Okay, strap yourselves in, because although the whole ordeal only lasted 5 hours there’s a lot to get through! If you have been diagnosed with testicular cancer, or you are going through something similar, this blog will let you know what to expect on the day of your surgery.
The day of my surgery was Wednesday 31 March 2021. The procedure is called an orchidectomy (or-key-deck-to-me). This is a fancy Latin word that basically means the removal of your testicle. This was my first operation since being 6 or 7 years old. I was born with too many bones in my ears, so I had to have some of them removed and my ears pinned back. Before then, I sort of looked like Plug from The Beano. I can’t remember much at all about that day, so this was my first real experience of surgery.
Arriving at the Hospital
I was told to arrive at the hospital at 12:30pm. Before getting there I had to follow some instructions:
- You should eat a light breakfast before 7:00am.
- No food or flavoured liquids after 7:00am.
- You can drink still, unflavoured water up until 11:00am and then nothing afterwards.
- At precisely 11:00am you must drink 250ml of still, unflavoured water.
- No chewing gum.
On top of this, I was also instructed not to smoke or drink alcohol for 48 hours leading up to the day of the surgery. No smoking for 2 days? Okay. No problem. So I arrive at the hospital at 12:30 on the dot just about ready to tear someone else’s balls off. Absolutely clamming for a cigarette! Anyway, when I check in they stick me in a room on my own (COVID-19 and all that) where I wait for roughly 2 hours.
In this room, one-by-one I meet a nurse (the gatekeeper) who has a pre-assessment with me; an anaesthetist (the one who will put me to sleep); and a surgeon (the remover of my testicle). They are all extremely nice and they all make sure I am aware of what is about to happen and the risks involved.
To be honest, at this point you’re in it to win it, so you could do without hearing about the risks. But I understand they have to tell you these things, so fair enough, I sat and listened. Don’t worry, just to give you an idea, the anaesthetist tells you about the extremely rare risk of having a reaction to the anaesthetic or getting an infection etc. It’s all pretty much normal risks you’d associate with any surgery.
The Hospital Clothing
At no point leading up to my surgery did I ever think the experience would be humorous or entertaining. But look at the state of those pictures! Cue the first set of giggles. I was left on my own in a room with a pair of see-through paper knickers, two polka dot hospital gowns, a pair of slipper socks, and a sleek pair of ‘fit legs’. Basically a pair of tights. Absolutely amazing! I giggled my balls off in that room for about 15 minutes. Looking back, I sincerely hope they do not have any cameras in there.
The tights are to prevent deep vein thrombosis. The socks are for comfort and to walk around in. The gowns are for front and back, to protect your modesty. Lord knows what the knickers are for! They covered nothing, looked absolutely ridiculous and itched like hell! Once I was all glammed up and ready to paint the ward red, it was time to go.
I’ve seen a couple episodes of ER in my lifetime. I saw Mr Clooney in a bright, sterilised, laboratory-looking surgery room with blue walls and big shining lights. I was expecting to be wheeled into one of these with the surgical team all geared up waiting for me. This was not the case. I walked into a room through a set of double doors and shook the surgeon’s hand. I walked in!
We were in some sort of small half-way corridor-looking room with double doors at each end. The side walls were lined with cupboards and containers, much similar to a room in a GP practice. I thought this must be a meeting point before I’m put to sleep and taken to a bright blue, laboratory-looking surgery room. But then why are all the crew in here with me? Surely they don’t all watch me fall asleep and then collectively escort me somewhere else?
Was this it? I couldn’t believe it. Here I was expecting Clooney and a TV set surgery room, when in reality these geezers may be about to remove my testicle in a bloody pantry.
There’s a bed in the middle of the room. I didn’t realise it was for me until I was asked to lie down on it. Then I notice the bed doesn’t have any wheels. Well, I can’t say for sure as my memory is hazy, but I am pretty certain this thing was stationary. Unbelievable! A store cupboard surgery starring yours truly. Bloody charming! I have no idea whether or not my surgery took place in that very same room, but I would love to know! What I do know is that the anaesthetic didn’t take long to kick in at all.
The team talk me through what is going to happen again, reassuring me everything is going to be okay. One of them is aggressively tapping the back of my hand to find a suitable vein, and then they give me the magic potion. I feel a tiny scratch on the back of my hand as they put an oxygen mask over my face. They all talk to me softly as I drift off – I’ve never fallen asleep as fast in my entire life. I want some of this stuff to take home with me!
The surgery started at about 3:00pm and I woke up around 5:00pm. Over in a flash. I woke up in another room with multiple beds and just one other patient inside. As I opened my groggy eyes, a nurse was nearby to see if I was okay. Now, I’m going to break this down into sections…
There is a particular brand of shower gel that is available in most supermarkets, which comes in a range of bright colours and fruity ‘flavours’. You can get a strawberry one, a mango one, a lemon one, etc. They also do a mint one. Have you ever tried to wash your private areas with this? Lord have mercy – talk about fresh! I’ve never known a cold burn like it. It’s like you’ve dipped your bits in toothpaste and then rinsed them off in the Arctic Circle. Why on earth is this a thing!?
