Category Archives: sex

the glint of light on broken glass

The other day I received an award for being positive in the face of adversity. I essentially got an award for getting cancer – though it is more specifically about how I chose to handle it.

Costumes, wearing costumes did it!

Having cancer three times in under five years is pretty messed up, but it is a part of my story.
Thank goodness it is just a part – but while living in it, it seems so all encompassing – like it has always been a part of my story.

8662424109_f2bec79f52_z
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/francescaromanacorreale/8662424109

 

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
― Anton Chekhov

 

After I accepted the award a few people asked me how I could be so funny in such a dark time – my response is that I did not have a choice.

That is not to say that I don’t have dark moments, where I picture my son at my funeral not at some time in the distant future but rather now – in his early teens with a thin shadow of facial hair waiting to make it s entrance on his handsome face. Those are dark moments, they are filled with an internal scream so howling and loud that it hurts my body with a pure sense of pain. I hate those moments, but they happen, and they are hard to move away from – but I have to.

Usually I am able to stave off feelings about my  impending demise by imagining holding my grandchildren, touching their tiny little bodies with a wonder that only a grandmother could have. These thoughts power me, they give me something strong and important to keep my body and its insanities in a place of hope and wonder.

But every night when I take my chemotherapy pill, it all visits me again  as I wrap the pill up in a marshmallow (to prevent mouth-sores)  trying to make it swallowable… I am almost halfway through this process – so many long months are ahead of me with this. I see my oncologist monthly. Filling my head with questions I need to ask, symptoms I need to report.

I am looking forward to a time when I feel more compelled to write about watching my oncologist play the piano so beautifully that I was moved to tears while I surreptitiously recorded his playing. He played a collection of Russian composed songs – and Beethoven’s 5th. I feel an affinity to Beethoven, he lost his hearing – something so vital to what he loved to do. While I lost my breasts and my womb, and being a woman was something I love to do.

But the glint of light on my broken glass is that my breasts and my womb are not me – just like Ludwig Van was not his hearing. They are a reflection of our capabilities, one of the shards of broken glass – but never the whole.

 

 

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The fossils of dead superlatives

I am the best at beating cancer.
Though in some respects, there was not much to beat.
In the end, we caught the cancer so early it was only the size of a grain of salt.
Yes, I talked about that before.
There are many strange things that happen when that words gets tossed into your life.
Trying to make sense of it may be the hardest.
In my case, it is managing the whole thing of having CERVICAL FUCKING CANCER.
It is, after all, considered to be a sexually transmitted infection.
And then there is managing that stigma.
I am finding my path as an advocate for the HPV vaccine. And am meeting with many people about how to help spread the word about the vaccine. I will state that I would not wish what happened to me on my worst enemy, and I had it easy.
Anyway, the stigma thing.
Some people that I tried talking about this with dismissed my concerns as my being more upset about it than the situation merited. In my fragile state I listened to that too much. Several months out from hearing this.. I am calling bullshit.
As I talk more with others, it is very clear the stigma is there.
After all, it forces us to have a conversation about S-E-X.
Because, that is understood to be the main way that you get it.
At a dinner to talk about HPV recently, a dear friend revealed that she had cervical cancer. And I watched her talk about her experience, and the others at the table leap at the chance to blame it on her husband at the time, as he was older, more experienced. I was pretty horrified by this, one could tell the others at the table liked her. Most likely they did not want to have any unpleasant ideas about her and her choices in behavior. We were meeting to discuss how best to spread information about the importance of the HPV vaccination among a particular religious group. As I heard them accuse the man, the hair on my back flared a bit. I reacted this way because it was judgement…  this happened and lets blame the older ex-husband because that is easy to do (though there is no way of knowing if it was the correct thing to do).
My tendency is to assume that everyone is having sex.
What that translates into can vary;
  • waiting until marriage
  • waiting until in a committed relationship
  • Sex on the first date
  • Sex with strangers
  • Sex with multiples
  • and on, and on, and on…
We have chosen, as a culture, to decide that one (of these) is better than the other.
We tend to judge men and women who choose to move outside the boundaries we set. That is, those of long term, spiritually certified, monogamous, committed sexual relationships.
And while this may present a cultural ideal, it really is not the case. One just has to look at the research coming out of the Kinsey Institute to be witness to this.
It is unfortunate that the assumed cultural demographic for women with HPV and cervical cancer tends to be among what is often referred to as the loose woman. 
Working in the early 80’s in some health promotion programs (breast and cervical prevention models) it was often a topic of discussion that cervical cancer was either transmitted by 
a) loose women or 
b) the husbands who had sex with loose women who would then  give this disease to their ever so chaste wives.

