“Tuma” and an emphatic nod, was how I was told that my testicle is going to be removed in less than a week.
The Japanese nurse sitting next to the doctor translated his diagnosis.
“The growth appears to be a tumor, he thinks you will need to get it removed as soon as possible, either this week or next, OK?”
“He wants you to get tested. Please follow me.”
I went from laying on a paper sheet with my “shirt up and pants down,” to a roller coaster ride through the Japanese medical system. Fortunately my coworker Kuniko had phoned ahead, and the hospital had arranged for an English translator, a Japanese nurse named Nolico, otherwise I’d still probably be navigating the disinfected labyrinth that is every hospital in every country.
The first stop was a pee test. Somehow, I got the only squeamish nurse in the whole place—perhaps her English ability affected her sensitivities—so I had to nod and smile while she tried to explain how to urinate into a cup. Finally I had to snatch the plastic cup out of her hand and make my way into the bathroom.
“It is like teller window!” she called after me.
I stepped into the stall, dropped trow, and peed in a cup, careful not to go neither above nor below the ascribed line. Jesus this was going to be quite a day I thought as I pinched off the flow.
Next up was blood work, where Nolico bumped into her grandfather or great uncle or some shit and made excited conversation with him until she remembered that oh yeah this fucking gaijin has a lump on his testicle and she had to hold his hand through the whole damn operation. Lucky for their conversation, I was up next, and sat down at what looked like a fast-food counter for blood work. Two stools sat across from two dedicated nurses, who could find veins so quick Dracula’s head would spin. They punctured me and minutes later had filled 10 or so tiny vials of blood to be tested. I tried to peak at the old guy next to me, did he have more vials or less? But alas, I was whisked away for another test before I could count them.
This time I was able to leave my pants on, just the shirt had to go. The nurse was polite about my tattoos and copious body hair, and popped on her suction cups professionally. She pressed a button on a machine that spit out a foot or so of paper, an EKG or something? And we were off.
This time I needed an X-ray and only had to take off my button up shirt (the high this week was 4 degrees Celsius, so I had a few layers.). I stood next to a machine and made a variety of poses while the technicians hid behind safety glass, giggling and taking pictures. I swear I was doing tiger style and lotus hands out there while they sprayed me with X-rays. Needless to say I was sweating.
“It's warm isn't it?” Nolico asked.
No, I'm not fucking warm,
I MIGHT HAVE CANCER!
And that’s when I got scared.
The next test was a CT scan. My grandfather died from a CT scan. He had to swallow a fluid that the machine would be able to detect, but he had a bad reaction and never recovered. I told this to my English speaking nurse, who translated to the technician who told me not worry. If anything went wrong I could press a button.
Thanks for the reassurance, Doc.
But a CT scan was the best way to find out if the lump had metastasized and spread to other parts of my body, so what choice did I have? My grandfather was in his sixties and suffering from a cancerous liver, I’m 26 and healthy with a lump on my nut. Raquel appeared at this very moment, and I had time to tell her that I was about to attempt what my grandfather hadn’t lived through. She seemed about as relieved as I was that I’d have—thank goodness—a button to press! But we talked to the nurse again and she assured me I’d be fine, and to tell them if I felt anything strange. So in I went, and two minutes later out I came. I had no bad side effects, not even the warmth they warned me I might feel after the intravenous solution mixed in with my blood. The technician told me to drink plenty of water that day to help remove the solution and I was off to meet the doctor again.
Japan is nothing if not efficient, for though only two hours has passed, my results had all come in already. Everything looks good. Blood work doesn’t show high levels of tumor markers, the X-rays and CT scan don’t show anything unusual in any of the common places testicular cancer spreads to, not my lymph nodes, lungs, or kidneys.
Yet, despite this tiny glimmer of good news, I will have to return to the hospital a week later to have my testicle removed, as this is the only way to find out if the growth is cancerous, and to prevent it from spreading if it is. Once it’s removed they will dissect my poor lost testicle to find out what afflicts it and has made it so swollen and firm.
I hear that the surgery can be painful, but in Japan I can stay in the hospital for free, and they want me to stay there for a week to pump me full of painkillers. So now I have nothing to do but wait, and try not to worry, and to tell everyone I know CHECK YOUR BALLS and your BOOBIES! If anything is different, anything, please go to the doctor! I promise it won't be as awkward as learning you have a "tuma."
J.Darris Mitchell went through an inguinal orchiectomy (that's when they remove the cancerous testicle) in Japan. Click here to read about it. It was scary, but you can handle it. And please, if you so much as THINK something is wrong, see your doctor immediately.