“My Voice” by Nick O’Hara Smith

Nick O'Hara Smith on The Testicle Tour

It was April 1988 and I’d just woken up mad as hell, because I’d failed in an attempt on my life. I’d not taken the decision to end my life flippantly. After all, I’d just survived Cancer, having just been declared Cancer free at the end of my treatment. Life should have been good, but it wasn’t. It was as desperate as it could get. My future had been mapped out in the space of two, six week sections, following the operation to remove the Cancerous testicles hanging, like reverse swords of Damocles, below my abdomen.

The first six week section, saw me without man’s most important hormone, Testosterone. The closest analogy I can draw on to describe the experience, is that it was like having permanent, raging, PMS. The once reliable thought processes became self-sabotaging, as rage, irrational outbursts and scrambled thoughts became the norm, along with two dozen or so hot flashes a day.
That horror existence ended, temporarily, the day after I began Radiotherapy, courtesy of a man I shall forever be grateful to. His name is Dr Mark Glaser Radio-Oncologist at Charing Cross hospital in London.

I walked into his office to commence Radiotherapy treatment as insurance against Cancer returning. The operation had succeeded in removing all my Cancer, as the antiquated Lymphrangiogram, coupled with my normal blood markers, had confirmed.

Dr Glaser asked if there was anything he could do. I replied that unless we sorted out my hormones, I did not want Radiotherapy. An appointment was arranged for the following day.

I attended the meeting with an Endocrinologist the next day. I shan’t name him because of what followed.

Me: “What can I read about men like me?”

Endocrinologist: “ Nothing really. There are a few articles about voluntary castrate rapists in the USA, but nothing other than that.”

Me: “So what happens to guys like me?”

Endocrinologist: “Those who don’t commit suicide, normally end up in a mental institution.”

With those words resonating round my mind, I received my first injection and the second six week period began.

I’d been told the injection was for four weeks. And for sure, after a couple of days, normality began to return. I could trust myself not to fly off the handle. My thoughts were clearer and my moods became stable.

After two weeks, things began to deteriorate. Moods began to swing and I’d become lethargic and needy. The slippery slope to full on “Male PMS” had begun. By the beginning of week 4, I was once more out of control. I had to get away and try and get to grips with it.

My friend Lisanne Malone, who worked for British Airways and had survived Breast Cancer, and I, had a drink together and I told her of my need to get away. A day later, she called me and told me her brother Ged, who was married to the Go-Go Jane Wiedlin, had told her to have me call, if I wanted to visit. I’d got on well with Ged prior to his move to be with Jane in LA, so I jumped at the opportunity.  Four days later I landed in Los Angeles, having received my second injection.

I spent a wonderful two weeks with Ged and Jane, their horses and their dogs. They were such fun to be with. Jane was working on her solo album Rush Hour and I met Robin Hild of Scarlett and Black, who Ged was managing. Eli, Ged and Jane’s Ranch hand, took me riding in the mountains and through the Paramount Ranch, where so many movies were made. It was truly the ideal break to let me get to grips with the “new” me and my future. But I couldn’t.

My return home and weeks three and four of the injection cycle were looming. My other problem was that my new relationship, which began about two months before I was diagnosed, was, unsurprisingly, in trouble.

I flew back to the UK, with that and other, business, matters praying on my mind.  I was a partner in a small construction business and it had fallen pray to a very wealthy rogue client. We were suing and I was responsible for making sure it came out okay.  It was a complex litigation that was to last another four years.

As my gloom descended during week three, it became obvious that the relationship was over. Finding myself alone and mentally out of control, I took the decision to swallow all the sleeping pills I had, aided by half a bottle of whisky. Only the phone call I’d made just as I was about to pass out, saved me.

Now, of course, not wishing to make a fool of myself again, I had a life to live. I often think of it as my second life. A life without balls. A life where I discovered my worth.

Four years later, as soon as the litigation was over and I was both exonerated and victorious against the attacks made against me, I abandoned England. I went to Antigua with a rocket up my backside. I was so desperate to write. I’d reasoned the best thing I could do was to help others avoid the road I’d gone down and was fortunate to survive. I’d decided, perhaps arrogantly, that I had the wit and there was no doubting the will, to write a book.

It took four years to find myself in a place where writing suddenly became coherent enough for me to get it all down. By that time I was in Canada, having had time back in the UK, spent six months in Los Angeles, another six in Dublin and caused my family to believe I’d gone crazy.

I wrote until I could write no more. I’d learned how to create a web page, using notepad and published “The Making of a Eunuch” on the web early in 1996. About 6 months later, whilst trawling the web for Testicular Cancer resources, which was very easy then, I discovered Chris Brewer and Doug Bank’s Testicular Cancer Resource Center, which had just debuted. It was obviously an outstanding site.  Soon I’d volunteered to deal with guys who were like me and was accorded the title ”Associate Editor”, a post I still proudly hold.

For the first few years, I made myself unpopular, so insistent was I on the need to test for Testosterone Deficiency.  That is until a certain Dr Brandon Hayes-Lattin sent me a copy of the new American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists Adult Male Hypogonadism Guidelines early in 2003.

Once I managed to get my head round the jargon, which took a month, and deciphered the document, I realized this problem was widespread and not confined to Testicular Cancer, or even Cancer, as I’d previously thought.

I decided to write a website in understandable English, to try and get the message out. In June 2003, The Testosterone Deficiency Centre was born. Two years later, I received a letter from the Wellcome Trust requesting,if you please, permission to archive my website as part of the British Museum’s web archive, as my site was considered, “important to our documentary heritage”. My legacy was created that day. I will die happy.

As hard as I have strived to bring awareness to the General public, there seems to be a block in place to prevent my message about Testosterone Deficiency reaching the media and the medical world at large. I put it down to historical misconceptions and myths, not forgetting male denial. This denial extends into the medical world so far as this matter is concerned, certainly in the UK.

I will be the change, because I shall not rest until male denial of their health is eradicated and Testosterone Deficiency assumes it rightful place in a PCP’s toolbox.

I’d never considered what surviving means to me. It was not important. But, on reflection, surviving means a new challenge. For me It was a challenge to turn things around.

In my case, I took a good look at my lifestyle and changed it, rather radically. It was needed!

A part of change was giving up booze, because it was at the root of everything I didn’t like about myself. It all came about when I stopped feeling weak and needy and started to understand that my interlude with Cancer was about it making me stronger as a person, not weaker. Now I know, I am a very lucky man to have a second chance. Carpe Diem