Cancer Sucks


This post is extremely personal. I was originally posted back on Dec 13th, 2009 on my old blog, and since it’s been two years, I figured I’d re-post it in order to serve as another public service announcement.

In short, I was diagnosed with possibly having bladder cancer.  I was 35 at the time, and I made jokes about having cancer, just to deflect from the fear.  I literally scared myself, my wife, my family, and my friends because I was too much of a coward to go to the doctor.  I am reposting this for many reasons.  First and foremost, bladder cancer kills.  Second, don’t be a coward like me, and avoid the doctor.  The roller coaster of emotions that you put your spouse and best friends through will torment you for the rest of your life.  I will never forgive myself for that.

Having said all that, here’s my story.  Remember, this is from Dec of 2009, describing what happened to me in April/May of 09.  Also, when I typed it up, I’ll guarantee I was sauced.

Dec 13th, 2009
This is probably my most personal blog so far.  This post will have some pretty graphic mental images, mostly involving my genitalia and urinary habits, all revolving around bladder cancer.  I’m drafting this post up from some notes/emails I have saved from the time, so bear with me while I try to remember everything that happened. 

I’m writing this to pass on some very important information that all of us men need to know.

On Tuesday, April 14th, I started to feel a sort of a burning sensation when I urinated.  When I peed, it didn’t hurt so much as it was just kind of uncomfortable.  Most men would do what I should have done – call a doctor – when experiencing pain associated with their most prized of possessions, but for some stupid reason, I didn’t.  I figured that if it continued, I’d call my doctor.

The next day, while standing at the urinal at work, I almost collapsed.  I felt a sharp pain that can only be described as “passing Tabasco Sauce through my penis”.  Once I finished, I became very scared.  I’m only 35 years old.  Stuff like this isn’t supposed to happen until later in life, right?  It was at this point that I started dreading going to the bathroom.  That night, I checked myself out, and didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.  Due to my fear/stupidity, I didn’t say anything to my wife, Nancy.

On Thursday, I had to sit down to pee at work because it hurt so bad.  There’s something very emasculating to sit and pee at work, with tears of pain welling up.  That night, I finally told Nancy.  After she scolded me for not telling her sooner, we checked the little guy out again, and didn’t see anything.  I promised to make an appointment with my doctor the next morning.

When I woke up Friday morning, before calling the doctor, I realized I had some discharge.  Uh, oh.  I was lucky to get an appointment with my doctor at 9:30 a.m.  He checked me out and said that he thought I had a urinary tract infection (UTI).  My doc is a male, and I’d like to think the look he had on his face when he said “I’m sorry, but I have to get a culture, and it’s going to hurt” was true pity.  He used a Q-Tip that must have been reserved for King Kong and took a swab from my urethra.  It was pretty painful, but sadly, I was getting used to pain down there.  He said he’d call if he found something by the middle of the next week.  He prescribed three different antibiotics, and said I should be good to go.  Unfortunately, he also said something no one wants to hear: “Sorry, but no sex until this is fixed”.  Damn.

As I said, I am writing this from notes from seven months ago, and I don’t remember everything.  The note said:

  • Saturday – WAAAAAAAY to drunk to notice my burning pee
  • Sunday – WAAAAAAAAAAAAY to dehydrated to notice my burning pee

Nancy had a legal conference to attend in DC, and her firm was paying for a hotel at the Grand Hyatt.  On that Saturday night, we went to Game 2 of the Caps vs Rangers hockey playoff game.  That would explain the drinking.  Anyway, I don’t recall anything about that weekend and my junk.

On Monday, the 20th, the pain was back in full force.  My mind had convinced itself to only pee once, or maybe, twice a day.  I decide that “mid-week” is too long to wait for word from my doctor, and that I would call the doc first thing in the morning on Tuesday.

Tuesday morning brought yet another symptom: there was a red stain on my tighty-whiteys at work.  I say “at work” because my mind refused to let my body urinate when I woke up.  I had to urinate, but my mind knew how much it would hurt.  Because of this, I’d put it off as long as I could.  I called the doc and left a message.

Somewhere around noon the office called me back at work and said “Good news!  Your results came back negative!”  I was confused, to say the least.

“Ok, then why do I feel like I’m passing ninja stars through my junk?”  She didn’t know, but provided me a consultation to a urologist.  My office mate looked at me, with a really strange look, after the ninja star comment and asked if everything was ok.

Yeah, that was a bit awkward.

On Wednesday, I saw that I had a bit of blood and a cut on my foreskin (no, I’m not circumcised, and yes, I know that’s too much information, but it pertains to the plot…pay attention).  I went to see Dr. Rodriguez, a local urologist.  When I checked into the doc’s office, I REALLY had to pee.  As I said earlier, my brain was keeping me to one urination a day.  The nurse said I needed to provide a urine sample, and because I hadn’t urinated that day, I was ready to provide one.  I went into the restroom and almost collapsed because I had to stand to provide the sample.  I have a new-found respect for the handicap bars in bathrooms.  I then noticed the color: the urine was a bit orange-ish.

Dr. Rod (yes, that’s what he went by…insert joke here) walks into the exam room and after the formalities of meeting the man that is about to see my penis, he says “You have blood in your urine”.  That can’t be good. He had to check my prostrate for cancer, so I assumed the position.  “How ’bout them Orioles?” is a bad ice breaker at that point in time.  I then showed him the laceration on my foreskin, and he said “Well, that doesn’t look herpetic.”  My first thought was “Ok, now you’re just making words up!”

