As I drove towards the clinic my heart was thumping in my chest. It was getting late, about ten to seven in the evening. When I entered the clinic, it was practically deserted save for one night receptionist serving the desk. “I came to see Dr. William,” I said.
The receptionist gave me a quizzical look. “Do you have an appointment?”
Before I could reply, a man came out of an office opposite the desk. “Gladys, I shall be-” he stopped in mid sentence. “Mr. Flodna?” I nodded. “Come this way please.”
Everything was happening so fast, I was not even having time to think. I trudged towards the office. I did not even confirm if the man was Dr. William. He could have been a janitor for all I knew, but my mind was too numb to do anything except follow orders. The room was dark save for the light that emanated from his lap top and from another screen. “I prepared the ultrasound equipment after Dr. Brooks phoned me. Can you please remove your pants and lie down on the couch?” I did as I was told and was subjected to the barrage of questions Dr. Brooks had already asked me before. How long had I noticed this? Was it painful? While this question and answer session was going on, he was putting on some disposable gloves and was squeezing a transparent gel out of a tube. “This is going to feel a little cold” he said, and without waiting for a reply smeared the gel on my swollen genital. In the past few days my right testicle had been examined, prodded, groped, squeezed and now gelled. Dr. William placed an ultrasonic probe on it and moved it around whilst looking at the images which were appearing on the screen. The images that were being displayed were incomprehensible to me. After about three minutes of this examination, he lifted the probe and handed me a piece of tissue. “Here, you can clean yourself up and put your pants back on.”
I was dying to know the result of the examination. I had had enough of Dr. Brooks’ evasive answers; I wanted to know what I had. It was as if Dr. William was reading my mind. “You have a tumor about seven centimeters wide. Although we can only be certain after performing a biopsy, I’ve seen enough of these to say that you most certainly have seminoma.” He could just as well have been speaking in Chinese. His answer did nothing to enlighten me on my condition. Dr. William must have seen the blank look on my face. “You have cancer,” he said unceremoniously.
All of a sudden Dr. Brooks’ diplomacy seemed infinitely more appealing. A brilliant radiologist Dr. William may be, but his interpersonal skills were atrocious at best. The room started to spin around me. I had to put a hand to my head to steady myself. A million questions were running through my head, so fast that I was not able to pin one down for long enough to ask Dr. William, who took the initiative. “Most probably the cancer is malignant, but we can only be sure after performing a biopsy.”
I was still coming to after the first shock, so I did not fully appreciate the implications of his last statement. “So when can we perform this biopsy?”
“We can only perform a biopsy after the surgery.” I frowned. It was the first time I anyone had mentioned the word surgery. “Surgery? What surgery?” Dr. William looked at me with the same expression that a teacher would give a pupil after he realized that the last hour’s lecture had gone right over his head. “To remove the testicle, of course.”
“What?” I screamed without even realizing it.
Dr. William was unfazed by my reaction. Most probably he had seen this type of behavior innumerable times before. For the first time I detected a sliver of compassion in his voice. “From the scan I would say that the tumor has been growing for some months now. We have to remove it. It might be that it reached some blood vessels and has spread. There’s no time to lose.”
I felt nauseated. I couldn’t believe what was coming out of his mouth. I felt as if I was in a nightmare. Until two weeks ago I was the picture of health. Now I discovered that I have cancer, and on top of that I was going to loose a testicle. And that was probably just the beginning of my woes. Dr. William looked at his watch. “Talk to Gladys on your way out,” he said, finally displaying a hint of diplomacy. “She will arrange for an appointment with a surgeon. Do you have insurance?”
I knew that the company I worked for provided its employees with health insurance, but until then it was just a booklet which we were given at the beginning of each year never to be opened or looked at. “Yes,” I managed. “But I don’t know the name of the insurance company.”
“Don’t worry. You can bring the form with you the next time you come.” And that was that.
I trudged towards the reception where Gladys fixed an appointment for the following week. We sorted out the insurance requirements and she bid me goodnight. I almost stumbled on my way out, still feeling light headed from the experience. The pang of the cold air on my face shocked me back to my senses. I stood motionless at the top of the stairs, close to tears. For the first time in my life I dreaded what the future might bring. I had never felt so alone and helpless. It was the fourteenth of January; the worst day of my life. – To be continued