Tuesday, October 2, 2007

DDT and Twiddling

The age of the fossil fuels brought out a host of new products and pollutants previously unseen before. As chemists manipulated the molecular structures of oil, new products have been introduced to the market with claimed attributes making our lives simpler, and easier according to the sellers of the products. However, usually over time we discover some externality associated with the product causing an environmental hazard leading to disease and/or destruction of the biosphere we depend on for survival.

One of the first products introduced was DDT as a pesticide and herbicide for agricultural products as well for control of Mosquitoes to combat malaria around the world. DDT was used extensively in rural communities in the 1940's and 1950's while my father was a growing up. My father was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease when he was 30 years old in 1970. As a young man he used to work for farmers and applied DDT in the fields without any protection getting covered from head to toe in the DDT dust. He is going to be 67 in December. He is a shell of the man I knew growing up. At 6'4" and 220 lbs, coming off of life on the farm, he was big, strong and skilled in a number of tasks such as carpentry, auto mechanics, fishing, hunting, plumbing, electricity, etc. Even when he was first diagnosed with the disease that would eventually cripple him, his medication slowed and controlled his digression enough that I still remember a man as a child who was infinitely stronger and capable as the adult man I grew up to be. The community my father grew up in is riddled with cancer and he has lost many friends to a variety of diseases. His younger brother died at the young age of 55 from a brain tumor.

My father was no sissy and I am sure he came off of the farms without the slightest fears of pesticides and herbicides such as DDT. I can imagine he moved into the suburbs around Minneapolis as a young man and brought home pesticides from the hardware store in town and applied it to his garden and lawn by the handful. I was born in 1964 and I would not doubt he would come in from outside and take me crying from my mother's hands in his huge DDT dust covered hands, and slowly rock me and comfort me to sleep. DDT was not banned until 1972.

I've been playing with my balls my whole life. The human body is mostly smooth and hard and the testicles encased in the elastic scrotum provide an interesting exploratory landscape for the fingers to investigate under the covers and away from the sight of everyone. I have observed my son sitting naked on the couch while discovering this pleasure himself and from my childhood I remember my father napping on the couch with his large hands tucked neatly into his pants. Obviously, this is an inherited trait or perhaps universal amongst all males. We are socially conditioned to play with our balls in the privacy of our homes away from the prying eyes of our neighbors. If not for this conditioning, I am sure men would be walking around with their hands stuffed neatly into our pants all day long as we twiddled to our heart's content. After 43 years of playing with my balls I mostly do it subconsciously now as I put myself to sleep. My hands pull and play with my scrotum and softly manipulate each testicle, one at a time, not to derive any sort of pleasure, but rather to just comfort myself. One week ago, when I first noticed the lump on my right testicle, I thought I should just ignore it. Immediately, I did think of testicular cancer and Lance Armstrong and all that, but I also thought even if it was cancer I should be able to heal myself with positive thoughts, a good diet and a healthy lifestyle.

I am not worried about universal health care. In many ways I distrust everything about the modern health industry. Everything is presented to us with scientific certainty derived from statistical analysis. I have had enough post-secondary education to understand that nothing is certain about statistics and what is certain one day from one specific study will be announced later as false due to a new study with slightly different parameters producing different results. So, my natural inclination is to push everything modern and scientific aside and try and live naturally and healthy through diet, exercise and as much distance from the modern world as one raised in it can muster in a week. I didn't want to believe I had cancer and I had told myself, that even if I do have it, I would not undergo putting radiation and chemical poisons in my body to counteract the growing cancer.

On Sunday I read of a recent scientific study showing a correlation between breast cancer and DDT exposure. I suddenly began to think of the possibility that no matter how healthy I lived the seeds of cancer may have been sown in my body as an infant. I thought of my son and my desire to see him grow up and my father crying at the realization that he can no longer play with his grandchildren in a meaningful way like he dreamed of as a young and healthy adult. I called my doctor yesterday and made an appointment by phone for tomorrow at 1:00 pm. I stayed up all night rehearsing what I will say to him.

"Doctor Clavine, I play with my balls a lot and recently I notice a lump on my right testicle. I'd like for you to play with them awhile and see what you think - if it is cancer."

Depending on what he thinks, I will take it from there. I suppose I can stand the thought of putting myself to sleep each night while playing with one less testicle if it came to that. I'll have to think about the chemotherapy and I am sure I will be given plenty of statistics to help me reach a decision.


Richard said...

Glad you are getting it checked out. I've seen blood in my urine since last Monday and am going through a series of tests. I had the ultrasound on my bladder, kidneys, and prostate today. Nothing so far. X-rays tomorrow.

Ain't getting old exciting?

Andy B said...


I haven't mentioned anything to my wife, yet. Blood in the urine can be scary. I once had some in my youth after a long training run and freaked out. Turns out it was just caused from running on a full bladder. Hopefully, it is nothing for both of us. We still have some living to do and we ain't that old yet.

This is supposed to start happening when we are 65 or so, ain't it?