Well, this was my very first sensation. It wasn’t as bad as the shower gel. It felt like my testicles were being caressed by a polar bear, without it being too overbearing. The second sensation was one of grogginess and feeling a little bit sickly. I was told all of this is normal. So remember – feeling tired, sickly, and like you’ve been licked by Listerine is completely normal.
Because I was still a bit groggy and in a little bit of discomfort, I didn’t do too much poking around the area at first. I looked at the scar on my groin and the bandaging around it, but not much else. I tried pulling back the cover to have a look at the whole package, like the worst reveal ever. Like the worst episode of Stars In Their Eyes you’ll ever see. I should have brought a smoke machine to jazz things up a bit. Tonight Matthew, I’m going to be…extremely sore and tender looking.
Admittedly, at first glance, I wimped out a bit and pulled the cover back over me. I started a conversation with the other patient in there instead. He was an older man who had a procedure to inject his spine with nerve pain relief. It was a pleasant chat that helped me wake up properly and feel human again.
After you wake up properly the nurse will offer you some water, some toast and some pain relief. Never one to turn down free food or drugs, I asked for 2 lots of everything. I’m told the surgery went really well and as expected, with no issues. Excellent! I’m also told if I feel okay I can leave within the next hour or so. Brilliant! That quick! However, I must pass water first. Keen to get out of there as soon as I could, I asked if I could go for a wee.
As I got out of the bed I looked back at the sheets, recoiled in horror and almost fell over backwards. The nurse noticed me turn white and my eyes bulge. She said, “No don’t worry Ian, you haven’t done a poo, that’s just the sterilising fluid from the surgery.” I thought I’d bloody shat myself! Excuse my language, but I was mortified! So remember, don’t be embarrassed and make a fool of yourself over the brown stains on your bed. The nurses will find it hilarious.
I waddle my way over to a disabled toilet, guided by a nurse. Once I get in there, it’s my next opportunity to take my gown off and have a good luck at things in a mirror. Cue the second fit of giggles. No one told me my balls were going to be in a sling! Yes, a sling! Imagine a white, lacey thong but with no undercarriage, just the strap around your waist. Attached to this at the front is a tiny hammock, where my balls are resting, looking like two wrinkly old men on holiday. Absolutely hilarious!
I stood and chuckled in that toilet for a good 5 minutes, howling as I turned around and posed in the mirror. I had no problem weeing, I wet myself laughing! God knows what the rest of the ward thought I was doing in there. I wish I could show you what it looks like! But my little IAP is poking out of a hole at the top of the ball-hammock, looking like some wood mouse peering out of its burrow, which would be highly inappropriate to post here. Instead, just take a look at this picture and try to imagine yourself in this. I still find it hysterical even now!
Leaving the Hospital
So that was it. Just 5 hours after arriving I was free to go, one fruit-sized tumour down and one prosthetic testicle up, with absolutely no idea of what had just gone on. Happy days! Both the nurse and surgeon give me some advice and paperwork to follow when I get home. They make sure I have someone to pick me up and look after me at home for at least the next 48 hours. Surprisingly, I am not given any medication to take with me, I’m just told to stock up on paracetamol and ibuprofen. To be fair the pain rating is about 3 out of 10. But because it’s a dull ache in your testicles, it sometimes feels more like a 5.
I’m also told:
- not to do any exercise at all for 3 weeks
- not lift anything or do any housework for 1 week
- not to remove the dressing or shower for at least 5 days
- to shower without rubbing or soaping the area vigorously after 5 days
- continue to use the sling for at least 2 weeks
- not to have sex (as if that’s an option right now)
One important thing to mention is that the surgeon told me I will feel normal again in around 3 to 5 days’ time. But he stresses that I should not be fooled by this and still take it easy. He tells me there is a risk of infection or bleeding in the scrotum, but only if I do not take his advice and avoid taking it easy. This is a major operation despite the quickness of it, so it is extremely important you rest up and do as little as possible as your body heals.
Aftercare and Recovery
That concludes my day in surgery! Over in a flash, I waddled out of the surgery with a mean looking scar on my groin, a new plastic testicle, and a scrotum that felt about half a stone lighter! Thank you to everyone who sent their messages of love and support, and to those who have been sharing this blog far and wide, it really means a lot!
Catch up with me again in the next blog where I’ll talk about getting home, the aftercare and my recovery. Currently, it feels like someone is delicately flicking me in the ball sack every 10 seconds. But every hour or so they throw a tantrum and proper wallop me one. I’ll let you know how that goes! Fingers crossed, I may also have the results of the histology report on the tumour by then too!