Dealing with cancer has been a painful reminder of my own mortality. It reaffirms the fact that someday, somehow, I’m going to die. And now I feel like I’ve been kissed by the icy lips of the grim reaper. He put me on his list and even if it’s 60 years from now, I fear that cancer is how I’ll go.
The scary truth is that I could get cancer again. There’s only a 3%-4% chance of developing new cancer, but the fact remains that cancer survivors are at higher risk. This worries me, and quite frankly, it frightens me with a depth that cannot be pacified.
I find myself questioning many things. Most often, I question my health. I have been obsessive about my health. I always tried to eat organic food, avoided pesticides, bought ridiculously expensive body products that were free of parabens and other chemicals, and only used natural home cleaners. I treated my body like a temple because I believed I was building a wall around myself that would keep out all the deadly things in the world. And yet there I was with cancer. Should I have just eaten anything I wanted?
I look at the people around me. Family, friends. Most of them don’t worry about what they eat. They don’t worry about the air they breathe, the chemicals and the contaminants. They go through each day with peaceful bliss and they never get cancer. Statistically, they probably never will have cancer (and I certainly don’t wish it upon them!). So of course I ask, “Why me?”
Asking that question is part of the grieving process. And there is usually no answer. Why me, why me, why me? Nobody knows. Bad things happen. Healthy people get sick. Unhealthy people smoke a pack of cigarettes a day and live to be 102. That’s how it goes.
The first week after surgery was very difficult, but it’s getting better. On a lighter and less depressing note, I kind of like having one testicle. Isn’t that odd?
My underwear has a little more room in the pouch. I like that. And you know how sometimes the seam in the center of your pants gets pulled at the wrong angle and parts your balls in a painful way? That will never happen to me now. My one ball just moves around freely.
It still freaks me out to see myself naked and I try to avoid it. Having one ball looks exactly the way you think it looks. The ball has moved to the center and hangs there. I try to use humor to help. I call myself a uniballer.
There are many thoughts that cross my mind. Too many to process sometimes. I don’t know if cancer is what will ultimately kill me, but for now, I’m cancer-free and alive.
I had my radical orchiectomy surgery yesterday to remove my right testicle, which had a cancerous tumor in it. The surgery went smoothly. I’d never been so scared in my life, but I made it through. The pain has been pretty intense. Medication helps a lot, but it’s normal to still have a little discomfort.
This all happened so fast, I haven’t really processed it yet. I just got the news last week (see previous post). I never expected this to happen, but now I’m Nathan, cancer survivor.
When I was asleep for the surgery, I had a dream about Beyonce running for president in 2016. It’s so funny, but that’s what I dreamt. So when I was waking up, my husband and parents were at my side looking over me. Through heavy eyelids, I whispered, “Beyonce is the answer.”
“What?” they inquired.
“I’ve had an epiphany. Beyonce needs to be our president in 2016. She will solve the world problems. I don’t know who her running mate should be, but she is the answer.”
I’m just glad this is over.
I was hoping it was nothing.
One testicle felt firmer and larger than the other so I made an appointment with my doctor. We did the usual small talk, caught up, and then he did the exam. He looked puzzled.
“Hm,” he said.
Nobody ever wants to hear their doctor say “hm.”
“Let me send you over to imaging to get an ultrasound of your testicles. That will give us more insight into what’s going on,” he said.
I went to imaging and the woman took a long time reviewing the screen as she did the ultrasound. I knew that wasn’t good. I’d hoped she’d just scan them, say they looked normal, and send me on my way. But instead, she must have spent 15 minutes capturing different angles.
I did get to hear the sound of my scrotum. It sounded like a Lady Gaga song. “Rah-rah-ra-ah-ah.” That was fun.
She sent my results over to a radiologist and then came back into the room.
“We’ve found something on your testicle. We’re going to do a CT scan to get a closer look,” she said.
Tears filled my eyes. “Okay,” I said, trying to contain my inner Mariah, who wanted to have a complete breakdown and tear up some silk curtains or something.
The CT scan went quickly. “Your doctor will look at these and talk to you about the results,” they said.
I went to the doctor’s office and waited outside. He had other patients, of course, so I tried to be patient. Every man is fighting his own battle, I reminded myself.
A nurse passed by and saw me. “Oh, hi,” she said warmly. I had talked to her earlier and really liked her. “We’ve received your results and we’re aware of the situation. We just need the doctor to review them and talk to you.”
Fuck again. I don’t want there to be a situation to be aware of. I want it to be nothing. I want to hear that everything is fine, it was a false alarm, and I can finally go home and curl up in bed and cry.
