– Mr. Joakim, please pull down your pants and underwear and lay back on the table. I want to feel your testicles.
That’s how weird my afternoon began yesterday, Saturday. But this story’s genesis actually began the day before, late Friday afternoon.
It was while I was in the shower, after a sweaty workout at the hotel’s gym that I felt a rather large lump while washing my undercarriage. As the hypochondriac I can sometimes be, I panicked and came close to slipping on the wet bathroom floor, likely giving myself a bad whiplash and some bruises, as I stepped out of the shower on trembling legs.
Ok, so this is how it begins, I thought.
At seven o’clock last night, after carrying this burdon for a few hours – both physically and emotionally, I told Charlotte about my discovery. We had just been served a couple of beers and ordered a few of our favorite dishes from our favorite table at our favorite restaurant along a busy soi near Silom Road.
Talk about a Triangle of Sadness; there we sat, Charlotte, me and my poor testicle in some kind of shell-shocked state. We ate our food without much being said and then walked home to discuss what to do next.
During the evening, Charlotte researched and located a couple of private hospitals near the hotel, and this morning I emailed both with a brief summary about the lump. I’ll take care of this next week, I reasoned as it was Saturday. But after only an hour, both hospitals had answered me.
The first hospital’s email was your basic auto-reply. The second mail surprised me. In it was a proposal for an examination for later the very same day where I would be seeing both a urologist and a radiologist. In addition, the email contained an attachment that specified how much the various procedures would cost me.
A five-minute walk to the hospital. In through a magnificent entrance and to what looks like the lobby of one of the city’s more luxurious hotels. Registration and guidance to the waiting room in the adjacent Surgical Department where a dozen or so nurses, most of them wearing small, white hats, are busy at work. They’re cruising smoothly between waiting room chairs where patients are either dropped off och or picked up and chaperoned to one of the many examination rooms next to the reception counter.
After just a few minutes, I am taken to the hospital’s on-call urologist. We don’t shake hands or fist bump, but he asks me kindly to sit down and tell him about the growth in my right testis (no, doctors don’t seem to have time to read much of the journals before meeting patients here either). It was immediately after I told my story that he asked if he could feel my balls.
Gloves on. Cold hands. Cold hands that only get marginally warmer from thin rubber gloves. It’s okay, just as long as he doesn’t decide to check the old prostate as well, I thought. He leaves my anus alone.
– Okay, Mr. Joakim, I think you have something abnormal here. I’ll call the nurse and she’ll take you to the Radiologist and he’ll use an ultrasound system to identify what the lump is. Then you’ll come back here to me and we will discuss a strategy. How does that sound?
A strategy? WTF? Ok, I guess I’ll have to wait a bit before letting my latent hypochondria run amok.
A nurse gently knocks on the door and with a warm smile below her little white nurse’s hat, asks me to follow her to the Radiologist. A new waiting room. A smaller one, but with nice illustrations on the walls. Yes, I guess this is how it begins. Gently and sensibly. Just before being hit with the hard truth about…
I put on a slippery, silver robe given to me by a new nurse. Then I walk into the new examination room where I am once again asked to lie down on an unnecessarily hard table.
A new nurse, (the fourth or fifth?) steps into the room and greets me softly. She then abruptly pulls apart my skimpy robe and places several strips of green surgical cloth so that they frame my now exposed genitalia. I’m pretty sure the pattern forms an almost perfect square. Like an old TV where my soon-to-be sixty-year-old crotch has the involuntary leading role of this increasingly intense drama.
When the nurse (without the white hat) is finished with the arrangement of strips below my navel, the doctor of radiology walks into the examination room. Behind him, two women and a man, all clad in chalk-white scrubs, gloves, and masks. Med-schoolers?
– Mr. Joakim, would it be okay if we have the company of these students during your examination? They are from a nearby medical school here in Bangkok.
