shamePerhaps we define our journeys or perhaps our journeys define us, or more likely it’s somewhere in the middle where they converge. I hadn’t anticipated such a dive into illness but it has lasted so long that it’s now become impossible to see it as something outside of my journey.

When I started this blog, I realized that just as there were parts of my story that I hoped to share, there were also parts of myself that I didn’t want to share. In the spirit of being true, however, somewhere along the line I intended on exposing these things as well.

Ever since I was a kid, I have been ashamed of being human. Some people are very comfortable with reality as it is, or even enjoy the humor of it, but those little ‘secrets’ that we tend to keep socially concealed have always been a great source of shame for me.

Just to name a few of those shameful things: urinating, defecating, masturbation, body image, farting…

As if hepatitis A and jaundice weren’t bad enough, I discovered a small lump, which in one day doubled in size, and by the next day, it was the size of golf ball. Unfortunately, this little lump was located in the perineum region, which is an area where, no matter which common words you choose to describe it, is just damned difficult to do with any kind of grace – between the scrotum and the anus. Ouch.

golfballAnd ouch it was. The pain of this golf ball lump was extraordinary. Because there is a strong history of prostate cancer in my family, I quickly consulted a physician, got a PSA test, and a sonogram. Fortunately, it proved to be an infection which probably raged out of control due to my severely compromised immunity.

Being a white guy here in India, I tend to get more attention than most. When lying on an examination table with my pants off and privates exposed, this attention turns to fascination, and as many people who were able to come and check out the scene did so. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the dreamlike, over-the-top pathetic-ness of the situation and got through it, with humor intact.

I was happy I didn’t have cancer and came back with my examination report – filled with graphic descriptions. Although I was willing to share this with others around me, I didn’t feel it was necessary as I was now on antibiotics and it seemed like it was likely under control.

When no one was in my room, I pulled out the report and began to read it. Without notice, a doctor who was in the house (a friend of the family) magically slipped in the room and immediately grabbed it out of my hands with doctorly curiosity. With as little warning as he had slipped into the room, he slipped out of the room, report in hand.

And then a silence ensued.

I sat in that profound, uncomfortable silence knowing that Mark and Yoo-Mi, Nipun, and others were outside, and all my spidey-senses told me that this private report was soon to become a fully public document. I could have run out of the room in protest, but what would be the use?  To protect my ego?  With the same humor and dreamlike pathetic-ness, I sat there vulnerably awaiting what would come next.

My senses proved sharply accurate as everyone soon entered my room as if some kind of intervention were taking place. Less secrets, less shame. Somehow the universe wanted this one revealed and so it was.

After waiting a few more days to see how the antibiotics responded, the swelling had increased to the size of an egg, and then even larger. And this bulge was built of pure pain. Lying in bed, it was a 7 on a pain scale of 1-10, and standing up, it shot to a high 9. Between the constant, intense itching of the jaundice and the agony of the infection, I had almost no sleep for about six days. I was becoming concerned about the possible loss of my fertility if the infection were to spread more and decided it was essential to see the most capable doctor I could find.

I got checked out and was told that the puss had to be surgically drained. Though typically a minor surgery, with jaundice, my blood was thin and there was a risk it wouldn’t properly clot. After taking some more tests, I was deemed good to go and surgery was set up for the following day.

As I lied there on the examination table, there were about 17 people in the room, including 3 women. The same doctor who spontaneously grabbed the report out of my hands felt the time was right to spontaneously pull my pants off for mass inspection, and half the people quickly darted for the door. The other half stayed to view the show. “Oh, man,” I thought to myself. “In terms of burning ego, this is definitely the good stuff.”

catheterWith less of a crowd around, and without anesthesia, a catheter was inserted into my penis seemingly without end – I never knew that’s how it was done. I had my pubic hair shaved off, and feeling fully violated and beaten, I walked into the surgery room, expecting things to get even worse.  Fortunately, I was quickly put under.

I woke up very soon after, in the center of a mandala, in the company of God, and slowly returned to the room. I’m not sure what they gave me, but it was pretty awesome.  Jayeshbhai sat alone with me in the room and I told him I had been with God. He started singing bhajans and the room became a temple.

I spent that night in the hospital and then came back to Jayeshbhai and Anarbhen’s house and lived with more pain and the awkwardness of carrying a catheter around with me wherever I went for nearly a week. One thing you may not know about jaundice is that it makes your pee turn fluorescent yellow and for some inexplicable reason, this radioactive color turns an ugly-ass amber brown when concentrated. As if the urine bag wasn’t bad enough, its unusual color could escape no one’s attention.

I suppose that what this story teaches is that it’s just plain stupid to be ashamed of being human. Yes, I’m humiliated that I have an anus, but then again, so do you. We all share these things that are somewhat awkward and to pretend that we are above them is to deny reality as it is. Though perhaps this lesson has somewhat helped deepen my humility, I know that I still have a very long road to walk until I really accept my humanity for what it is – a miracle of nature. It is only my Almighty mind that is in denial,
and wishes it wasn’t so.

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