My Balls are Killing Me! Part 1
Written by Paul Cooke Jr
My Balls are Killing Me
By Chris Robinson
When I was a kid, I saw this TV movie called Brian’s Song. It’s a true story about the friendship between two Chicago Bears players, Brian Piccolo (James Caan) and Gayle Sayers (Billy Dee Williams). Piccolo gets ill and eventually dies. The movie touched me deeply and stayed with me all my life. I’ve no idea why. I didn’t really understand the movie nor did I understand why he died. Still, something just touched me about the film. Was it about a loss of this friendship or someone dying before his time? (By the way, what does that phrase even mean? Are we like a container of milk? Do we have a delineated expiry date?)
Flash forward about 35 years or so. Late December 2010. I’m… let’s see… 43 years old. Whilst playing with my balls I noticed a marble sized lump in my right testicle (I find it funny – maybe strange – when people ask me how I discovered the mini-ball within the ball. I’m a guy. I play with my balls.)
I remember Not Really My Pops (a cop who was my adopted father) caught me touching myself. He admonished me for it (ironic, given his proclivity towards smacking his balls against the flesh of more than a few women) and told me it was a sin (again, strange since the guy wasn’t remotely religious). Fortunately, I ignored him and continue to stroke and fondle to this day – like virtually every other man in human history.
I can be a bit of a hypochondriac but strangely I wasn’t that concerned about the marble in my right ball. I calmly called my doctor to make an appointment. A week or two later, he was fondling my balls. After careful inspection he turned to me and said, “I’m somewhat concerned”. His eyes said so much more. He was about to head out on vacation so he made some calls to ensure I could get an ultrasound that very day (a minor miracle with the Canadian health system.)
I walked alone to the ultrasound. I just knew it was cancer.
And it was.
A biopsy was scheduled for January 31st, 2011. Odds were something like 95% likely that it was malignant. ‘Course that didn’t stop me from thinking, “what if it’s benign?” What if they took my ball out for nothing!? Can they replace it? Do they have a catalogue of balls? Can I get a steel ball with the AC/DC logo on it? I guess weight imbalance would be an issue. The steel ball would probably be hanging down to my knees.
Before surgery, I did some researching online about ball cancer. On the Testicular Resource Center website, I looked at the page about famous people who had ball cancer (for some reason it made me feel better to know that cancer equals the playing field regardless of your fame or wealth.) On that page I came across Brian’s Song. The text said that Brian Piccolo had died from testicular cancer. I was stunned.
When the results came in from the biopsy I was told that I had pure embryonal carcinoma with lymphovascular invasion. Incredibly, Piccolo had the exact same type.
I also learned that in Piccolo’s time the mortality rate for this type of ball cancer was about 90%.
An eerie shiver raced through my body.
Now it all made sense. I understood why Brian’s Song resonated with me my entire life.
Thirty years ago, this cancer would have killed me. Now, I’m facing 90% plus survival odds. It was terrifying to think how close I could have been to ashes, yet inspiring to see the progress that had been made with ball cancer.
I would live. I would endure this and resume a relatively normal life again. It would be a different life. The shadow of death follows us all and once you’ve had cancer, that shadow moves a little close and becomes more tangible and real.
But I am alive. I would live.