There is a rather stupid convention common in the upbringing of boys and men: because we are supposed to be strong, we ought not to acknowledge our weaknesses. As any weight-lifter could tell you, that is totally counter-productive. If you realise that your biceps are not as strong as they should be, you can adjust your training to make them stronger.
Towards the end of last year, I was flirting more closely than usual with complete breakdown. I had a persistent cough, exhaustion, and my elbows hurt. I went to the doctor about the cough (I have a deal with my wife: I go to the doctor when she tells me to. Which means about 8 times more often than I would if left to my own devices.) While there, I didn’t mention my elbows. My wife was horrified and sent me back.
The doctor examined them, could find nothing wrong, so sent me to an ultrasound.
I’d never had my elbows ultrasounded before, and frankly, it scared the shit out of me. But I went, and you know what? It was fine. Didn’t hurt a bit. I was way more scared of that than I was of eg training with sharp swords, or fighting Lois with a pollax.
They found nothing wrong, and then I was off to Italy and a complete rest. That fixed the cough, the exhaustion, and the sore elbows.
Now, go back through this post and replace “elbows” with “testicles”.
See? It is totally illogical, but totally normal, for one body-part to be ok to talk about, and another not. Especially illogical when you’re talking to doctors. Dammit, any part of the system can break down. And their job is to help you fix it.
But it’s really hard to do. Cultural conditioning and all that.
I say bollocks to cultural conditioning. Two of my friends, Phil Crawley and Bill Ernoehazy, have recently survived testicular cancer. I can’t imagine how much more difficult their treatment was than my piffling little ultrasound, and it was their example that really pushed me over the edge and made me drop my drawers and show my doctor my nuts. Bill recently got the all-clear, which inspired me to write this post.
So, on the principle that one good example deserves another, here’s me, a bloke, telling the world that once upon a time I had sore balls, and went to the doctor. If I can do it, so can you.
That shouldn’t really be necessary, but observation and experience suggests that it is.
So, Bill and Phil, I salute you both. Balls of steel, gentlemen, balls of steel.