I went back to the day job on Saturday. The doctor has placed me on light duty for a few weeks, but there are a few things I can still do that fall within the requirements set by my physician and, more importantly, my wife. The problem is that, to some degree, I’ll have to look very hard to find them.

I’m used to doing everything at work, which is not to say that I don’t practice effective delegation–I do–but I’m always the dynamic one, the person who can get as much done as any other two people in the store. Right now, that’s not possible and I’m having to delegate even more out while I search for things that I can do without straining myself. Saturday was particularly rough. My job, though I’m not digging ditches or playing linebacker or anything like that, is a bit more physical in nature than some jobs. There is a great deal of walking, lifting, pushing, pulling, bending, squatting, climbing, and twisting that I normally do without thought or concern. Saturday we received our weekly shipment of merchandise from our warehouse and I was not able to do much of anything with that. Too many boxes over fifteen pounds, too many carts full of merchandise too heavy for me to push. So, I mostly walked around feeling useless and doing the few things I could to make sure things got done. All that movement, something I had not done much of during my week recovering at home, took a harsh toll on me and by the time I left Saturday night, I was in a fair amount of pain.

Yesterday, though, was better. I managed to pace my activity a little better, setting aside some tasks that I would normally delegate out because they would be easier for me to accomplish. Any heavy lifting–hell, any lifting at all–I gave out to the staff, although there is something very non-chivalrous about asking a 105 lb. girl to lift a box of detergent for you. Thankfully, my staff cares enough about me to understand what I’m going through and is not giving me too much grief over it.

I’m getting ready to head back to work now and, even a little sore, I’m at least glad to be back in some semblance of my normal routine. I get up, take a shower, get dressed, go to work, and come home to write, making all right with the world. The only added task to my day is the fifteen minutes or so where I have to lie down so my wife change get me bandaged up for the day, her chance to play Nurse Ratchet or Florence Nightingale, depending on her mood. She is taking good care of me, though, and for that I’m grateful.

I also have about 4000 words on the new new novel idea and I’m having a great deal of fun working on it, so this may be the project I stick with for a while. It’s not looking like I’ll have another book to submit to agents by the end of the year, with everything else going on in my life, but that’s okay as I haven’t really submitted my last one all that much. I’ll eventually get back around to submissions, but for right now I’m too busy rediscovering how much fun it is to create to worry about what to do with my creation.

It’s been one week since I had my surgery and I went back to the urologist today for a follow-up visit. All things considered, I feel pretty good. I’m starting to get some of my old energy back and, though I’m still working on building up my stamina post-surgery, I don’t feel that extreme fatigue that I suffered before the operation. I’m itching to get back out and do things like tennis and even mowing the yard that I’ve been unable to do during my recovery. Also, thanks to the hair growing back in the area they had to shave for the surgery, I’m just itching. Worse, as the hair grows back around the incision, my bandages are sticking to the hairs, making my nightly wound care feel like someone pouring napalm on my lower abdomen.

Still, it’s better than having cancer.

Today, the urologist came in, checked that the incision was healing properly, and gave me the news I had been hoping for—I can take a shower again. A week of sponge baths is more than enough for me. He confirmed that what he took out was a seminoma, a rare, but highly treatable, form of testicular cancer. I was then scheduled to have a CT next week to make sure the cancer has not spread anywhere else and to see a oncologist the week after to discuss radiation treatment. Seminomas, I have read online, respond very well to radiation, so hopefully the duration of such treatment will be kept short and the side effects will be minimal. I was also cleared to go back to work tomorrow, although I’ll be on light duty—no more than fifteen pounds—for about three weeks, which may prove to be a problem in a retail environment where nearly everything I do requires lifting more than fifteen pounds. Part of me is anxious to get back to work, back to a routine that feels like a normal life. I visited my store yesterday and told the staff members there what I had surgery for—only the other managers knew before—and I’m sure everyone there will know by the time I get back tomorrow afternoon.

