The days and weeks following my operation were a pain, literally. Normal activities like walking and sitting down in a chair were tough. It was sore anyway, but certain movements made the area worse and brought on the John Wayne walk. Normal trousers also didn’t help, due to how they fitted in the crotch, so joggers were my chosen fashion statement.
I was unable to lift heavy objects for any length of time without a pulling sensation in my operation site. Not only did this limit me, it also limited how I could interact with Isaac. I couldn’t play with him as I had before and despite him asking, picking him up was impossible. He didn’t understand why and it upset him to see me acting so differently and being unwell.
It upset me too. I missed the bond that holding him close to me had given us. The sling sat unused and what used to be my favourite moments when carrying him, soon became just a memory. I felt like a bad father and that I wasn’t supporting him when he needed me. I couldn’t provide him the closeness that he desired, that the ring sling provided and it began to drag me down.
During the first 3 weeks, my anxieties went into overdrive. The concern over if my wound was healing ok and the uncertainty of what the lump was, left me constantly on-edge. I felt like my mind was racing and forever lost in another world, unfocused on any task at hand.
This anxiety manifested itself in ways that I hadn’t expected. I felt as though the anxiety filled me up from the inside and then at certain points, I would vent it in an angry and unreasonable snap, usually at Claire. This wasn’t my intention, but I eventually got to the stage where I didn’t know what else to do or how to handle the pressure and worry I was feeling. All I had in my head was that by week 3, I would have answers and be able to put the uncertainty to bed.
The third week after my operation came, the 30th of June and I still hadn’t heard anything about a follow up. So a couple of days later, I gave my consultant’s secretary a call to see what was happening. When I gave her my details and explained who I was and why I was calling, her voice came across confused. My file had no discharge letter attached to it or anything about a follow up appointment being needed. She informed me that my notes would have to be requested from the library and then she could arrange the next steps.
Disappointment doesn’t even come close to how I felt. I had waited 3 weeks to get some answers and due to administration issues, I would now have to wait even longer. So many questions flew around my head, but one stood out – ‘What if it was something serious and by waiting it caused my situation to get worse?’
The following week I left nothing to chance, I called on the Tuesday morning to find out what the next steps were. The same secretary told me that my notes and histology results were now on the consultant’s desk and as soon as he got to them, he would arrange how to proceed.
All that day I waited for an update – nothing. All the next day – nothing. I was starting to get more angry and was about to call again, when on the Thursday I finally received an appointment letter for the 17th July. I was relieved to have a date in place after all this time, but incredibly annoyed at how this error had slowed things down.
That week soon flew by and the Friday of my appointment soon came. I sat in the waiting room, my family at my side and I thought about what was to come. The ‘what ifs’ were at full strength and I found it increasingly difficult to keep the stress beneath the surface.
My name was called and I waited in a side room, to be seen. A doctor soon entered with my notes in her hand… ‘this is it’, I thought. My heart pounded and my chest felt tight. Until finally the words came out of her mouth, ‘it was a benign schwannoma‘.
Schwannoma. Funnily enough, I had heard this term the night before my follow up, in the movie 50/50. So, when the doctor explained that it is a tumour normally found around a nerve, I had a vague idea of what she meant. What I didn’t expect was the surprise in her voice when she informed me that she had never seen one in a scrotum before. There’s the silver-lining I suppose, being a medical anomaly.
I walked out of that appointment with an overwhelming sense of relief, like the weight of the universe had been lifted from my shoulders. I laughed and joked for the first time in months, without having that niggling concern behind every smile.
I decided to nickname my schwannoma, Winonna. Because, like a short-term relationship we had our fleeting moment with one another and, despite it being a volatile period and ending sorely, I would never regret our time together. I learnt many a lesson about my life from that experience – to go with your gut instinct, to appreciate what you have and to cherish the people in your life and love them with all that you are. The main lesson that I learnt was to always check yourself, because things could have been a lot worse and I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t felt it.
Life is precious and I feel so lucky to have mine. I have the scar to prove it.