Of course, these are all excuses related to a much bigger issue. Society has such skewed visions of men talking about their health - we’re supposed to be seen as strong and able to heal ourselves. According to a 2016 study by the Cleveland Clinic, only three in five men actually go to their annual physical, and just over 40 percent go to the doctor only when they have a serious medical condition. 53% of all the men surveyed reported that their health just isn’t something they talk about, and 19 percent admitted they will only go to the doctor to stop nagging from their significant other, a point I can usually understand.
Simply put, most guys don’t like to go to the doctor. I am no different. In fact, I could probably be the poster child for not going to the doctor unless someone forces me. Towards the end of the last school year, I was unable to talk between a sore throat and feeling incredibly lethargic. I still refused to go to the doctor because I don’t like going to the doctor. Overall, I have been pretty healthy in my life, so I didn’t really see the need to waste two hours of my day filling out paperwork and answering routine questions from the doctor. Yes, I feel fine. No, I don’t have a cough. No, I’ve still never smoked. Yes, this is total waste of my time.
I told Mallory I wanted to see a doctor, and after she was done commending me for actually agreeing to see one, she asked our neighbors for advice and they recommended a family practice close to our home. On October 18th, I made a call to schedule an appointment. Of course, being a teacher, the only time I could call was during my planning period. Calling the doctor and saying the word 'testicle' in school was a bigger concern to me than anything at that point, as sometimes students come back to grab a forgotten library book. Luckily, no one interrupted, and I made a doctor’s appointment for October 20th. It is a testament to medical practices how quickly they can get you in as soon as you say “lump in my testicle” (and also to be able to avoiding laughing while saying it).
Talking about your testicles is an extremely personal matter, but it's an under-discussed issue. Men will avoid talking about it out of embarrassment, especially in a professional environment, which makes sense. It's awkward. But I've overheard women in the teacher's lounge and hallways openly talking about lumps in their breasts, thanks to a widespread awareness and acceptance of breast cancer. Why should it be different for men? Having these open conversations about testicular health, along with regular self-checks, is the key to early action.
Despite my initial fears of embarrassment and unprofessionalism, I told Brian about my medical concern and said I had made an appointment for later in the week. He was 100% supportive and has been this entire time. From the start, he has said, “Nothing is more important than your health. You take care of you, and we’ll take care of the kids.” That is truly the mark of a strong principal and further solidified my appreciation for making this choice to join this school.
As the date of my first doctor's appointment drew closer, for some reason, in my head, I already knew I had cancer.
Click here to read the next part of my story, in which I have my first ultrasound.
On Thursdays, I am chronicling my journey from discovery to the beginning of chemotherapy. To read through my story up until this point, please click here.
Editor's note: This entry was cross-posted on the Testicular Cancer Foundation's blog.