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"You know you wouldn't be here right now if this was good news."
"Yes."
"We wouldn't have you running all over the city for these tests if this was nothing."
"I know."
"You seem like you have a good head on your shoulders and you're handling all this pretty well."
"Yeah, I’m okay. I just want to know…"
"You have a tumor. And it's most likely cancerous."

*******

I wake up that morning with the same dull ache in my groin that I'd been feeling on and off for the last week. A feeling any guy would recognize as the lingering after-effect of a quick “brush” of the nuts – the ghost of what had been intense pain. I'm living with my girlfriend Niki and had mentioned to her several days prior that I thought I had pulled a muscle. I climb into the shower still half asleep and, as I begin to shampoo my hair, I have what I can only describe as a flash back. In it, I am sitting on my doctor’s examining table after a standard physical a year earlier.

“Do you do self-exams on your testicles?”

I remember having to suppress the urge to reply inappropriately. “Uh, not specifically.”

“You need to start. It’s important. You’re reaching the age where you need to be checking yourself for anything abnormal. Any bumps, a lump, a painful area. Just do it once a month in the shower. Use soap, it makes it easier to feel the contour of the testicle. It only takes a minute.”

I had probably performed this self-exam about a month after the physical, but never since. I start running two of my fingers over the area where the pain seems to be coming from. A testicle isn't exactly perfectly smooth, and you're trying to feel something through a layer of pretty course skin, but so far I wasn’t feeling anything…

Whoa. What the fuck is that?

I stand there, frozen, shampoo dripping into my eyes. I must look like someone listening REALLY hard for a faint noise - half bent-over, head cocked, mouth open, intense look of concentration - except, upon closer inspection, I’ve got both hands wrapped around my balls. Like a man reading Braille for the first time, I slowly, gently run my middle finger over an area near the back of my left testicle, trying to relocate what I think I just felt. And then I feel it. A bee-bee size lump.

It's not a lump!

Still standing under the steaming water, I feel the uncomfortable prickle of a sweat breaking out on my body. This is new, this notalump. This was most definitely not here two weeks ago. I think. The ache seems to be emanating from this point. Or is it? It's hard to tell. I can't localize it. Maybe if I push a little on it OWOWOWOWOWFUCKFUCKFUCKsorrysorrysorryfuck!

I'm flooded by that feeling you get when you miss the last step on a set of stairs - every nerve in your body firing at the same moment. It's panic. That's what that is. But I don't panic. I'm famous for not panicking. Even when I find a painful thing on one of my testicles. I just deal with it. Okay. Fine. I'll deal with it.

I get out of the shower and dry off, but I'm drying myself down there like I've got an open wound. I know there's something there and I've felt the pain it's ready to inflict if I'm not, careful. I stand there, wrapped in a towel, trying to focus on what I should do.

call niki
no
call your folks
fuck no
call brian
for what
get on the internet
forget about it
see if it's there tomorrow
take an advil
decide later
go into work

This isn't working. I'm off work today. I have an interview in the afternoon, but that's it. I know what I have to do and I realize this is a good day for it. I call my doctor.

"Uh, hi. I need to see Dr. Cohen today. It's pretty urgent."

"I’m sorry. The next appointment is in three weeks."

"I've found a -- Fuck it -- lump on my testicle."

"Can you be here at eleven?"

It's 10:15.

***

I'm sitting in the waiting room of my doctor's office surrounded by men with AIDS.  His office is in Chelsea and he has told me that the majority of his patients are being treated for the disease.  I used to think that this somehow made him more noble than other doctors in the city, but I've come to realize it's just a matter of demographics.  What has me feeling a bit uneasy is the fact that, in a room full of AIDS patients, some obviously in the later stages of the disease, I am the one the nurses keep glancing at.  I've been told twice in thirty minutes that the doctor is on a conference call and will be RIGHT with me.  Some of the AIDS guys are starting to look a little annoyed at all the attention I'm getting.

Finally the doctor comes out from the back, looking decidedly harried and asks me to come back. 

"So what's this about a lump?" he says once he's closed the door. 

He's got an office that could belong to an aging college professor - stacks of papers, medical journals and patient charts cover every inch of desk space.  It's cluttered but cozy.  I remember feeling immediately comfortable in that office the first time I was there.  The only thing that destroys the illusion of a man who gives lectures on Henry James or Operant Conditioning is the door off to the side.  It leads to his private examining room.  And there is nothing academic about that room.  Cold.  White.  Immaculately clean.  The kind of room that brings back childhood fears of needles, latex gloves, cold stethoscopes, needles.

