Is there a male menopause? As a man in his mid-50s, I have recently become aware of getting older. Increasing age has had a curious effect on my psyche. I am noticing, on an almost daily basis, that I am thinking, feeling and behaving in ways that are starkly different from my youth and earlier adulthood. I will share these experiences on this blog and hope others will join me in describing their own age-related quirks and oddities. I can't be the only one at this "funny age", can I??
Saturday, 1 February 2014
A ball-ache at 48
Courtesy of stockimages - FreeDigitalPhotos.net
As I zipped up my trousers, my physician peeled off his
latex gloves. ‘In light of your age, I’ll refer you to urology for tests’ he
said. We can’t be too careful.’
It was 2006, and my 48-year-old right testicle had begun to
ache several weeks earlier while watching a TV program about how men are prone
to neglect their health, particularly if the problem relates to their dangly
bits. I clung to benign explanations for the pain: perhaps my budgie-smugglers
were too tight, or maybe I had unknowingly crushed the sensitive orb when I
crossed my legs?
When the pain persisted, my hypochondriacal curiosity
prompted me to enter ‘testicular cancer’ into the search engine. Reading the
symptoms – a lump in part of one
testicle, a dull ache, or a heavy scrotum – triggered several days of
cupping, prodding and mirror-gazing that only aggravated my pain. I relented
and visited my doctor who in turn was now propelling me towards the specialist.
Three weeks later I am sitting in the urology waiting room
at the local hospital, fearing the worst, and visualizing malignant cells
multiplying and stomping, jackbooted, into the neighbouring testicular tissue
like the Nazi invasion of Poland.
‘Mr. Jones, please?’
I turn to see an attractive young woman in a white coat
smiling, and beckoning me to follow her. She has sallow skin and ebony hair, tied
back in a bob. I follow her like a faithful puppy-dog to the consulting room,
feeling a rising sense of unease in anticipation of my indecent exposure.
Once inside, after exploring the history of my problem, she rises
from her chair, moves a couple of yards away from me, motions me to also stand,
and asks me to let her ‘have a look’. I lower my denims and briefs to allow the
front-room furniture to swing fee. Standing there exposed from waist to knee, I
fidget, not knowing where to put my hands. She peers at my genitalia, ‘to check
for symmetry’ – apparently, observing whether my right ball is hovering at a
different altitude to the other. Disturbingly, as she scrutinizes, she purses
her lips and tilts her head. I conjure up lusty thoughts to try and inflate the
pipe-work a bit but, alas, all in vain; in the cold consulting room my meat and
veg resemble Bob Cratchit’s turkey, the last one in the shop.
Courtesy of hyena reality FreeDigitalPhotos.net
While I remain standing, she approaches, squats before me
and digs her finger into the suspect testicle.
‘Does that hurt?’ she asks.
I yelp, providing her with an answer. She continues the
examination by manipulating each ball between her thumb and forefinger, and cupping
each in the palm of her hand (presumably checking for the diagnostic heaviness
– if not, I’d been the victim of sexual assault). After returning to her full
height she instructs me to lie on the bed. Any embryonic ember of sexual
excitement is immediately quenched by the comic image in my head of my shuffling
across the room, hairy arse on view, trousers around knees, like a floundering
contestant in a sack race.
A male colleague with cold hands joins us and more prodding
ensues. At the end of the examination I’m told that my testicles feel ‘totally
normal’ but, in light of my age, they will arrange for me to return to hospital
for an ultra scan ‘just to be on the safe side.’
Two weeks on, I am laying on a bed in the X-Ray Department,
ubiquitous blue gown raised to my hips, while a black man, with hands the size
of pit shovels, moves a wand-like object three inches from my gonads as if
searching for precious metal. His verdict: ‘apart from a slight,
non-significant aberration in the right testicle, they appear perfectly
normal.’ He also tells me that the pain is probably due to ‘post-vasectomy pain
syndrome,’ a discomfort experienced by one-in-three men years after the
operation – a fact denied to me when I had the snip a decade earlier.
‘If this was your testicle, would you choose to undergo any
further investigation?’ I asked.
‘No,’ the radiographer replied, ‘I’d leave it well alone.’
‘That’s good enough for me,’ I said while rising from the
bed, thoroughly reassured.