Another nurse summoned me. She was somber and gave me a private room. The doctor came in. He wasn’t smiling.
“You have a large mass,” the doctor explained. He showed me the results and it was almost double the size of my other testicle. I can honestly say I have the biggest balls of any guy I know.
“Are you saying it’s cancer?” I asked.
“It’s a large mass. The results are symptomatic of cancer, but I can’t confirm it. We’ll need to send this on to a urologist to examine the results and meet with you. But either way, your testicle will have to be removed. Even if it’s not cancerous, we can’t leave it in there with the mass.”
(But I love my testicles. Both of them.)
Yesterday I met with the urologist and he confirmed the results. He called it a cancerous tumor that had grown from inside the testicle. That’s actually good news because it’s self contained. It does not appear to have spread and the doctor isn’t concerned about needing chemotherapy or any kind of treatment once the ball is removed. He can’t rule it out, but doesn’t anticipate it.
I’m thankful it isn’t worse, but angry about what it is. Nobody wants to go through this, but it looks like I am.
I know that I’ll be alright. Testicular cancer is easily treated and most men enjoy a 100% recovery. But still… It’s cancer.
I guess I should buy a witty bumper sticker now or wear a wristband. I’ll probably come up with a bunch of jokes too. I was going to ask the woman doing the ultrasound if she could hear a heartbeat but chose not to.
I’ll be having surgery soon and will post an update. I’ve been assured by everybody that this is very easy to remove—outpatient surgery so I’ll go home the same day—and everything is going to be alright.
Our baby boy is very charming and social. He loves to smile and coo at people when he meets them, and he’s good with eye contact. My heart swells with pride every time someone comments on how sweet he is.
In the midst of all this huggable, kissable sweetness, Daniel and I have noticed that a lot of women speak variations of these phrases:
– “Ooh, he’s going to be a lady killer.”
– “He sure is going to break a lot of girls’ hearts someday.”
– “Awww, he’s found himself a little girlfriend.” (Spoken if he merely looks in the general direction of a baby girl.)
Huh? Our baby sometimes falls asleep face down in a pool of his own drool. In his spare time, he enjoys laughing at his own farts. I’m not sure he’s advanced enough for people to start making assumptions about his love life.
I realize no harm is intended, but we think it’s kind of creepy. Let’s start with the fact that he really is just a baby. He’s still discovering his feet, and I’m skeptical that he has any romantic notions about the little girl in the stroller next to him.
The other thing that’s so surprising is the assumption that he likes girls. How would you know if he likes girls or boys—or both? It will still be years before we know that. Yet even as a baby, he’s already being conditioned about what the “correct” attraction is. Boys are supposed to like girls. That’s the way you’re supposed to be, little guy. If you feel differently, there must be something wrong with you.
I was surprised that assumptions were made this young about children. It made me wonder what effect that had on me, and if my childhood could have been a little bit easier if every stranger I met didn’t try to remind me I was supposed to like girls.
My earliest memory of liking a boy was somewhere around age 5. I don’t remember much, but I know I wanted to hold his hand, and I distinctly recall the feeling that I was wrong to want that. I’ve often wondered how I could have such internal guilt at such a young age. Now that we’ve witnessed what people say to our son, it all makes sense. No wonder the LGBT community has such a difficult time with our childhoods! Look at how young we start being shaped by the expectations of others.
Let’s look at things from another angle. Say I’ve just met a straight couple and their baby boy. I look at their son and say, “Aww, he sure is going to break a lot of boys’ hearts.” Or maybe better yet, I’d say, “Oh, I think he’s going to be my son’s first boyfriend!”
I don’t care how liberal the other couple was—if they were straight—I suspect most of them would act shocked and offended. How dare I make assumptions about their son! How dare I imply he’s gay! I must be pushing my homosexual agenda onto their child.
Oh, but wait. Wouldn’t it be fair for me to say they were pushing a heterosexual agenda on our son? They’d find some reason to disagree. “It’s not the same,” they’d argue. Things would probably erode pretty quickly from there.
Bottom line: Let’s stop assuming the sexual orientation of children. It’s pretty ridiculous. If a child is gay, you’re only going to make it more difficult for him to “come out” because it goes against the social cues he’s observed since the day he was born. Let’s be neutral and inclusive of all children, and stop worrying about who they’ll date when they’re older.
Memory Lane. You know the place. We all go there sometimes. It looks different for every person, with varying sights, sounds, and smells, but the feeling is universally understood.
We were younger then. Life was easier, although we didn’t realize it at the time. And although we may not regret leaving that place, we still feel a tinge of sadness when we reminisce about the way things used to be.