In other news, I thought up a new idea for a novel last night that I may start working on this evening. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve had the idea for some time, but I didn’t start fleshing it out until last night, running it by my wife while she changed out my bandages. I’ve been at a complete stop on the writing front for the past few weeks while I try to figure out how to fix the first part of Wielder and wonder about what project I want to work on the most. Most of all, I think I’m having a lapse in confidence, a little voice in my head that tells me no matter what I write or how good it is, it will be impossible to sell it in this economic environment. I find myself looking for the most commerically viable option, when what I should be doing is listening to whichever story speaks to me the strongest and writing that, no matter what happens after it is done. Still, as an unpublished writer today, I must take into account how sellable a manuscript is nearly before all other factors and keep an eye on what trends are out there. The most important thing I can do right now, though, is to force my ass into a chair for a thousand words a day, regardless of what I’m working on, so long as I’m working. I think returning to the day job, reclaiming that schedule, however irregular, will help me commit to more productivity on the writing front.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I will continue to post updates on my ongoing treatments and my hopefully triumphant return to the writing life. In the meantime, I thank everyone who has sent good wishes my way.

As of Friday afternoon, I am a cancer survivor. It seems a bit odd to be saying that, at 32 years old and feeling pretty darn good, all things considered, but it’s true.

I went to the hospital in nearby Paris Friday morning. The surgery was scheduled for noon, but I had to be there early to get ready and generally entertain the hospital staff with my off-color humor. My wife and I were led into a recovery room and I was told to take my clothes off by a young nurse that obviously did not know what she was getting into. After a few jokes about liking forceful women, she left and I changed into my hospital gown, almost tied in the back. I then threatened to start flashing people on the walkway outside before another nurse gave me the disappointing news that passersby could not see inside.

A few more nurses came into check my blood pressure and such, while another came in to “prep the area for surgery”. This involved shaving the hair off of nearly half my body for a five-inch long incision. I think she enjoyed it.

I waited. My wife and my mother sat nearby discussing restaurants, knowing that I had eaten nothing since before midnight. I read for a bit, then was about to take a nap when nurses came into move me to the holding area. I had to give up my glasses for this, leaving me virtually blind, but that did not stop me from making hand signals every time they turned my hospital bed.

In holding, they brought another guy in next to me who was there for a colonoscopy. He sounded considerably more anxious about his procedure than I did mine. After a short while, both the nurse anesthetist and my urologist came in and briefed me. The urologist held up a pen and said he was going to make me a marked man. I told him he was a bit late for that.

I was then wheeled into the operating room, a squarish place full of cabinets and instruments and, in the center, a small table over which hung two massive light discs that resembled, to me lying beneath them, UFO’s. My view didn’t last long, however, as the mask was soon placed over my nose and mouth, the instruction to breathe deeply was spoken into my ear, and I bid goodbye to a part of me.

As I lay mostly unconscious back in the recovery room, the urologist told my wife that he was mostly sure that I had a seminoma, a very uncommon, but highly treatable form of testicular cancer. The surgery had gone well and, thanks to our coming to him so quickly, he believes he caught it in stage 1, not giving it time to spread elsewhere. Sometime after this, my wife and I had several conversations, none of which I remember, and she has since grown frustrated over having to repeat things she has already told me several times before. I learned that, sometimes, it’s better to not ask.

When I fully awoke, I felt surprisingly good. The nurses told me that I would have to use the restroom before I would be allowed to leave, so I got up and shuffled to the toilet. During that shuffle, that good feeling abandoned me and nausea rushed into replace it. My mother has always reacted poorly to anesthesia and, apparently, so do I. I retched the few sips of Coke I had managed to swallow and a fair bit of stomach acid before being helped back to bed by the nurse and my wife. My face, apparently, had gone quite green and the nurse rushed to give me something that would settle my stomach.