The truth is, is it really any of our business to worry about past choices? Past experiences?
We can all assume that the women who’ve had a diagnosis of cervical cancer have in fact had sex. It follows that in some way they have been exposed to the virus either through her own experiences or those of her partner.

The possibilities range from 
a) being raped (which is much more common than is reported, regardless of how you feel about it being deserved or not, and that is a whole different conversation) to 
b) choosing to have sex with a partner who is infected.
The only thing for certain is that there has to be at least a third person. This is in regards to the sex lives of a couple for HPV to happen (I don’t mean a three-some per se, though that is not excluded). The couple can be gay or straight.
Divorce rates indicate we participate in a form of serial monogamy. We can follow that with the idea that people who remarry have been exposed… which helps accounts for the idea that 80% of our American populace has the HPV virus.
But there is that stigma, it hides out there as this article recounts and is poked fun at by this Onion piece.
Dear me, I seem to be ranting…
Announcing I had cervical cancer allows people to make  assumptions about my sexual behavior. These assumptions create a need in me to discuss my health and sexual history to allow people to form a correct opinion of me.

Hell, even my husband was lamenting that he hoped  that he was not the cause for my disease,

In the end, my cancer was something that my body was unable to fight and the cells decided to mutate…  in most cases, this is something that bodies able to fight on their own.

A vaccine would have helped.
Oh, and by the way the incidence of oral cancers is on the rise and in men and these are associated with HPV too… how is that for a fun conversation. Lets talk about sex baby!

~sigh~
The funny thing is that I titled this post just because I read this article and liked the phrase enough to want to use it.  I did not intend to write a diatribe about my dislike of judgey people in terms of sexual behavior, but it happened… I suppose it is something I am still processing. one does not hear the word whore cancer and move past it easily.
Anyway, I love words, I love concepts… concepts like the consensus of definition, etymology, and epistemology (to name but just a few).

I have had several friends comment on the cautiousness in which I choose my words.  However,  when I am excited  I tend to fall back on strange metaphors, similes,  and synonyms that are tied up in my multi-cultural background and present what to some as gibberish. My  friends are able to figure it out or at least pretend to. 

I do love words, I like to listen to them, make sense of them, argue and chat using them… and I was charmed by this idea that remnants of my ancestors word choices are alive and well in my current vernacular.

Invincible summers and calculated acts of kindness

“My dear,
In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realized, through it all, that…
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.

~ Albert Camus


It was late on December 20th, 2014 and I was still recovering from my surgery.   I read an email from my friend Gail in which she asked if the Junior League of Phoenix (JLP) would be interested in hosting a movie screening. Gail works at The Arizona Partnership for Immunization.


It was this movie screening:





I watched the trailer.

I called her to talk on the phone.

I pretty much told her that I didn’t know but I would find a way.  We talked about how I could manage this in my capacity as the member training committee chair and we came up with a plan. The next morning I sent out some emails to my Team Leader in the Junior League and my co-chair. Both were supportive.  Gail and I discussed venues and what options we had. We decided that my cousin, who is Lead pastor at Scottsdale First Church of the Nazarene, would be a good person to approach. So an email went to him. I received immediate replies and all were supportive. 

Here I am 2 months later. The JLP team lead I serve under, has allowed for this to become a bigger deal within the JLP.  More partnerships have developed and are included below.

Our goal is to provide one large movie screening with a panel that is targeting about 200 viewers. 

