Jack's Hairy Tale

Author: Movember
It’s a monumental hassle, cancer. Not just a slight glitch, like flu, or even chicken pox, but a gut-wrenching, nauseating, tearing fact of life that wallops you, quite literally in my case, squarely in the privates. Of course, you don’t hear enough about cure rates, while our caring, sharing victim culture means that in some ways perhaps we take it too seriously, living in fear of the “C” word. It’s quite understandable. To get rid of it, people sacrifice whole chunks of their bodies: breasts, kidneys, lungs, even lives. In my case, I was lucky. I only lost one of my nuts.

Testicular cancer is scarily common. It crops up in every eighth male cancer case, and it is on the increase. It’s most likely to affect young guys, between the ages of 17 and 35, and if you’ve ever had problems with your balls in the past, like an undescended testicle as a child, you’re more likely to get it. I never knew any of that, and I’d never really had any problems before. All I knew was that I was in the bath one day, having a legitimate feelabout because you’re supposed to check the balls in the bath (bathtime is balltime, so to speak), and I noticed that one of my boys was a bit bigger than the other. Not a great deal bigger, but noticeably so, and it was hard too, instead of a little squishy round the outside. Thinking I probably just needed the love of a good woman to relieve the pressure, I gave it a week to sort itself out.

Only problem is, it didn’t. Over the next few days I got a dull ache in my lower abdomen. It felt like I’d been kicked in the balls an hour ago and I was still throbbing from it. And the offending testicle got a bit bigger and a bit more sore. I half-suspected it might be something heavy, phoned my ex-girlfriend for a bit of sympathy (no such luck) and then gave the doctor a bell. Appointment in two weeks. Once I’d made the call I put the ache to the back of my mind and concentrated on other things.

I saw my GP late on a Friday afternoon and we got straight down to brass tacks. He’s an efficient, no-nonsense guy who likes to keep the kettle boiling when he’s at work rather than get bogged down talking about things.
“In you come, take a pew, jolly good. Right, what seems to be the problem?”
“It’s me testy-cools doctor, I’ve got a lump and it’s sore.”
“Probably nothing, but best if I just have a look. Hop on to the examination table and pull your pants down.” Like I said, he doesn’t mess around. So he had a good feel, and agreed there was a definite problem. “Wait outside while I make a few calls.” It’s obviously not just a case of two paracetamol and an early night.

I sat in the waiting room and nervously flicked through old copies of celeb mags, not even pausing to look at the pictures. Five minutes later he ushered me back in and gave me a letter. “Take this to Charing Cross now. You’re to go to the A&E department, but you’ll be seeing the on-call Urologist registrar. They’ll arrange an ultrasound scan, like the one pregnant women have to see their babies, and then they’ll be able to tell you what it is. It may be nothing, but it may be something, and I don’t want to get your hopes up or say the wrong thing. Don’t dawdle though, because the radiologist will be going home soon.”

Fine. Nice and ambiguous, and slightly alarming. So I ran to the bus stop, got to hospital, sat in casualty for an hour and a half while people filtered in and out, pissed in a jar for a nurse and was finally called into an examination room. A posse of about five doctors trooped in to see me. They all had a good feel about too. If my GP had been efficient, he had nothing on the clinical precision of these guys.

The head honcho stepped up. “Okay mister Dyson. There’s definitely some sort of swelling in your testicle. We’ll send you up for a scan. If it’s a tumour, you will come in on Monday for surgery and we’ll remove your testicle. If it’s something else, we’ll talk about it later. Any questions? Right. Off you go.” So he’d said it then. Possibility of a tumour. I felt scared, but was handling it quite well as the junior doctor showed me how to get to radiology. She obviously felt awkward, and I tried to make a few jokes on the way up to make her more at ease, then suddenly realised perhaps I shouldn’t be doing that – wasn’t she supposed to be making me feel better?

When I got to the X-ray department, everyone had gone home except the radiologist. He’d been doing paperwork whilst waiting for me, and went to switch on the equipment and warm up the computer. For the third time that day I was lying on my back with my trousers down. Only this time round the doctor didn’t just want to have a poke, he squirted me with sticky gel and scanned my privates with a handheld mouse-type thing. He stared at the screen, not saying much as he worked the gizmos. Lying in the cold room, adrenaline surged through me the same way it does just before a fight, or just as you lean in for the first kiss. I decided to break the silence: “So what’s on the telly doctor, anything good?”
“Um, no. Not really much good on telly tonight for you I’m afraid. Very little in fact. There’s definitely a tumour and it’ll have to come out.” So that’s it then. Bang. It’s official. I didn’t freak out, didn’t want to cry. I just wanted to go home. I felt winded, as if my feet had just been swept out from under me. A few hours later, after I’d put a few more samples in jars and sat next to a couple more nutcases, I was allowed home. Due back in at 7.30 Monday morning. No food or drink from midnight Sunday, and I should expect to be in for a day or two.

Standing outside the hospital by the Tesco Metro, I blubbed down the phone to my sister and told her the good news. I felt that I couldn’t really call up my ex with such a bombshell, and my parents were both away. I went home, fed Mum’s dog and drove round to my sister’s. She and my brother-in-law were great, and seeing their kid made me forget about what was going on, but there’s not much people can say beyond: “It’ll be okay”. It wears thin quickly, and you get the feeling that even as they’re saying it, they know and you know that it might not be.
 
After an hour or so I went to find my mates at a pub in Putney. There was a gang of six or so of my closest chums all merry and laughing when I turned up. I tried not saying anything but ended up blurting out about my day within a few minutes of arriving. It put the kibosh on the revelry somewhat, but they soon rallied. We had a drink or two before going to another friend’s flat. After breaking the news, there wasn’t much more to say on the subject for the simple fact that none of us knew what was going to happen. They sat around as I watched them, feeling the rhythm of the babble and chatter slowly bring me back to earth, back to normality.

For the first time I began to realise just how lucky I am to have such terrific friends. They didn’t need to say anything, or console me; in fact that wouldn’t really have helped. Just by hanging out they were letting me know that life goes on, that it’s best if I just take it in my stride. Whatever happens, you want to be able to look back on something like this and think to yourself, “Yeah, I handled it. I got dealt a rotten hand, but I faced it on my feet.” It seems silly now, but if I wasn’t going to keep my pride, I at least wanted my dignity.


Written by Jack Dyson.

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After receiving the crushing news, Jack went on to have surgery and his testicle was removed. With the help of his friends and family, he slowly recovered, being told there were no signs it had spread and that he could enjoy relative normality once again. Jacks knows that he was “desperately unlucky and put through the grinder”, but also “got off extraordinarily lightly”.  

With this behind him, Jack decided to do something for men’s health and signed up for Movember. He set his profile picture as Burt Reynolds for a bit of a laugh and his friends challenged him to re-create the famous Burt Reynolds rug shot if he raised more than £1000. Jack smashed this target and so had to pull off this hairy homage to the great man. With the help of a few willing (and close) mates, he made this epic photo happen – and to make even more out of this furry fabrication, Jack posted a print of the photo to everyone who donated £10 to him.

Such imaginative and collaborative efforts raised a serious amount of money and untold levels of awareness for Movember and Men’s health, the importance of which Jack knows only too well.

Follow Jack’s hairy example and make the most of it this Movember.

Sign Up Today

Photographer: Casey Moore