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.
SomSome 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 clear that the stigma is there.
After all, it forces us to have a conversation about S-E-X.
Because, that is culturally 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. I watched my friend talk about her experience. The others at the table leapt at the chance to blame it on her husband at the time, as he had been older, more experienced. I was pretty horrified by this in a way because you could tell the others really liked her and 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 still judge men and women who choose to move outside the boundaries of long-term, 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!
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.