An Honest Portrayal of One Man’s Battle with Testicular Cancer
Photo by Bartosz Cerkaski
He can be unapologetically offensive. He’s not afraid to get graphic. He likes to stun just to see your reaction. That’s Andy! You may have a similar Andy, or seen one on TV. He’s the fashionable, fit and witty #gay sidekick. Depending on the era in which your Andy lives he either goes gaga for Lady GaGa or Material Girl Madonna. As for this Andy, never, ever, mention Lady Gaga or he’ll give you a verbal beat down. This is not to say that all gay men, or even those named Andy, fit some neat #stereotype. I simply mean he’s that confidant you can confide in, who will also chastise you for your music and fashion choices.
I met Andy, my ex’s former #roommate, about five or six years ago. We only ever exchanged a few words, but that was all it took for me to gather that he liked to use wit as a #weapon. I pitied those caught in the crossfire. And I hoped I wasn’t one unbeknownst to me. Fast forward to the World of #Facebook. We reconnected through a “like” here or a brief comment there. Until he messaged me out of the blue one day with a big revelation.
“I don’t really know you,” he said, “but I just found out I have cancer.”
All it took was that brief declaration to alter a reality and a relationship. With such an intimate reveal Andy no longer became that bitchy Facebook acquaintance. Subsequent intense conversations introduced me to a more layered and complex man than I previously gave credit. His austere facial expressions now expose a stoicism. Like a truffle, his tough exterior gives way to a soft and sweet soul. He endures a hardship not readily apparent in his appearance. He’s a man you have to question to get to know. If you quickly judge him you’re sure to be mistaken. Now faced with #death, I wanted to learn more about what makes this intriguing man tick.
Here’s what I found:
Me: How old were you when you were diagnosed with testicular #cancer?
Andy: I was 32 years old. Three months after I had come back to #Poland, after having lived in the U.S. for 13 years. I didn’t come back because I was sick. It was all a huge surprise.
(He pauses to light a cigarette.)
I came back to Poland the first day of April 2013. Healthy. By August I felt something wrong with my ball. A week later I had my ball removed.
Me: Damn, that’s rough! What felt wrong?
Andy: One of my balls had gotten swollen, to the size twice as big as the other one.
I had just gotten accepted to a medical school.
Me: Wow. Medical school?
That’s kind of ironic to learn of that as you are about to study #medicine.
Andy: Yeah I know.
And I didn’t want to go exercise with all the other boys that were half my age. So I wanted an excuse not to go to my gym class.
Me: Wait, you wanted to see the doctor just to cut gym class?
(laughing fit ensues.)
Andy: I never thought it was gonna be a big deal.
I felt one of my balls feel heavier than the other one, because I used to do too much jerking off. Sorry for the TMI! But that’s what I thought.
Me: That’s hysterical! You thought you caused that from too much masturbating?
Andy: Yup. I am Polish after all.
Me: Imagine that could happen? Men would be terrified everywhere!
So what was the very first thought that popped into your head when you learned it was cancer?
Andy: I thought, I can deal with it, but I was worried about my parents.
Can I tell you a little short story about when I first found out about it?
Andy: My mother, who doesn’t go to church by the way, had given me a chain with you know–holy Mother Mary … Basically, I had to wear it because it was a gift. So I did. When I went to the hospital to get my ball checked if it was cancer, the second I get there before they give an ultrasound, the chain breaks and the Mother of Jesus/made up bitch/Madonna wannabe, falls off my chain.
And I swear I knew I had cancer.
Me: Wow. That’s such an interesting omen. So you felt like it was a sign?
Andy: I did somehow. Not for me, but because my Polish family is so religious I felt it meant something.
As soon as that happened I was like, ‘OK, I have cancer.’
If my necklace had the REAL #Madonna hanging off my chest I wouldn’t have cancer. So #religion is bad. Believe in whores who like what they do, instead of made up people.
Me: You’re a nut!
Andy: Is that nuts? Not really.
Me: How did you emotionally prepare yourself to tell your parents? What did you say? How did they handle it?
Andy: Well the doctor told me there’s a 99% chance that it is cancer. I called my mom and said, ‘They found a growth on my ball and it’s probably nothing, so they have to examine it,’ and not to worry.
But I knew it was cancer because he told me.
Me: Oh man.
Andy: He asked about my age and everything and he said, ‘Yeah … prepare yourself.’
Me: He said that?
Me: Even without knowing for sure?
Andy: Yeah. I went for that checkup on Tuesday. Thursday morning they were taking my ball out.
