A few days later I meet with a urologist at Beth Israel Deaconness. His offices are on the 3rd floor of the hospital, in “Surgical Specialties.” That gives me pause. Surgical. Cutting. I’m just going to have someone look at my testicle. Why does it have to be in a surgical office?
I meet the receptionist. She’s sitting in a row of desks that face the ‘waiting room’, which is four chairs against a wall with a small magazine rack on the wall. Sports magazines mostly. Her desk is separated from the two others by narrow dividers, like what you find separating the lie-flat seats in business class on airliners. So the situation in this space is 4 chairs lined up looking at the 3 desks. There’s just something not very feng shui about it.
I don’t wait long before being shown into a room. Desk against wall with computer monitor. Chair beside desk. Farther into the room is an examination table. Again, there’s a rack on the wall with magazines. I meant to bring my own New Yorker but forgot it at home. So I pick up Rolling Stone and start leafing through that, thinking about the writer who brought about the downfall of General McChrystal in Afghanistan.
The doctor comes in. He’s youngish. Early 40s? I wish he were older, and hope my face doesn’t belie how I feel. When you’re in a situation dealing with authority figures, you want these authority figures to be older than you. How can they have authority if they haven’t had as much life experience as you’ve had? Now, of course there’s not a lot of logic to that last statement, but this isn’t about logic. It’s about what you want from someone who is going to tell you what to do or has some power over your life. Someone you’re counting on for good advice, to know what he is doing. And to be good at it.
He asks me stand up and pull my pants down. This is unnerving. I know this is coming and have even thought about it in advance. But still, it’s so uncomfortable to stand up in front of a person and expose yourself. Why couldn’t they have found something in one of my arms instead? He puts on the latex gloves and reaches for my testicle. I don’t know where to look. I find myself standing up on tiptoe as if making myself slightly taller will relieve the pressure of him squeezing my testicle. He doesn’t have to ask me if it hurts; that’s quite evident from my body language.
He reads me the report from the ultrasound folks. Most of what he reads might as well be Lithuanian, plus he reads it fast. Because? He thinks it’s a waste of time to read it to me, or he’s just impressing me with how fast he can read? Though he also talks fast, which I find a little annoying. What ‘s the purpose in running quickly through information which is all new to me? Problem here is that he’s a doctor and it’s not new or news to him. Perhaps he’s bored by this news. He adjusts the computer monitor so I can see the images. I’m looking at the inside of my scrotum. Lots of black and white. But then lots of white on the testicle. Reminds me of looking at dental x-rays where all the white stuff is fillings in your teeth. New stuff. Extra stuff. Not original. Not natural. Not good.
There’s a mass on my testicle. It doesn’t belong there. From the ultrasound, there’s no way to tell what it is, but clearly there is something that is “not testicle” inside my scrotum. The doctor then mentions that we’ll probably want to remove the testicle.
Whoa! This is not at all what I expected to hear. (I have a vision of the “Surgical Specialties” sign that I passed to enter the office.) In fact, I get a little woozy shortly after he talks about ‘surgical removal.’ My mouth goes dry. I look toward the examination table and say, “You know, I need to lie down for a moment.” He leaves the room and I lie down on the table, feeling bad for wrinkling up the paper that will have to be discarded before another patient can lie down here. And feel foolish for reacting this way to the news. Then I’m worried that he’ll forget about me as he moves on his next patients. Someone comes in and offers me some water. I accept. I pick up the Rolling Stone magazine again.
In a while the doctor returns. I say “I’m sorry,” and he quickly says, “No need to be sorry. This isn’t easy to digest.” “No, it isn’t.” He seems somehow a little friendlier now. More on my side.
But then he quickly moves on. Decides we need an MRI to get a better view of this mass.
I tell him I’m participating in the Pan Mass Challenge and it’s less than two months away and I’m concerned about doing some medical procedure that’s going to keep me from doing the ride. But as soon as I mention I’m a bicyclist, he tells me his brother is a “Cat 5 bike racer.” Cat 5 is Category 5, meaning a beginning bike racer. But still, a racer. More macho than me, a mere recreational rider. I think the doctor mentions this as a way of creating a ‘biking bond’ but it sounds to me like he’s one-upping me via his brother.
He tells me that his receptionist will help me with that and then he picks up a digital recorder and dictates—at lightning speed—a letter to my general practitioner, giving him the details of what we’ve seen so far and also that he is recommending an MRI.
Next up: the MRI.