My biggest challenge it pretty hard to explain, but let me try.
at its root and if I had to define it in one sentence it would be;
My biggest challenge is managing my feelings about my cancer diagnosis.
I have tried to break it down in my head.
Cancer, still has the vestiges of being a forbidden disease, the one people don’t talk about… so frightening so heinous that when one died from it the mattress was tossed. While we all don’t go to the extremes, I still see it whispered, I find that people do not like to talk about it openly, but prefer hushed gossipy whispers.
When you add to that what kind of cancer it is, you get a certain other subtext going on. I know from my work in breast cancer that there are issues about the physical and female aspects that are altered through the process. Many of the women I talked to would try to explain the altered self perception after a mastectomy.
Since I can only talk about, with any real authority, my cancer… I can tell you that for cervical cancer being loudly proclaimed a sexually transmitted disease it hangs there, in the ethers after people hear about it. They look at me, silent.
Now, that may be a by product of the whole “hush, shhhhh… it is cancer” thing. It gets more specific though.
I still so vividly recall sitting at dinner with a friends and some friends of one of that friend to talk about how improve the dialog about HPV vaccination among the local LDS community. My friend mentioned that she was a survivor, but that her husband was older when they married. The other around the table cooed and talked about how it couldn’t be her fault because after all, her husband was older and as such must have been “experienced”. While that may certainly be true, I know my friends sexual history and that was a super weak thing to let happen, because she had been sexually active for at least 5 years prior to her marriage. I was so upset by that that I said, well I am a survivor too, but my husband is younger. No one could look me in the face. One of the people was a mormon physician and I sure hope to her God that she was embarrassed. That was a stupid reaction for a physician to make, especially one who understands disease.
I think that was the worst part of my experience.
The weirder parts are reading tabloid news about which rock star has throat cancer and while knowing that they smoked and it was surely a contributor that my guess is that they have a cancer related to the same virus from their own forays in to oral sex. But, their publicist imagines that it is easier to blame it on the cigarettes.
No one knows my sexual history, and it is really none of anyone’s business but my own.
That stigma is so awful and I am at a loss of how to dispel it without making my personal sexual story part of the narrative.
The scenarios in which one could get a cancer causing HPV infection are not as lewd as most people want to assume, but some of them are.
I was asked to consider being a speaker at a relay for life event by a friend. I told her that I would be happy to, but that I didn’t have a sexy cancer. Sexy cancers being the kind one can say “it’s rare” or “it’s miraculous how it was detected”… you get my drift. I think she realized how controversial STI cancers are.
STI, can we come up with a better name?
Will you take the better name challenge and suggest something? Or refuse to fall into a gossipy mode when thinking about this kind of thing?
Come on, I dare ya!