by Niall Doherty

Today I’m going to tell you my biggest secret. I’ve only ever told two people about this. My mother is one of them, and she’d rather I didn’t write about it. But I’m going to anyway. Sorry, Ma.

How it all began

When I was a baby I was in a lot of pain and my parents had to bring me to hospital to discover what was wrong with me. As it turned out, it was something the doctors called testicular torsion. I had been born with my left testicle all twisted up in a knot. The solution was to remove it.

So they did.

When I was about 13 years old and becoming more aware of all that stuff between my legs and sneaking peeks at adult movies and learning about this magical thing called sex, it started to dawn on me that perhaps I was missing something. Knowing I’d had some kind of emergency operation as a baby, I had a brief and awkward conversation with my mother one day in an effort to understand myself a bit better. She indeed confirmed that I only had one where most boys had two.



For the next several years, I never spoke of it to anyone. I changed carefully under a towel in the school change rooms, avoided using public showers, and generally made sure nobody saw me naked. I was always terrified that someone would discover my secret, spread the word, and the whole world would laugh at me and my one lonely testicle.

The worst part was dealing with women. Just like any other heterosexual teen, I was fascinated by those exotic creatures who possessed even less testicles than I did. But whenever I had an opportunity to explore my sexual urges with a woman, I held back. I wasn’t willing to trust anyone with my secret, so sex was out.

I was handicapped. I feared getting too close to a woman, so I shied away from intimacy and failed to develop any social skills. Before I knew it I was 20 years old, had little self-esteem, and seemed destined for a life of loneliness and mediocrity. Some nights I would cry myself to sleep, cursing my luck, wondering why I had been dealt such a crappy hand.

Choosing different

I believe it was a few months before my 21st birthday that things began to change. I was never one for horoscopes, but something I read one day for Pisces in the newspaper stuck with me. The words:

There is a pot of gold at the end of your rainbow,

and soon you will find it.

That was all I needed to begin questioning my destiny. I started to wonder if I really had to resign myself to a life of shame and fear. I wondered if maybe there was something I could do about my situation.

Making it happen

I decided not to play the victim anymore. I mustered up some initiative and started brainstorming possible solutions. Cosmetic surgery was an option. I did some research and found a crowd in London who, for the small price of £5,000, were willing to cut open my scrotum, drop in golf ball-sized chunk of silicone, and stitch me back up again. They promised I’d end up looking just like a regular two-testicled tower of testosterone.

Brilliant. Sign me up.

The only problem was that I didn’t have a spare £5k lying around the place. So I spent the next several months working my ass off (Dunnes Stores, baby!) and saving every penny I could get my hands on. I remember not having a single day off for three weeks at one point. I became intensely focused on earning that £5k, looking forward to the day I could afford to have a strange Englishman take a scalpel to my privates.

That day finally came. I believe it was early in the summer of 2003 when I disappeared off to London for a few days and had the operation. Only my mother knew what was happening.

All went according to plan. They knocked me out, doubled me up, and I awoke a little while later in a hospital bed. I recall turning on the TV and watching some basketball before a nurse came in and congratulated me on my new nut.

The next day I returned to Ireland with a little more of a leftward lean. I finally felt like a real man.

No magic pill

The operation didn’t prove to be the solution to all my problems. I was disappointed to find that women still didn’t fall at my feet. I was still a college drop-out, wasting my potential working at a department store. I still didn’t really know who I was or what I wanted to do with my life.

I realized I still had work to do, addressing those deep-rooted self-esteem issues, overcoming years of self-doubt and unlearning habitual negative thought patterns.

But the operation did give me the boost I needed to get my real life underway. I had overcome a huge roadblock, and I began to understand the power I had to create my own reality. All it took was clarity, hard work and persistence.

I soon formulated a new goal to work towards. I decided I wanted to go live in New Orleans, where I could be close to my favorite basketball team and perhaps write about them. After a few years of hard work and persistence, I found myself in that reality, living that dream. Locker room access, a seat on the baseline and thousands of people flocking to the website I created. Good times.

Fast forward to today, and I have yet another goal I’m working towards. I’m setting up my own business which will allow me to do work I’m passionate about while traveling the world indefinitely. I know I can create that reality for myself, as I’ve done twice before.

Over the  years I’ve also managed to chip away at those negative thought patterns. I’ve developed real confidence and have come to trust my gut instincts. I love the person I’ve become and I grow and get to know myself better with each passing month.

What I’ve learned

Looking back, I feel grateful that I had to overcome what I did. For a decade or so I considered myself cursed, but now I look at my “disability” as a gift. Without it, I may never have had reason to dig deep and discover what I’m capable of when I put my mind to something. Not many people believe they can live their dreams, but I know I can. I’m one of the lucky few.

I tell this story now with the hope that others might benefit from hearing it. We all go through some tough times, feeling cursed, wishing things were different. But I’ve come to understand that those challenges and hardships aren’t there to break us. Rather, they exist to help us grow. They force us out of our comfort zone, and that zone expands in the process. We grow stronger, we learn what we’re truly capable of, we become better versions of ourselves.

A couple of years ago, I was still terrified that someone might find out about my secret. I was still fearful of being ridiculed. Now I don’t really care who knows. It’s not a big deal anymore. In fact, it’s a relief to let go and tell everyone. You all know me that much better now. I’m no longer hiding a part of me. It feels good to finally be myself.

A friend of mine unwittingly helped me get to this point, where I’m no longer embarrassed to tell my story. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer a few years back. He had to have one removed before the disease spread. Thankfully, the treatment worked, and he’s now cancer free. What amazed me was how he never tried to hide what happened; instead he decided to embrace the change and have fun with it. He was able to laugh at himself and his one testicle. Nobody could laugh at him, only with him.

I learned from my friend that shame and embarrassment are simply states of mind, and we don’t have to settle for them. We can choose more empowering lenses through which to view the world, and when we make that choice, the world generally responds in kind.

What’s your biggest secret?

What would happen if you were to reveal all? Would it really be that big a deal?

Probably not. I’m guessing the world would keep on spinning, and everyone would eventually get on with their lives. Maybe some folks would laugh at you or hold a grudge, but at least you’d no longer be hiding the real you. The people who really matter would respect that.

Come on. Grow a pair 😉