery. But I’d be hesitant to bring them up for fear of making the surgeon or the anesthesiologist nervous and possibly cause them to make a mistake. Interesting that when we see them we refer to them my their title and they call us by our first names.

My cell phone rings and its my brother who wants to know about my surgery and then I have to talk to my two sisters, One is an alcoholic and the other was the executor of my Dad’s estate and treated me very badly, and enriched herself at my expense. She seems very concerned, but I wonder how much of that is guilt, and even guilt is a drama of the underachievers. I’m polite, but don’t say, “You had your chance to care about me three years ago when you handled our estate, but instead, took care of yourself, and left me in debt.” I just consider that her label and name, and could care less if we never spoke again. She ended her conversation by saying.”I love you.” I just said, “Thanks for calling.” I was glad when the call was finished.

“I’ve done hundreds of these operations,” said the surgeon, casually.

I’m amused by his assuredness. I’m lying in a bed in a robe at the Stanford Hospital, thinking, you might have done hundreds of these operations but I’ve only done one.

I mention a possible prosthetic to replace the missing testicle.

“No,” he said firmly. “You know why?”

“Because I have a screen in there from a hernia?”

“That’s one reason because of all the scar tissue. We can put one in later, even two.”

“I’m not going to go under again for another operation to put in  false testicles,” I said, then add. “I have a question. Did you talk to a vascular surgeon?”

“No.”

The reason I asked about a vascular surgeon is this: my remaining tumor is wrapped around a major vein in my pelvic region. And to remove it, they would have to clamp it, by-pass it, and reattach the vein. This surgery is complicated. I was told it could result in nerve damage to my leg, possible loss of the leg, or bleeding out and dying. What they are hoping is that the remaining cancer cells from a previous scan are dying. I will get a scan on June 25th to find if the tumor is dead or growing. And, I’m worried that perhaps the cancer could spread. The surgeon and my oncologist said the surgery was too complicated to risk. But I was irked that it seemed they made this decision without consulting a vascular surgeon; after all they’re the ones who do this type of operation not them.

“So why didn’t you consult a vascular surgeon?”

“Because we know how it’s done. We’ve seen it before. The scar tissue is like concrete. And four other surgeons agreed.”

Again, I thought, there was a cocky assuredness. Justified by his experience. But in my mind, you talk to the person who does this work for an opinion, not the doctors who watch the surgeon do it.

The surgeon hands me a form and I have to sign it, which is basically a form that accepts the surgery and any of the complications that can result from it. I sign it. What a deal, I think, if something allegedly happens beyond their control and I die or biologically whatever, they’re covered. Imagine if all professions were like that! Say in baseball. You hire a guy to be a shortstop and he hands you a waiver that says he’s not responsible for being unable to field bad hops, tough plays, or getting hits with men on base–because he’s trying his best. I feel your best should be good enough.

“But if the tumor is growing, I’ll have to be carved up again.”

“Yes, but actually, they might just do radiation.”

The surgeon details the surgery. Years ago I had my first testicle plucked. They just make an incision in the groin and pop out the testicle by the sperm cord like a yo-yo on a string, then snip the cord. Back then I was on the hospital the night before, and spent two or three days in the hospital. Today it’s IN-and-OUT. DO they have a 12-items or less or an express lane: “Hey he has one lung and one testicle so he leaves first.”  After surgery I’ll be wheeled out of the hospital and sent home percolating on percodans. I’m advised to take them steadily to “stay ahead of the pain.”

The anesthesiologist is inserting the dreaded IV in the nice vein of my left arm.

“I hate these needles,” I said, turning away to face the wall and rapping my knuckles against the side of the bed to muffle the pain with noise. “These needles make me feel like I’m in prison.”

The anesthesiologist is a nice guy too. His name is Dr. Quick. He went to school in San Diego. “Between classes I’d run down and surf Black’s on a longboard.”

I’n thinking, I hope this guy didn’t miss any classes on how to avoid complications that could happen cause death from anesthesia.

I asked, “How long with the effects of the anesthesia stay with me after the operation?”

The guy’s assistant smirked and said, “A year from now at this same time you should be fine.”

I laughed.

I get another drug to relax me for surgery. I feel a little floaty. I go along with it.

They are getting ready to transfer me to the operating room.

Tears begin to form around my eyes. WHat can I say, going into surgery is as real as it gets. Anything can happen to me. And the guy who comes out of this is definitely going to be different than the one going in.

The nurse says to me,” Are you okay,Fred?”

I smile, nod, wipe the tears away and say, “Yes.”

I’m wheeled on a gurney into the operating room. I stare at all the bright lights in the ceiling as they look down at me. The surgeon says, “Welcome to my office.” They put a mask on me. I breath in once or twice and I’m gone. I wake up in the recovery room. There are several other patients in different states of sleep or awakenings. Some look frail and beaten.

I’m thinking of a joke. I lost my last testicle so I can never wear a speedo because I’ll show camel toe. But I don’t say it.

The next day, I feel relieved. My groin area is inflamed and puffy with a slight bruise mark on it. There is a dull pain within the deep folds of my flesh, but not as bad as I expected. Maybe surfing and golfing and walking has made me stronger to handle this. But I feel pretty good about it. After all, if I was on death’s bed and someone said, you can lose your testicle and live, I’d do it. And that’s what I had to do anyway because the hormones secreted by the testicle could stimulate tumor growth, and the testicle itself had to be removed.

It had to be done. The operation is behind me. So is my testicle. So is chemo. So are the catheters and urine bags. So I just keep going.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Bob Hackl permalink
    June 7, 2012 1:46 am

    Fred, after reading this posting of May 24, I couldn’t believe what a small world it really is. You and I and Rod surfed together May 8 and then I saw you again on May 9 as I was getting out and you were on the beach on your way out to surf, remember? We talked about Alan Weisbecker’s book etc. then I read this posting where you mention seeing midgets (actually correct term is Dwarfs), well one was my brother who I later found out was there to get back surgery, small world huh?

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