A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs – jolted by every pebble in the road. – Henry Ward Beecher
My husband, Thad, was first diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1981. It manifested itself as a persistent infection of the right testicle with pain on the right side of his body. After six weeks of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication, the swelling and lump were only slightly reduced, and a biopsy was scheduled. The biopsy showed a seminoma tumor. Rather than cut into it, the entire right testicle was removed, and an implant was put in its place.
Needless to say, we were frightened. Thad was 32, I was 26, and we had just become parents to our daughter, Francesca, 11 months before. We thought: People this young don’t get cancer, do they? Neither of us knew anything about testicular cancer, nor what the operation entailed. I did not want to know. What I did know was that I loved my husband, and we had plans to raise our daughter together, play with grandchildren, and grow old together. And nothing was going to change those plans! I cared for him, not his testicle, and told the doctor as much. Husband alive and well was mandatory – testicles were optional.
When they wheeled Thad into his hospital room after surgery, neither of us wanted to ask exactly what was cut off. The nurse said that as soon as his bodily functions returned to normal, Thad would be discharged. To Thad, that was the sound of the charge, and every couple of minutes he wanted to stand up and try to urinate into the hand-held urinal. As I helped him, I made sure not to look for fear that my face would give away anything that might hurt my husband. It was during one of the attempts that the doctor came in.
He helped Thad settle back down in the bed and asked how he was feeling. Thad said he felt pretty good with just a little pain. Then the doctor pulled back the covers to reveal my husband’s resplendent and very naked privates (a complete three-piece set!) basking in the room’s daylight!
“Well, what do you think?” his doctor asked me with pride in his voice.
Embarrassed and not having any earthly idea of how to respond, I quipped,
“What’s not to like?”
The doctor explained. “I want you to appreciate this. I could have given him a small, medium, large or a “wow” testicle. I think I matched his right with the left one pretty well.”
It would be 16 years later when Thad and I would meet with this same doctor again to remove another seminoma tumor, this time in his left testicle. His hair was grayer, we were fatter, but the operation was the same. However, the incisions looked markedly different. His first incision was wider and still noticeable after 15 years, while his second incision is barely visible 10 years later. When asked why the difference, his doctor responded, “I got a lot better.”
To this day, we laugh when we remember these events. Those were difficult and uncertain days when neither of us thought cancer could happen to us or knew enough to know what to expect. However, in each incident, our doctor used humor to take away some of the fear that we were experiencing. We have used this method of coping time and time again, as we have been caregivers for each other through the myriad of medical issues in our 37 years of marriage. No matter how serious the situation, we have always found a way to get a prescription of humor filled!