I didn't recognise the face staring back at me in the bathroom mirror. I'm old, I'm thirty today and my eyes are puffy with the tears I can't stop shedding. Downstairs, my mum and dad are waiting for me—yes, I still live at home, it's an economic thing—they've arranged this big-ass birthday party in the function room of the Queen's Head Hotel to 'celebrate'. The last thing I want to do is celebrate but they didn't take the hint and have been making the arrangements for days, weeks probably.
The face staring back at me is like a beach ball, always round, now it looks fat. See, I've always been a big bloke, I'm 6' 4" tall for goodness sake and I've never been what you might call skinny. I'm chunky, cuddly, solid. What I'm not is fat. I'm a postie, I walk miles every week so I'm not fat, I've just always been big, even since I was this giant kid in the playground at school, just big. But now, my face looks fat; I've got sharp features, my nose is pointed, my mouth is too small, my lips too thin and my eyes are a non-descript muddy colour, and they are gathered close together in the centre of my face. And now my face looks fat because I've shaved off all my hair.
The sink is full of it. It had been fairly long, touching my collar at least and thick, although I have thought for a while that it wasn't quite as thick on my crown as it used to be—like I said, old. That isn't the reason I cut it off though.
I have testicular cancer.
My name is Daryll Douglas, I'm thirty years old, I've got testicular cancer and tomorrow I start chemotherapy.
The last few weeks have been a total roller coaster. It all started with Pride a couple of months ago. I'm gay, you see, well, allegedly—I've never had a proper boyfriend, not really, not even fuck buddies, just a few wanks and blow jobs with guys I've met on social networking sites—and let's face it, who'd want me now?
So anyway, I was telling you about Pride. I was dragged there by my next door neighbour, Amber. She's twenty four and, as it happens, she's a lesbian. We've known each other forever, our parents were friends, she was an unexpected late addition to the family that everyone cooed over, then she became a cute kid who followed me everywhere. She was that annoying teenager who hung about with unsuitable friends—she went through a Goth phase when she was about fourteen, then she tried being very butch and then suddenly everything changed, suddenly she's all grown up and sensible—goodness knows how that happened.
Anyway, she insisted we go to Pride; we had a great day—so much eye candy! And you know the kinds of stalls you get at Pride, the rainbow flags and jewellery, the campaign groups with their badges and leaflets; well, somewhere along the line, someone must have given me a leaflet about checking your balls. I didn't find it until a couple of days later when I up-ended the carrier bag I acquired for all the Pride freebies, and there it was. I ignored it at first, it kicked around my bedroom, then one day I was in the shower and my thoughts straying towards thinking I needed to tidy my room, seeing the junk scattered round in my mind's eye if you like, the leaflet came into my mind, I put my hands down to my balls and found it. A lump.
It was a few days before I went to the doctor. Days when I felt sick with nerves and planned my funeral. Mum thought I was coming down with a cold. Amber noticed something was wrong—she threatened to decapitate my collection of Lego Star Wars figures if I didn't tell her what was bothering me. She made the appointment at the surgery for me. She went down there with me—I dare say she'd have come into the doctor's room with me if I'd asked her, but I did at least manage that bit on my own. Of course, I had to lie on the couch with my jeans round my knees and a silly paper sheet covering my cock while he examined me—thank goodness it was a male doctor—he pulled, stretched the skin, poked and prodded for hours it seemed like. It was weird, lying there, on display; I could feel myself getting hot, hot embarrassed I mean, not any other kind of hot. I guess that's over for me now...
Anyway, he found it too, he said it was a lump but didn't say anything else, not the big C-word then. Once I was dressed again, he took several syringes full of blood and he said I'd be hearing from the hospital in the next few days.
Of course, Amber was waiting for me. I tried apologising for keeping her waiting, then I looked at my watch, I'd been in there barely five minutes.