If you are local – please save the date:

Date:
Thursday, April 9th 2015

Location:
Scottsdale First Church of the Nazarene
2340 N Hayden Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85257

Time:
 5:30 – 9:00 pm / Movie starts at approx 6:30

Tentative Agenda:
Sign in opens with a meet and greet: 5:30
Movie and topic is introduced and screened 6:30 
(movie is 80 minutes long)
Panel discussion at end of film
closing meet and greet


Community Partners:


"Sorry about your whore cancer, lady"

I am getting  fighting  AT  (ok, ok) resisting giving in to the angry stage.

I think.

I keep get the strangest urge to throw bottles at walls, so I can watch and hear them break.

I get why this happened to me. I just don’t like that it happened (is happening) and I don’t like the stigma.

So, The Onion, known for its tongue in cheek humorous articles, published this article.

Considering that current experts estimate that 70% of Americans have been infected with HPV, it is pretty spot on and does it pretty well.

I actually thought it was clever, but the problem was that I happened to see the link on The Facebook (here).  And the first comment I saw, was the one I used as the title of this post.

That is the thing, there is that stigma. Hell, I have family members that I could see using the same or similar terminology. And it is so “unspoken” among most people.

And it hit a raw nerve. Because this is something women have the consequences to, not men. So women get called all sorts of horrid things.

Here is the thing. I don’t think I am a whore. Never was.

But I feel like I am being called that. And it is pretty prevalent, the stigma about women who get it. There is just so much about this I want to scream at.

I mean having your life attached to the word cancer is bad enough, but cervical cancer?!?!?! “That slut cancer”.

Consequences, I suppose. I try to make it less hurtful… but I can’t seem to right now. I was never a slut.

I get angry. I get really pretty fucking angry. And it ebbs and flows and I try to keep it at bay because I don’t want it to consume me. And I don’t know what to do about it.

Day 9 – 40DOW – a little conversation I want to have with men

I think the one thing that has been hardest on me is how the men in my life have handled this.

First of all, let me state this is not all the men.



My husband has been über fabulous; he has been there for me and has been a solid rock and really been wonderful and supportive and asked questions and made me feel like he is in this with me 100%.

It is the other ones.

Like My Boys   – sigh.

I mentioned the one that talked about himself after I shared the news… though he has sent a note back in which he sorta says one brief little thing and proceeds to write about himself for three or so long paragraphs (that is how he is). Another, that found out through his wife, sent a note to my husband saying that he knew. For those two, it was perfect. It fit their personalities and I am so glad. 

I did share with the other boys, and nothing. I am hoping that they might be out of town for a very long time or too shocked at the news and feel kind of helpless and not know what to say or even do. I mean there is something so very personal about talking about your lady parts with a man, I imagine it might be embarrassing or something along that fine continuum for a man to talk about a female friends girly parts in such a deeply personal way… even if you never utter the words cervix, ovaries, uterus, vagina.

The other three male friends that I have told have been able to reply. One with a sweet message and encouragement and stories of how his mother has gone through something similar. Amazingly supportive and wonderful. Another apologized about what I am going through and then turned into a lump that seems to want me to take care of him. The last proceeded to offer a bunch of medical advice based on his experience with his mother and her ovarian cancer.

I can’t imagine what it must be like for a male, to hear from a friend that her girly bits have failed her in such a dramatic way.  I am sure that saying “I am sorry that your cervix is going through that” just seem too ridiculous for a male.

So, if you are a male and you have a friend (or loved one) who has been diagnosed with a reproductive cancer (or any cancer) here is some advice based on what I have learned so far;

