Tuesday, August 28, 2007

No Laughing Matter?

"I was diagnosed with cancer in 2000. Lymphoma. I lost a testicle... my HMO had a really crappy co-pay." -- Robert Schimmel

When I first heard that line -- spoken during a radio interview Schimmel did on the "Bob and Tom" show -- as I was driving down to Las Cruces almost three weeks ago, I very nearly drove the 6 off I-25, I was laughing so hard.

I'd like to say I've grown, and become ever-so-slightly more relaxed and comfortable with my ailment in the 20 months since I was diagnosed with TC. To an extent, I think, I have. But I can't claim a newfound ability to laugh at TC... because I've actually cracked jokes about it for awhile now.

The first one I remember was a little over one month after the surgery, during one of my first trips back to The Old Crow in Dallas (sidenote: I MISS THE CROW!!!!!) with a few of my former coworkers. One of them -- who I've never especially liked -- sneered something along the lines of "so, you're down to one, huh?"

"Yeah, but that's OK," I replied. "Your wife has both of yours." It was reflex, a knee-jerk response, and it was one of the most singularly brilliant things I've ever said (current and past AG'ers know who I'm talking about, and know why it was such a good line.)

In the months that followed, I became a little more comfortable with joking about being, well, "down to one." I told another friend I had developed a case of "nut rot," only to have to settle her down and reassure her that, actually, testicular cancer wasn't as bad as that.

When on a skateboarding mission with Monk in Denton last year (one year ago Monday, in fact) I had to stand on an electrical transformer box to catch the shot just right. "It's not so much that you keep biffing the trick," I told him. "It's the amount of electromagnetic energy irradiating my ballsack right now that most frustrates me."

I've commented to others I'll always be a Republican, because I still have the right one. And I'm still waiting on my call for a date from Sheryl Crow, who apparently isn't put off by the Uniball* concept (then again, I don't have seven consecutive Tour de France titles under my belt, either. Sigh.)

Last week, when I called and left a message for my friend Lee, I mentioned on voicemail I had my first New Mexico doctor's appointment the next day. "This won't be a big deal, just an appointment to get the ball rolling again." A pause. "That could be a pun, I guess, though it wasn't meant to be."

The loss of 50% of that which makes you a man isn't funny... except for the fact that, yeah, I admit, it kinda is. In the months that followed the surgery, as I became comfortable enough to sing in the car once again... I questioned whether my voice had suddenly gotten higher. (It hadn't.) I would also sometimes wonder if my... pectorals... weren't getting bigger (it's because I'm overweight and out-of-shape, not because I'm not producing enough testosterone.)

I've dreamed The Other One has fallen off. Twice. Ya gotta admit, that's hilarious. (If you don't see it, imagine the frantic -- then relieved -- self-grope upon waking.)

Fact of the matter is... I think I've laughed about this more than I've cried. I'm chuckling to myself now as I write this.

And on this, the one year anniversary of the "there's a spot on your lung," that's what I'm choosing to focus on. Oh, and also the fact my new doctor, an affable British chap, described observation checkups for TC as "well-baby" visits during my appointment last week. "Just to reassure everybody that everything's fine," he explained.

I think I'm going to like my doctor. I also think the day you can laugh at cancer, is the day a corner is turned.

*I'll never look at a certain brand of pens the same way again.

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