He said they were gonna take out my ball and they wouldn’t know for sure until they get the results that take like two weeks, but he said, ‘Get ready, you have cancer.’
This hospital bed won’t kill his vibe!
Andy: He told me they were gonna take it out and I was gonna be fine. He didn’t mention #chemo. Actually I called my sister first and told her not to tell our parents, because I didn’t want to worry them. My sister told me I have to tell them what’s going on. That’s when I called my mom. I thought, ‘No one has to know.’
Me: The phone call no mom wants to hear.
Andy: Not at all. And I felt bad because I had lived in NY for almost 14 years against my parents will and then finally I come back and they are happy and then I have to be like, ‘Just kidding, I have cancer!’
Andy: That was not on my agenda at all. It was supposed to be a happy ending.
Me: So you told your mom and dad. How did that go?
Andy: I told my mom when she was driving her car.
Me: Bad timing!
Andy: She almost crashed.
But she’s tough. She told my dad and he has been crying ever since.
Me: Awe! I love sensitive men.
Andy: Yeah, he’s an #angel.
Me: You said you knew you could deal with it. Have you been dealing with it? Have you been coping? Is it possible to cope?
Andy: Give me 10 seconds. I’m getting a bear.
OMG! Beer! Not a bear!
Me: I don’t know what you’re into! I didn’t want to ask.
Andy: Not bears. This is like being on #Oprah, girl.
Me: So you said you could deal with this. Have you been coping well? How the f*ck do you cope with this?
Andy: I went in denial, really. I worried about my #family. The oh-so-dramatic family I was born into.
Me: I’m sure they’ll love to read that part.
Andy: They don’t speak #English so they won’t. We’re good.
The only thing I thought about was if I could deal with death.
Me: What conclusion did you come to?
Andy: That I am 100% sure there is something after this #Earth, that there is a different dimension to all of this. Just like there is life on different planets. It would be really arrogant to assume that you don’t go anywhere after you die. The #universe is, what’s the word I’m looking for?, infinite! I had thought that way before I got cancer, so to me it wasn’t as scary.
Me: So this thinking comforts you then?
Andy: For sure. And it’s not to say I want to die tomorrow and I don’t care, I want to live for as long as I can because I want to leave something behind, and I don’t think I have done that. But I don’t believe for one second that when your life on Earth ends that is it. And I can’t believe anyone can think that. I think that’s rude.
Me: What do you want to leave behind?
Andy: Wow. You’re really going there.
I mean, I don’t have the power that famous people do. Haha! Obviously! But I do believe in a sense of #humor and I believe that is THE most important thing in the world.
Me: I agree. We need it in this world of ours.
Andy: I believe that a person without a sense of humor is a potential serial killer.
Me: Not sure about the serial killer part, though.
So what mistakes of yours do you want people to learn from?
Andy: So you really are the white lesbian Oprah.
I can be your Gay-le!
Me: I. Just. Died.
Andy: Ok, my mistakes. Well, let’s just say I did coke for 10 years straight like it was water. And I will say that I have had the most amazing experiences doing coke. I have also hit the lowest of the low and I would say to someone who has never tried it, don’t ever do it!
It creeps up on you and it’s not worth it. If I could go back to the time before I did my first bump I would have never done it.
I can’t believe I’m saying this.
So when is your talk show happening?
Me: I love the #honesty.
Andy: Don’t take no for an answer. No matter what you do. It’s better to be rejected than boring.
You will never make the entire world #love you.
Concentrate on what you do.
Me: What do you want for yourself? And is it different now after having had cancer?
Andy: I’m worse now. I #drink more and #smoke more. So no, don’t do what I do. That’s my advice.
Me: Oh no. Why are you worse? If you are worse than are you secretly not dealing well?
Andy: I’m worse because death became so close that it was almost palpable and I wasn’t scared. So now I’m just like, ‘F*ck it! Let’s see who wins,’ which is not good.
Andy: Wow. I have never been more honest, ever.
Me: That’s honest!
So you feel invincible?
Andy: Noooooo, not at all. I like the fight and I don’t believe that if I die that’s gonna be the end of me, but I am scared of that, too. I don’t wanna die without leaving a mark behind me, but maybe this interview will be it, so maybe after this I will give up.
Me: If liking that fight, that challenge, of almost chasing death doesn’t that mean you are sort of giving up on your life now? Being the best you can be now?
Andy: I want to be the best I can, but it’s easier said than done.
PART TWO OF THE INTERVIEW — COMING SOON!
#death, #life, #spirituality, #purpose, #cancer, #testicularcancer, #Poland, #chemo, #universe, #world, #gay, #lesbian, #cocaine, #mortality,