He prescribed Urelle, a medicine that will ease the pain during urination, but one side effect is that it will make my urine blue.  My inner 12 year old giggled. 

A lot. 

That night when I peed again, there was less pain, but in the bowl, it looked like someone had melted a Smurf. 

It was awesome.

Dr. Rod examined me and thought I might have kidney stones, so he gave me a consult for a CT scan.  An hour later I’m done with the scan.

The next day, Thursday the 23rd, I get an appointment with Dr. Rod at 1:30.  I arrived at Dr. Rod’s office and had to give another sample.  The nurse was a very attractive 20-something woman, so you can imagine my embarrassment.  I handed her my melted Smurf, and went into the exam room.

Dr. Rod looked at the CT films, and said (this is a direct quote, no shit): “Well, you either have one helluva UTI that the original antibiotics couldn’t attack, or… have bladder cancer.”

So, a minor infection, or “The Big C”. 

What, there’s no middle ground here?  Doc said that he would schedule me for a cystoscopy, a procedure where they would insert a “tiny” camera into my urethra and up into my bladder. 

Uh, ok, define “tiny”. 

He said “About the width of a number 2 pencil”. 

Ok, for the women reading this (no need to explain this to the men): “tiny” and “number 2 pencil” DOES NOT EQUATE when it’s in reference to urethra insertion!

Doc said that normally the doctor doing the procedure would give the patient a local anesthesia, but he stopped when he saw my face.  I must have had the look on my face that said “You’re planning on putting what where?!?!?!”  So, thankfully, he said “In your case, you’re being completely knocked out”.  He scheduled the procedure for the NEXT Friday, May 1st.

You know what was the worst part of the whole thing?  My friends and family. 

I deal with bad things by making jokes. 

For example, I told Nancy that if I DO have cancer, I’m getting that fucking ride on the Zamboni at a Caps game! (The rides are reserved for Make-A-Wish-Foundation folks)  Nancy would laugh, but then look at me and start crying.  My best friend, Mayson, came over and sat on my deck and I could see the tears welling up in his eyes, and no matter how much I wanted to joke about it, I saw how much it was hurting the folks close to me.  It was at that time I wanted to just crawl into a hole and not talk to anyone.  For the next week, we were all a basket of crazy.

May 1st, I went into the doctors office to get the procedure done.  It finally hit me that I might actually die due to cancer.  I was stunned.  No amount of jokes could keep me from thinking that I might leave this world, and cause pain and hurt to my loved ones.

The procedure went very well.  I got stuck with some GOOOOOOD drugs, and then led into a room with stirrups on the table.  I finally understood how vulnerable women feel at the OB/GYN.  I was told to count backwards from 10, and at 9 I was in la-la land.

The doc said I was fine.  No cancer, no UTI, but a not so rare condition called urethra strictures. Basically, some infection had caused the lining of my urethra to grow cell tissue around the inner lining and it acted as a dam, restricting the flow of urine.  Each time I urinated, the force of the fluids would rip (for lack of a better verb) the cell tissue off the lining of the urethra, and expose open wounds.

If I had drank gallons of water and peed like a Russian racehorse, I would have ripped the tissues off naturally, and they would have healed. Unfortunately, because I was a stubborn asshole, and didn’t seek medical attention, I was mentally programmed to pee once a day.  This allowed the cells to grow, and when I DID urinate, it made matters worse.

The camera going into my junk literally wiped everything out, and the lubrication used was an anesthetic, so I felt nothing.  Hell, I felt better than I had in a month.  The doctor gave me some Vicodin for the weekend, and by Sunday, I made love to my wife for the first time in weeks.

So, in conclusion, why did I type this long diatribe out for the world to see?  Because I learned a few things. 

First: bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer in white males, especially recent non-smokers. 

Second: There is a multitude of things that can go wrong with a man’s junk. 

Third:  A cancer scare can change your life. 

I realized how much folks actually care for me, and how irresponsible I was to my family and friends for not getting it checked earlier.  I’m also currently growing my hair out so that I can donate to Locks of Love.  The donation is the very LEAST I can do for cancer victims.
I say this to all of you: If you, or your significant other, has ANY sort of discomfort while urinating, CALL A DOCTOR.  Don’t do what I did, and try to make it go away with your non-existent Jedi mind tricks.  Life is too short to be embarrassed to show your junk to a doctor, and to fuck over your loved ones because of this stupid inhibition.  You owe it to yourself, and the ones you’ll leave behind in pain and heartbreak, to deal with a quick 15 minutes of being naked in front of a stranger.

I’m sorry if I have offended anyone with the frankness of this post, but I’d rather have a few of you get skeeved out than to see you go away.

5 responses to “Cancer Sucks”

  1. Dan;
    That was disgusting…not.
    I’m getting old also, and had a surgery this winter that bypassed the arteries in my legs and replaced them with gore-tex. There are some BIG arteries in your legs, so I’m sure I understand that this and that size things can be BIG in other contexts. Luckily, I got through a couple of tough surgeries and unless I start smoking again, I’m pretty good to go for the foreseeable future. (Can I bum a smoke? (Haven’t smoked since October….but I still want one.)) I sent a similar note as your blog post to my 3 brothers and 2 sisters, ie if you feel weird, get to a doc and get checked out!
    Best of luck down the road; and if only one other person gets a checkup or doctors visit because of this post, you have done good sir.

  2. Dan: Thanks for sharing. I’m sure it was painful to write it all down, but there’s plenty of truth here that I’m sure will help others.
    P.S. You’re a damn good writer. I shudder to think what you’d contribute if you were 100% sober. We might even be in Pulitzer Prize territory. 🙂

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