As my time in Tennessee grows shorter, I’ve been reflecting on the life I’ve lived here for the last decade. A few days ago, I was in the area by a townhouse I once rented. I decided to stop by the subdivision and go to the walking trail by the river.
It was sunny and the woods were lush. I could hear the hum of insects in the trees. What is that sound anyway? Cicadas, I think, but I’m not sure. It’s a summertime sound everyone in the South knows, and yet I’ve never bothered to learn what it is. It’s daunting to think I won’t hear that sound anymore when we move to California, at least not in our backyard, which probably won’t have trees.
I walked down the trail and looked for a little path that led to the river. Years ago, when I lived there, there were trees that had been knocked down by the 2009 tornado. They created a bridge that you could walk right over the water on.
The path had since become overgrown with greenery, and I suddenly felt self-conscious about forcing through toward the water. What if I walked through poison ivy? What if I became covered in ticks or stepped on a snake? And where the hell did my sense of adventure go?
I pushed through the thick growth and got nervous as I found myself halfway in. I couldn’t see the path I’d come from anymore. Nobody knew I was there. There were cups and other litter in the dirt, so I knew others had found the same path. I suddenly wondered if someone could be there at the moment. Jason Voorhees? I got nervous, but I powered through anyway and found the water.
The bridge of trees wasn’t there anymore. It was uneventful, but I was glad I’d done it. I turned around and pushed my way back through again until I found the trail. Thankfully there was no poison ivy, no snakes or ticks. Take that, mother nature!
I walked down a different path near an area that was believed to be haunted. The Battle of Stones River took place there and quite a few soldiers had died there. I remember when I lived near there, I would hear a strange tapping sound coming from the ceiling in my 2 story town home. The problem was, nobody was upstairs, so who was making that tapping sound? I always used to say it was a ghost from the battle—a soldier who’d died there, but a friendly one who didn’t give me any trouble. I just hoped he wasn’t watching me poop.
Eventually I’d had enough nostalgia. I made my way back up to my car after walking by the townhouse I used to live in. Somebody else lived there. They had red curtains from World Market. I remembered the beautiful old chestnut bookcase built into the living room next to the fireplace. I wondered what books they had on their shelf.
I said goodbye to the river, to the woods, the town home and the friendly ghost, and drove away knowing I’d probably never go back there again. When I got stuck in the obnoxious left-turn exit that is impossible to get out of because of all the traffic coming from both directions, I suddenly remembered why I’d hated living there.
Yeah, fuck that. I won’t be going back.
Yesterday The Verge posted an article about how mobile web browsers were completely broken and how poor the overall user experience was on mobile. (View the article here.)
I agree that it’s broken. It is increasingly frustrating to view websites on mobile, which is disappointing since so many websites now have a mobile design—which is supposed to make viewing easier.
But the most glaring problem was demonstrated right on The Verge’s page: Overwhelming banner ads! Those are one of the biggest problem with mobile websites today.
George Takei, one of the most popular and influential celebrities on social media, is also one of the worst offenders. All day long, he posts linkbait articles for strange sites (Diply? What the fuck is Diply?), which are bogged down by banner ads. Worse yet, their paper thin content is spread out over 5 pages, which you have to keep clicking on “Next” just to keep reading and keep seeing more ads on another page.
The mobile web is broken, but I don’t think it’s because the technology is poor. Browsers like Safari and Chrome give me a smooth, reliable experience on my phone. Instead, I think the biggest problem is this shitty web design and banner ad overload that has become the norm these days.
All trends come and go eventually, so I’m hoping that good, clean web design becomes popular again. (How did it ever go out of style anyway?)
When Daniel posted this article on healthy snacking to my Facebook wall:
I responded appropriately:
Joking aside, I’m usually a healthy eater. But sometimes you just have to indulge in a candy bar or three.
Recently we were at a restaurant with friends, and we walked past a group of women by the entrance.
“Ew, did you smell that?” a friend of ours asked.
“No, what?” I responded.
“It smells like cherries with a little bit of fish,” he said.
I smelled the air and caught a whiff of something cherry-ish. Not exactly cherry, but I suppose that was a close enough description. I didn’t smell fish, but it was a restaurant, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I did smell it.
“That’s what vaginas smell like when women are on their period!” our friend said.
“You’re making that up. Why would a vagina smell like cherries and fish?” I said with skepticism.
Our friend is somewhat colorful at times, and I often think he makes up stories to get us laughing. But he insisted the smell was permeating from the group of women.