  • If she tells you, respond. Even if you just say: I am so sorry you are going through this. I don’t really know how to respond, but I am here if you need me. Repeat this on occasion if you are still speechless.
  • Prepare yourself, think about times when you have been scared, or ill, or going through a difficult time. What did you want to talk about? What did you need? Consider your friends personality; is she forthright or private and talk to her. 
  • Tell her you are sad that she has to go through this, acknowledge what she is going through.
  • If possible, invite her to lunch or dinner or breakfast or brunch, and listen to her if she accepts (and let her know it is ok to say no). Ask her if she needs a hug, and talk to her about things you know interest her; books, plays, etc. Reminisce the old times, make her laugh at how silly you both were when you were younger if your friendship has lasted decades. 
  • Don’t continuously pick up and stare at your phone or allow other distractions when you talk to her, especially if she is talking about what she is going through.
  • Let her know you are interested in her health, and are willing to help. If she is alone, ask if she needs help putting in light-bulbs or other small house projects. If she is married or living with someone and you know them, ask if you should take her partner out and get his mind of things. If you offer, and she accepts. Follow through. 
  • Be honest about your feelings.
  • If you have a history of doing things together, plan something she can look forward to.
  • If you have shared friends, ask if she would like you to let them know. Respect her answer.
  • Try not to offer medical advice. Don’t send her information on protocols and options don’t be upset when she makes decisions that you find odd or extreme or even not extreme enough. 
  • Most importantly, continue the friendship… knowing there is a support system out there for her is incredibly important (even if she doesn’t take you up on the offer)

I hope that I have given some pointers that are helpful. 

These are ideas based on my experience so far. I am sure that there is some variety among women who are going through this and I am sure that Google probably has far better advice available if you search. 

IMPORTANT UPDATE:  Please refrain from talking about her disease around her children. She may choose to really limit what the kid/s know during this time since it can be super scary, and needlessly so.

Day 7 – 40DOW – Curious George is my new hero

There is something kind of magical that happens when you get a serious diagnosis… You get a new level of patience and tolerance, and you hold closer to what’s unacceptable and intolerable.

It is as if one gets knighted and imbued with certain super powers. Probably though, it is just some form of self examination that allows for some serious decision making.

I am not dying, but this may be the closest I get to that in a while. A friend wrote me last night about how I was now in the middle of my “bull fight” and that I had an arena of friends who were supporting me through this. I was struck by their using this metaphor not only because I am a bullfighters daughter, but because there really was some intense truth to what they wrote (and also because they hate bullfights so I was surprised to see them use this).

Without delving into a treatise on bullfighting, I will say that the bullfight is not about the torero, it is about the relationship between the bull fighter and the bull, each playing into instincts and their very special mortal relationship. They are each trying to figure the other out, and while they are separate, they form a symbiotic relationship. I am here in this ring, and I am that relationship, the instinct is driving me to examine my surroundings, and as they said, I have a cadre of people supporting that.

Which brings me to something else that has been swirling in my newly seriously introspective mind.

I recall the day when you heard that someone had cervical cancer that a pretty loaded assumption was possible made:

The woman (since men do not get cervical cancer) was a loose ho-bag and had proverbial round heels

I have heard this whispered amongst the most gossipy of people even to this day. So, yes there is a certain fear of assumptions that people (stupid people) may make about me. I know that I have never been a loose ho-bag and I most certainly do not have round heels. And I don’t think that what is happening is the direct result of any karmic like indiscretions I may have made.  I am a human with a cervix and it has betrayed me (yet again).

I sit here newly diagnosed with something the most heinous of gossips use to tear people down and between that and the whole mortality associated with the word cancer causes for an astonishing amount of reflection. Self-reflection certainly, but also about the world I live in; the friends I have and thee ones I had, the adventures, the quiet moments, the rage, the gentle, the sweet peace when my son rests his head on my lap, the Ebola crisis, our southwestern drought, or awfully separatist politicians, the atrocities in the Sudan… all these and so much more… they have become different in some ways now.

At the root, though, these are extensions of curiosity, which is a true animal behavior.  There is something primal about trying to understand what is happening around you.  A certain fierceness comes, priorities seems stronger and there is a certain curiosity that reigns over me. It is like an adrenaline rush, but in a very sedate way (much like the adrenaline the human and the bull need to control when in the ring). I consider how the social animals (outside of humans) interact with each other. Elephants are amazing at this, but so are so many other animals. And there is something beautiful in that… in feeling close to that which unites all of us animals as we try to make sense of the world around us. It connects me to my surroundings, makes me feel a part of something whole and those who think this kind of thing (introspection) is something selfish, elitist, or wrong are just temporarily disconnected from the life death continuum.