Baldies' Blog began originally in the UK by a 26 year old journalist with a blood cancer on a mission to inform the world about bone marrow donation.

He has since died, and I took on the cause of making cancer care more transparent for everybody.

Cancer is a disease that will touch everybody through diagnosis or affiliation: 1 in 2 men will be diagnosed and 1 in 3 woman will hear those words, "You Have Cancer."

I invite you to read how I feel along my journey and
how I am continuing to live a full life alongside my Hodgkin's lymphoma, with me controlling my cancer, not my cancer controlling me.

I hope that "Baldies' Blog" will prepare you to handle whatever life sends you, but especially if it's the message, "You Have Cancer."

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sex and The Cancer Girl

It’s five o’clock in the morning, and I’m awake. I have been for an hour. Maybe, I can’t blame my early morning rising in the hospital on the nurses. Maybe, my insomnia is worse than I thought. I’m probably awake because I was bored last not and decided it was a good idea to knock myself out.
So I’m trying to write quietly and not disturb my mother. Our hotel is one room, with two beds, the tv, the table, and our computers in one area. There will be no blasting my music this early in the morning. I’ve also been told the rat-a-tat-tat of my typing gets old quickly. I can move my fingers pretty quickly, so all most people hear is me pounding on the keyboard.
I read the most hysterical article in Self yesterday that I thought I should share with you. It’s called “Daring to Date Again” in the Woman’s Cancer section.
No, it doesn’t sound so funny, and no, someone without cancer probably would not share my amusement, but damn some of the things this girl said we’re a little shocking to me. I’m going to change the name of the article to “Sex and the Cancer Girl” because I like it better.
Cancer girl is 33, single, with an incurable breast cancer. Her problem starts the opposite of mine. She talks about telling men in bars her diagnosis and watching them scamper away as quickly as if she told them she had eight kids and lives with her mom.
I, on the other hand, blurt out my cancer problem as soon as some poor guy saddles up next to me. I searched for all sorts of excuses to be left alone previously. I’ve said I was a lesbian (never, ever works). I’ve said I was unavailable (not successful either). I said I had a child (this one is 50/50). I’ve been an outright bitchy snob (a little more effective, but some guys like that). I’ve said I was moving. I’ve said I was getting married. Sometimes, I would lie about my name (call me Nadia) and give out a (212) number that was constantly busy. I’ve never lived in Manhattan. This number was created for situations just like mine.
None of these excuses would make a man run faster than saying I had cancer. I wish I’d discovered this earlier. Sometimes a girl just wants to be left alone with her friends. I’m not the type of girl who picks men up at bars. I stopped dating for food in college that is the only time I would meet someone outside the night scene. It was always in public, and it was always without revealing my number. I understand my admission of this probably knocks feminism back to the 20s, but what is a poor hungry girl to do?
I certainly can relate on some levels to cancer girl’s point. I just don’t get looked at the same with a bald head, mask, and gloves as accessories. My chest has been slashed up over my years of treatment, and it’s not every man’s fetish to have a girl with exit wounds.
I’m also not the independent, successful woman I thought I would be. I thought I would have advanced degrees and a hefty income by this point in my life. Now, I have social security. It’s terrible, and if I were to start dating, I would feel like the dependent entity. I can’t be that woman.
So cancer girl goes on to say, “it’s extremely important for oncologists to open up about sex to survivors. It’s crucial for these woman to do anything they can to get sexually aroused, not only for their state of well-being, but for their vagina, which can atrophy because of harsh treatments.” She recommends masturbation and porn.
What?! Vaginal atrophy? I thought a little break was good to tighten things up. It was called “revirgination” in college. Damn, girl, try some kegels.
I agree, Doctors should probably not be so uptight, but most are dealing with bigger bodily issues than a sex life. Sex is also a touch-and-go subject. Bring it up with the wrong person, and they could start screaming harassment. No one needs that.
A frank discussion about birth control, however, is always necessary. Becoming pregnant during treatment would be a disaster, but contraception has other medically necessary uses, such as stopping menses.
Chemotherapy, as a general rule, causes the decline of cells, including platalets which are a person’s arsenal for clotting. A period can wind up being a medical emergency. Trust me, I know. Last time mother nature visited me it took 2 units of platelets and four of red blood cells to put me back together again. Learn from my experience.
I agree that cancer adversely affects my sex life. I’ve always been a girl with needs. It’s on my no list right now. It’s been on my no list for months before (much to the frustration of my man), but hemorrhaging to death is a bigger concern. As far as my man goes, porn is made everyday for these times.
I do think an open discussion with your mate on the subject is important. Cancer stresses every aspect of a relationship. When the sex finally goes with it, when the wife loses her attractiveness, the love can plummet quickly. No one wants to deal with these types of problems when you’re struggling to survive. The least of my concerns right now is who is going to be there and who is not when I regain my health.
My advice to cancer girl is to take a lover. It’s the millennium. She’s a big girl. Make sure he’s a clean, monogamous hot one. Do the appropriate tests first. An STD could be devastating during treatment.
Invest in some hot underwear if you’re self conscious or consider reconstruction.
Cancer girl also mentions feeling hypersexual. I think this probably should be mentioned to her doctor, it could indicate worrisome hormonal imbalances, but she probably won’t. I’ve had this “problem” before, and it’s a great distraction from reality.
I think bodily image should probably be put on the table between a doctor and their patient. I do recommend that people diagnosed with cancer receive anti-depressant therapy and be referred to a therapist as an outlet for their emotional health.
Sexual problems are probably better discussed in the mental health realm or with your gynecologist. Those are the doctors that deal with “womanly” problems with the most ease and have the largest breadth of knowledge.
Doctors, especially those who deal with life threatening illness, require some barrier of protection against seeing their patients as anything other than a body. This is a coping mechanism. They are taking responsibility for a life, and they are only human. The pressure could be unbearable if you start bringing emotional issues into the relationship and start to be seen as an entire entity and not just a body. Breaching this boundary could be devastating to a person’s perspective.
In summation, bring up the sex subject with your doctor. It is an aspect of your case, they can refer you appropriately, but I think these problems are best left to a gynecologist or therapist.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm going to take this as a hint... and the answer to the question "what happens when everything is 'back to normal'" could go one of two ways. should we plan on that ladies' weekend in montreal right off, or should we arrange for a babysitter for a couple of days? :)

Love you Hill!!!