I slept again. This time, when I woke, I sat up slowly to see if the nausea would return. When it didn’t, I realized that I was alone in the room. My wife, tired of watching me sleep, had gone to see our next-door neighbor who had given birth that very morning in a fair example of irony considering why I was there. When she returned, I felt well enough to be wheeled out of the hospital, stopping by to see my new neighbor on the way.

Since returning home, I have felt moderately good. I went to church yesterday, surprising most by the speed of my getting up and about, but pressed a bit too much climbing the steps to Sunday school. Still, for the most part, I have relied very little on the pain medication and can now move about with little to no discomfort, so long as I go very slowly and take care in rising or sitting.

I go back to the urologist for a follow-up on Friday and will get the lab results from the surgery then. Hopefully, I can return to work on Saturday and not use up any more of my paid time off. I will also find out Friday if I’ll need to do radiation, another good reason to save my sick days and remaining vacation.

In the meantime, I’m reading a lot and, hopefully, can return to writing as early as tonight. Hopefully, that will help take my mind of things when the bills start rolling in.

Everything was planned out. We were leaving Friday night, driving to Kansas to see my father-in-law. On the agenda: sleeping late, eating well, and having a few laughs. We’d come back Tuesday or Wednesday, just in time for me to get ready to go back to work on Thursday.

Then I went to the doctor.

I mentioned a few blog posts ago how I thought I might need to see a doctor about some issues I’ve been having. So, last week, I did just that. I had some bloodwork done and a part of me checked out that guys normally don’t want anyone but their wives or girlfriends (or boyfriends, for my gay readers) checking out. I was referred to a urologist, who then schedule me for the very unpleasant-sounding “scrotal ultrasound”. I did that one today, after another round of bloodwork (the last one was a bit botched) and before another trip to the urologist for interpretation of the ultrasound. When I got to the urologist, I received the news I mostly expected, but didn’t want to hear.

A tumor. Most likely testicular cancer. Surgery scheduled for tomorrow.

Now, one thing those who know me well realize is that I use humor as a tool to diffuse stressful situations. Therefore, when I was given this piece of information, the jokes began. Soon, the urologist’s staff was laughing. They sent me to the hospital for some pre-op tests–more bloodwork, EKG, chest X-ray, SAT, English Literature final, Olympic time trial, etc. The woman in registration laughed. The admissions nurse laughed. The lab people laughed (she didn’t believe me when I said my name was Abraham Lincoln). The X-ray tech had jokes of her own and we both laughed. The EKG people, deprived of a sense of humor, did not laugh, but I do believe I heard one of them giggle once.

Most of all, my wife Amy laughed. I knew the only way to keep her from crying tears of anxiety was to make her cry tears of laughter, so I bombarded her with jokes ranging from idle threats (“If my testicle shows up on eBay after this, I’m going to be pissed!) to asking the admissions nurse if, even though I can’t eat or drink after midnight, I could get completely drunk before then. Through it all, she laughed and shook her head and acted wholly embarrassed to be with me, even as she clung to my arm for support. Tomorrow, I’ll come out of surgery to go home and she’ll have to help me in and out of the car and into bed. Today, though, it was my job to support her.

I’m not overly worried or anxious about tomorrow’s outcome. Even if it is cancer, this type has one of the highest cure rates of any and I am confident in the doctor and staff who will be taking care of me. I should know in a week if radiation is needed, but until then, I’ll be able to catch up on some sleep and maybe, once my head clears, read and perhaps write a bit. I already had vacation scheduled for this week, after all, and at least I’ll be able to recover without too many worries about what I’m missing at work. Believe me, I won’t be missing it.

In the meantime, if you are reading this, please be sure to check out my flash fiction entry at The Clarity of Night. So far, the reaction to my little odd tale has been very positive. It would be nice to win, even if I’m too drugged over the next couple of days to know.

Until then, take care and let me know if you see anything of mine on eBay.