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Review: Rotten Fruit: My Testicular Cancer Adventure

Rotten Fruit: My Testicular Cancer Adventure Rotten Fruit: My Testicular Cancer Adventure by Jay Elwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“I am going to be talking copiously about my dick, balls, and asshole as well as (but not limited to at this very moment in time) throwing up, pooping, and the occasional bleeding of untold orifices. There is a lot going on here.”

This gem of a quote appears within the opening of Jay Elwell’s Rotten Fruit: My Testicular Cancer Journey. Indeed, there is a lot going on here within its pages. After virtually meeting Jay and sharing his Band of Ballers piece back in September, he also gave me the chance to read his aforementioned book.

Testicular cancer memoirs have become quite a niche genre for me, with me greatly enjoying Joe Bakhmouski's Simplify Cancer: Man’s Guide to Navigating the Everyday Reality of Cancer and Dan Duffy's The Half Book: He’s Taking his Ball and Going Home. I eagerly dove in to this slim, but important book.

Rotten Fruit: My Testicular Cancer Journey is a hilarious and easy-to-understand read.

To me, a patient-friendly book about cancer needs to be both engaging and informative, without being too heavy handed with technical terminology. The humor in this book is reminiscent of Peter Griffin’s non sequiturs from FOX’s Family Guy. For example:

“Let it be known that handshakes and highfives really bother me. The handshake more so, for the simple reason that they do not really have a usefulness in modern civilization. It could be easily argued that the evolution of the high five and all its variations are still relevant to expressing shared joys in unique and creative ways, yet the handshake was designed to symbolize peace and serve as a physical reminder that no weapons were on your persons. Maybe that shit worked back then but no one’s stopping mass shootings with a simple handshake. The only thing they’re good for now is the exchanges of remnant fecal matter and the transmissions of diseases.”

This epic mini-rant follows the seemingly innocent introduction of his doctor. There are plenty of other witty asides sprinkled throughout the book, which makes it truly seem like stream-of-consciousness… which is often how a cancer diagnosis is in real life.

In addition to being an entertaining read, it’s also informative without being filled with “medical jargons and technical details relating to this once uncharted journey exclusively because I don’t fully know what the hell they even are or nor do I really care about them.” This is crucial because the newly diagnosed generally gets enough jargon from their doctor. The last thing we need is more high level terminology in a memoir.

As I read, I found many similarities in our - and many fellow survivors’ - stories.

Just as I put off going to the doctor for a few weeks after detecting a lump, Jay avoided it for a bit of a longer timeframe - three months, by his own admission. From there, our stories really converged, especially when he recounted his tale of getting his own balltrasound:

“She abruptly started to lather up my junk with a cool blue gel and proceeded to paint a picture on my genitalia like some perverted Bob Ross, while happy little gobs of goo slid down my partially manscaped taint and puddled in my asshole below.”

Far more descriptive than I was in my write up, but also completely spot on.

He also was hesitant to tell his mother about his diagnosis, and actually waited until after surgery to tell her, whereas I told my own mom the night before. Not much better, but when I shared this with my mom, she told me she “would have killed me if I waited until after surgery to tell her.” Kind of what I was trying to avoid at that time, Mom.

Finally, Jay explained why surgery had to occur prior to an official diagnosis better than I ever could. “The only way to test the teste was to have it sent to a lab to have it biopsied for confirmation.”

His pun game… so strong.

Even with all the jokes, Rotten Fruit: My Testicular Cancer Journey takes a real look at the cancer experience, too.

While many male cancer patients and survivors seem to get through this experience by relying on an abundance of humor, Jay told me that the catalyst of his decision to write the book was bringing together his “general anxious nature meeting my first real challenge of my adult life.”

He talks extensively about his anxiety throughout life and how he worked to overcome it. He highlights the urge to have a sense of normalcy during a cancer diagnosis, saying, “[I] could not give up what little control over my life I had left and driving in the mornings just so happened to be one of those things”

As he waxes poetically at the end of the book, he realizes what I personally learned from my cancer experience, and a common theme I hear from many other survivors:

“Oddly enough, I am sort of thankful for the entire order, as weird as that sounds. My cancer journey just helped me get there exactly when I felt like I needed to.”

Honestly, the best way to describe this book is akin to if Deadpool wrote a book about his own cancer experience.

The book is filled with colorful language, rather... descriptive scenes, and witty side stories. However, with testicular cancer being most common in young men, Jay managed to hit his target audience well. While cancer is surely a challenging experience, Rotten Fruit: My Testicular Cancer Adventure is sure to put a smile on the face of the newly diagnosed.

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