We ended up standing in that area for another 10 minutes while we waited. The whole time, I could smell cherry and wondered if I was basking in the scent of menstruating vaginas. It certainly made the evening interesting.
And I will never think of cherry the same way again. Thanks, friend.
Learning how to apologize is one of the first social cues we’re taught as children. “Sorry for breaking your crayon,” “Sorry for not sharing my toys,” “Sorry for hurting your feelings.” Although it’s something we’ve had most of our lives to master, most adults suck at it. Are apologies a lost art?
The intention of an apology should be to express regret for our actions and then follow-through with a sincere effort to make it up to the person. But so often, I’ve observed that people really just want to get it out, get it over with, and skip past it without really taking the time to care how the recipient feels.
Have you ever heard a person sigh and say, “Jeez, I said I was sorry. What more do you want from me?” Or worse yet, have you ever been the one to say that? It’s important to note that apologies do not erase the actions and they are only the first step. After hearing an apology, the recipient may still be hurt or upset by the actions. That’s okay. Let them be upset, and be willing to listen to why they feel that way.
Another common mistake is when someone apologizes, then immediately starts explaining or justifying why they did it. The problem with this approach is that it’s focused on one’s self. Rather than pausing to let the recipient process what’s been said, the attention remains on the person who’s apologizing.
It’s good to explain the actions that caused offense, but it should be done later in the conversation, after the recipient has had time to work through things.
Perhaps the worst apology of all is the non-apology apology. I often hear people say, “I’m sorry you were upset by what I said.” Look closely at that sentence.
I’m sorry you were upset by what I said.
This is not an apology at all. In fact, it adds insult to injury. The first problem is that it deflects ownership. The person isn’t saying they’re sorry for what they did. Instead, they’re saying they’re sorry the recipient got upset, as if it’s their own fault. This is about as selfish as it gets when it comes to poor apologies, and yet I notice people say it all the time.
So what’s the ideal way to apologize?
A few days ago, I was watching a children’s TV show with our son, “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.” Since he’s a baby, he’s too young to understand the dialogue, but we do watch TV with him every once in awhile. We believe TV is okay in moderation, as long as it’s not a dependency or form of parenting.
The episode (#26: Daniel Says I’m Sorry) had a great lesson on apologies and a mantra to go with it:
Saying “I’m sorry” is the first step / Then, “how can I help?”
This simple but effective quote was repeated throughout the episode to help it stick, and I think it’s helpful even for adults. Maybe we could all learn something from children’s television!
Apologizing is just the first step. It’s important to ask how we can help when we’ve hurt someone, inquiring on how we can make it better, and taking the time to really listen to how they feel.
Apologies can be uncomfortable, and it’s difficult to admit when we’ve done something wrong. I think perhaps that’s why so many adults are bad at apologizing. But discomfort can be good. It’s your mind’s way of stretching and dealing with conflict, and sometimes we have to ride it out and be present in the moment so we can grow and learn from it.
If we skip through apologies with insincere and half-hearted words, we’re robbing ourselves of having a healing experience and robbing the recipient of the opportunity to find closure on an event.
So let’s all say we’re sorry and mean it. Apologies are an important part of emotional well-being. We all make mistakes and we inevitably all hurt other people. We can’t prevent this, but we can always improve how we deal with it.
“As a gay dad, do you ever get harassed for raising your child without a mom?”
That’s a popular question many gay dads are asked, and my answer is YES—but we’re not harassed by the people you’d expect.
So far, we’ve never encountered any problems from straight people. When we’re out with our son, it’s very common for strangers to ask us, “Are you his dads?”. We always smile and tell them yes, and they say something nice, such as, “Well he’s so cute” or “Congratulations guys.” Heterosexual strangers have always been very supportive of us.
But within the gay community, it’s a different story. At some point, almost all of our friends have made a joke about one of us breastfeeding, or called one of us “mom.” Some friends are persistent about it too, teasing us almost every time we see them. (Time to get new friends, perhaps?)
This is an ongoing problem that many gay dads deal with. If you go to any gay parenting forum, you’ll find that a lot of men report the problem, and really hate it. We have a dream to be fathers and it may take years to accomplish. When we finally get there, we just want to enjoy the title of “Dad”, and yet the people who are supposed to be part of our own community want to force a maternal stereotype onto us.
Two men really are raising a baby—without a mom. We’re not “playing house” or being “mom substitutes.” We’re two dads.
I’m working on clear and concise ways to convey the point to gay people when they make a mom joke. When you have a baby there in your arms, usually squirming or grabbing nearby objects, it can be a challenge to make a firm point to someone. This will be a work in progress.