I tell him my shower story and he just nods.  He tells me not to worry yet.  There are a lot of things this could be so let's just go into the exam room and check it out.

Okay.  But I don't love the sound of that "yet."

He tells me to drop my pants and hold my penis out of the way.  

Now, because I've devoted many years to the pursuit of the perfectly timed comedic quip, I tell him with a little chuckle that I'm going to need both hands.   He stares up at me with a look of utter bewilderment.  This will not be the last time I see that look from a doctor in the next few months.

Once he locates the Notalump, he begins an extremely thorough examination of both testicles.  Oh, and when I say thorough, I mean painful.  Gut churning, teeth-clenchingly painful.  The way he's squeezing them, it's like he's trying to get them to squeek!  This also marks the first of many, many times I will be, quite literally, man handled.

After an agonizing thirty minutes (seconds) of this, he stops.  I'm looking up at him like a cat who's just had his tail stepped on.

"How could you do this to me?  I thought we were friends!"

He tells me I can pull my pants on and I think that we're going to go back into the comfy office where he will tell me it's nothing, just a normal part of getting older.

"Well, there's definitely something there."

This is sufficiently vague to snap me back to attention.

He says that I should cancel any plans I have that day because I am going to have to get some tests done.  He's going to make all the calls but it's going to take a little while.  I'm supposed to meet a director about editing his commercial in half an hour and it's a gig I really want.  He tells me to go, but to keep my phone on and expect his call in a couple of hours.

"Listen, Jamie…I don't want you to get too worried.  We just need to get a few tests to determine what this is."

He sounds sincere, and I'm beginning to feel a little calmer as I head to the door.  But then he squeezes my shoulder.  I've seen this guy on at least three previous occasions and, short of a handshake, he's never touched me before.

That squeeze is meant to be reassuring; it's meant to soothe my fears and let me know that I'm in good hands.  All it does is send chills down my spine.

***

An hour later I'm sitting across from a director in a swanky SOHO loft-space.  The interview is going well, but I'm on auto-pilot.  The guy might as well be speaking Farsi.  I just smile a lot and occasionally throw in a reference to one of my previous films that I hope will impress him enough to just give me the job.

"Blah, blah, blah South Park.   Blah blah Lost In Translation blah blah.  Apparently it's working, because he's beginning to tell me why he'd like me on set, when my cell rings.  I had told the guy when I arrived that I might have to take an extremely important call, but he still looks annoyed when I excuse myself to take the call.

It's my doctor. 

"James?  It's Doctor Cohen.  Do you have a pen and paper?  I need you to write this down."

I grab my notebook and start scribbling.  He's gotten me an end of the day appointment with a urologist, but first I need to go for some tests; first to get blood drawn and then for an ultrasound.  The results of each test will then be messengered directly to the urologist.  He says both places are expecting me and I shouldn't have to wait.  I thank him for all his help and he tells me again not to worry.

I come back to the table and the director announces that he'd love to work with me and that he'd like to meet later in the week to go over storyboards.  I'm doing my best to seem enthusiastic, but all I can think is that three different New York City medical facilities have rearranged their schedules for me - maybe it's time to call Niki.

And tell her what? She'll just spend the whole day worrying and this might all turn out to be nothing.

But…

Wait until you have something to tell her.

Yeah.  Yeah, okay.

 

***
To Be Continued

 


 

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Jamie's Ball: V Recap
Jamie's Ball V was an unqualified success! This year the gods smiled and we had some pretty good weather and the crowds responded. People turned out in big numbers and enjoyed the best party yet. Special Guest MC Evan Klein entertained with his particular brand of (dare I say?) comic genius (I do!) while DJ Chibi blew the roof off the joint and kept the dance floor packed. This year's prize giveaway was off the chain (as we used to say in Indiana) and got people in an absolute tizzy, with folks who won more than one prize clamoring to "trade-up." The prizes included a Canon digital camera from Digital Color Concepts, a DVD collection from Focus Films, a CD collection from Virgin Records, a video i-Pod from Tekserve and three, $500 dinner certificates from Assenzio restaurant! Yup, you heard right. A huge Thank You to everyone who donated such awesome prizes.

Be sure to check out the Photos page for some of the best highlights in years.