Tuesday, December 29, 2020

A Return To Love - Marianne Williamson

This book invites us to re-examine our relationship with God. Across two parts 'Principles' and 'Practice' the book covers areas as varied as 'miracles' and 'work'. The book defines love as what we are born with, and fear as what we have learned. We are encouraged to our engage in the spiritual journey of accepting love back into our hearts and lives through the author's reflection on 'A Course In Miracles' by Helen Schucman. It is an accessible, deep book with a grounding message: we have a choice about how our lives go.

Find out more by clicking here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Two: Smooth Egg Intact

These trousers will be forever associated with an enlarged scrotum.

Welcome to Part Two [updated for Movember!]

I'm discovering that writing this down is more of a therapeutic release that anticipated.

Reminder: ladies - get the gentlemen in your life to check their testicles regularly.

Getting a testicular cancer diagnosis is one of my two reasons for doing Movember annually.

Here we go...


2: Smooth Egg Intact

Tuesday 1 September I went back to school. It was 'teacher training' day and I was delivering  a session (yeah I'm that kind of employee/ teacher).

The mood at school was nervous and pretending not to be. A combination of COVID-19 restrictions, risk assessments, masks, clearning products, hand-gels, seeing colleagues/ friends etc.

After that it was back to 'COVID-19 normality'. I pretty did my thing as normal: starting teaching as I always did - planned out my timetable, got my books, replied to emails, set up lessons, did photocopying.

I hadn't really thought about the ultrasound - until I got the letter 'Wednesday 16 September'.

'Oh ok' I thought.  'That's good - it's in the afternoon on my least-busy teaching day. I can be back in school on Thursday no problem.'

Coming back to school, I had some new trousers and shirts to wear as I'd lost weight over lock-down.

My swollen testicle still felt like a smooth egg. No bigger.

But I was more aware of it in wearing new clothes.

(It's got to the stage that whenever I wear these trousers, I'm immediately reminded of how it felt. Our brains are fascinating.*)

A slight, fleeting, but ever-present discomfort.

Men reading this will know what I mean when I say - I felt the need to adjust myself regularly.

I liken to things like this:
- waking up in the middle of the night, and taking a while to get back to sleep
- leaving the house and remembering that you needed to bring something...but you're not sure what
- starting a conversation with someone intending to ask a question, and getting off-topic

I remember on Tuesday 15 September, I really had a go at a student. They were not organising themselves at all: not communicating about losing books, they had left their work on the train more than once, they were moving house...there was always some ridiculous story going on. And they were moaning about having some serious stuff to deal with.

I said something along the lines of, "I'm have a hospital appointment on Wednesday for something that is potentially challenging - but I've organised the teaching for you guys. As long as you're in communication, you can sort out anything."

I taught my usual lessons on Wednesday in the morning, and left after lunch to get to the hospital on time. I arrived in good time, and waited.

Then waited some more.

Then I had the ultrasound. This involves a gel being put on the area, smoothed on, and then a machine being placed on the gel, and moved around.

I've seen my wife get ultrasounds in the course of our fertility treatment.

Despite possible suggestions for me to have an ultrasound as part of checking me as part of the fertility treatment, I'd never had it. No other examinations had necessitated it.

Until the smooth egg-sized thing in my scrotum.

The guy doing my ultrasound said the gel would feel warm (it did) and he was going to move the machine around a bit (he did) and that it might be a little uncomfortable (it was).

He then said "I can see there is something there. I need to speak to my manager about it."

That was the first time where the smallest alarm bell began to ring in my head.

As I cleaned myself, I breathed deeply with my mask on, and lay back. I began to count the ceiling tiles. And notice the cracks. And then count the lights. I then closed my eyes and began meditating: noticing my breath, feeling my heartbeat, observing the thoughts coming and going.

After what felt like ages, he came back and said "I've made an appointment for 11am tomorrow. Just come to this ward and ask for urology".

I listened, repeated back what he'd said to ensure I'd understood it, and left.

Smooth egg intact.

I got home and drafted emails to work explaining they'd asked me to come back to hospital on Thursday, and it was in the morning, so I'd need cover for my lessons.

I thought I'd be back in the afternoon for my lessons.

As it turned out, Wednesday 16 September was my last day at school until Monday 2 November.

*It would be remiss of me if I didn't say how good these trousers are. I have such trouble finding things that are short enough in the leg with the right waist. Frustration abounds. So when I discovered Spoke trousers I was blown away. So I do tell everyone about them. Click here to find out more and get a discount - and if you buy - I get a discount too! Win/Win!

Saturday, December 12, 2020

One: I'm Not In Any Pain

My Mask Has Been My Constant Companion

This is the first in a series of posts writing down what I've told a large number of times [now updated for Movember].

So much so my wife has started to roll her eyes when I tell the story.

Hence me writing it.

It's pretty real. And somewhat graphic. By that I mean - if you're a guy, you might find yourself squirming a little.

If you're woman - then tell the men in your life to check their testicles.



1: "I'm not in any Pain" 

This had all started in July.  School had already been out for a week. Not that it meant much - I'd been teaching both online and in-person and was particularly tired (more so than most years...nothing like a pandemic to really mess things up). I was spending time reading and relaxing. Not really waking up any later. My wife was working and we were both at home.

One weekend I noticed my right testicle was beginning to swell. It had happened gradually. A slight feeling that something was off. A different sensation wearing underwear. Subtle, but unmistakable. Men reading this will know how a few millimetres can make a difference. My initial reaction was no reaction. Except I after feeling it, I knew something was off. After a conversation with my wife, she confirmed what I thought:

"Book an appointment with the doctor tomorrow".

Wednesday 22 July, I saw my GP. I was in a mask. He was in a full hazmat suit (yes Covid Times). He examined me fully - and whilst uncomfortable, it wasn't painful.

I had wondered if it was something to do with fertility. Having been through (and continuing to be on*) a proper roller-coaster with attempting to have our own family, (three failed rounds of IVF, lifestyle changes, supplements, and an eventual diagnosis of endometriosis and adenomysis for my wife...we were left with 'unexplained infertility'. A whole other story.) I wondered if it was varicose veins in the scrotum. My doctor said:

"If it was - for want of a better phrase - it would feel like a bag of worms."

"I'm not in any pain" I shrugged. It was probably more to reassure myself than I realised.

I felt as if I had a smooth egg in my scrotum. Zero discomfort.

He wasn't sure what it was, so wrote a referral for me to have an ultrasound.

The next week I went and picked up the form and drove to the ultrasound department at St George's hospital. I had been under the impression from the doctor that it would happen relatively quickly.

The receptionists felt they had to repeat themselves to me about how I would get an appointment when my details were entered on the system.

Looking back, I appreciate how challenging their job is. Clarity is sometimes favoured over a polite demeanour when dealing with the public. Especially during a global pandemic.

I realised there was not much I could do - other than be patient.


PS Looking back, my red mask has felt like a constant companion. The way it felt on my face. The sound of my breathing through it as I sat in waiting rooms, or had my testicles examined by a doctor. It's become a reminder of the journey.

---end note 1---
Click here for Part Two: Smooth Egg Intact

---end note 2---

Getting a testicular cancer diagnosis is one of my two reasons for doing Movember annually.

Here's the link to sponsor me - "your dough will save a bro"


*As of August 2021, that particular roller-coaster came to an end. I might will write about it.