What do you say in that situation? I’m already there, preparing for what I am assuming is going to be something much, much worse. I am convinced the ultrasound will show that I have a large, malignant tumor and/or that both the scrotum and my pee-pee are now full of small, aggressive metastases. That I’m already a goner.
But instead, I hear myself say,
– Sure, no problem whatsoever. The more, the merrier!
While my last comment likely flew a bit over their heads, the gang seemed to interpret it as, “It’s a Go!”, adjusting their protective masks, and, with an almost comical synchronization, the trio stepped into the room.
Now five adults are standing close, close, close to the table where I lay, defenseless, exposed, naked where it counts. They’re crouching over the doctor, unabashedly peering straight at my private parts
While I’m lying there, staring up at the ceiling, hoping that the examination will go fairly quickly so that the audience can be dispersed, the Radiologist moves his plugged-in microphone slowly, slowly over my genitalia. He is possibly being extra methodical for the sake of the students.
The students are whispering eagerly to each other and I wonder what their conversation is all about. Are they impressed by the Radiologist’s skillful microphone movements? Or, do they see something on the screen that they’ve never seen live before?
Meanwhile, I’m just hoping, praying I won’t get one of those rare unwarranted erections.
Back in the waiting room. I feel slightly sticky between my legs after the Radiologist’s smear, which I tried to remove with a small towel, given to me by a nice nurse once the ultrasound was done. A sixth or seventh nurse steps up to me. She’s wearing a tiny white hat.
– Mr. Joakim, the results have already arrived and the doctor will see you now.
The Urologist looks tense. Is his diagnosis that burdensome? Does he want to feel my balls one more time? Maybe there will be even more candidates now? Is this a friggin’ freak show, or what?
The doctor shows me an educational illustration, a kind of map of the male reproductive system. Looks quite advanced. Definitely more “points of failure” than what I remember from biology class at high school.
– Mr. Joakim, you have what is called an Epididymal Cyst. It’s a pretty big cyst, but the ultrasound shows a structure that tells me it’s benign, just like most cysts in this region of the body. Still, you do need to keep track of it. So it doesn’t grow, you know?
– So Doc, you’re telling me that I have a goddamn, testicle-hugging Alien hanging on the inside my scrotum? How the heck am I going to get rid of that sucker? That’s what I thought. But instead, I said,
– Ok, so what do I do now? Wait and see?
– Well, Mr. Joakim, as I said, you need to keep an eye and a hand on the cyst’s growth. I suggest you get a new ultrasound in four to six months. If it has grown larger than its current size, let’s say beyond 5-6 centimeters, you should have it surgically removed and analyzed.
And if it gets even bigger, well, then I’ll actually have three testicles! Yayyyy!!!
Out of the urologist’s office. Sitting now in one of the waiting room’s comfortable armchairs. A sturdy woman in a power suit approaches me. She smiles broadly. In one hand she’s clenching a bundle of papers.
– Mr. Joakim, how would you like to pay for your examination?
Charlotte and I have a couple of different insurance policies, (corporate + private). If the deductible is roughly the same as the healthcare cost, then we usually pay ourselves. Not least to avoid arguing with the insurance company.
I pay the bill with cash. It comes out to about $150. I’m very content with how smooth this whole process has been. From email to the exam in approximately six hours. From being deeply worried to feeling somewhat relieved, in no small way thanks to the hospital’s super nice and competent healthcare team.
When my receipts are neatly tucked away in my wallet, I step out into the street, bask a moment in the late afternoon sun, and then head off to Villa Market to buy a couple of cold beers, a bag of pistachio nuts (lime, and chili flavored and ridiculously good). Then home to tell Charlotte that my new body part is unfortunately here to stay. At least for a while.
In some strange turn of events, I have thus become a foster parent to a four-centimeter-long cyst hanging on my right testicle. And there’s not much I can do other than wait and hope that the Alien doesn’t grow.
All said, it feels good to lighten my…er…heart and to have shared this strange episode from my life on the road.