Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Take That, Cancer

Yesterday, on NPR's Fresh Air, Terri Gross interviewed two women that were diagnosed with cancer in their 20s. A chunk in the middle (~21:00 - 31:00) was right up the alley of this here blog.

I hadn't really thought about how cancer could affect a person's sex life. That sounds unbelievably boneheaded when I read it, but it's true. I always think about the puking and the hair falling out and the surgeries and all the death, to put it bluntly. But it makes sense that all of that would make one supremely not horny. The crazy thing is, though...quite the opposite happened to these ladies

One of the women, Iva (colon cancer), found that her ordeal actually improved her sex life. Speaking openly about her cancer involves talking about pretty uncomfortable things (poop, colostomies, etc). Speaking openly about those uncomfortable things left her feeling much more open about talking about other potentially uncomfortable things - like sex. Being able to talk about it more openly about sex allowed her to become ultimately more sexually fulfilled.

The other woman, Kairol (thyroid cancer), said she was 'randy as a 15-year-old boy' at the beginning of her treatment. For her, sex was something her body still did right, and was a great 'escapist activity to engage in' that helped erase the stress of doctors and tests and fear.

As her treatments intensified, unfortunately, she began to feel like her body 'belonged to doctors', which diminished how comfortable she was in her skin. Additionally, a hormone treatment she underwent (and continues to undergo) had the side effect of making her so anxious that she required anti-anxiety meds, further decreased her sex drive (as they tend to do).

What I take away from this is that it wasn't the cancer that killed her sex was the treatment. Cancer itself can't beat down the goodness or the power of sexuality. There are exceptions, of course...things like cervical or penile cancers are going to eat into a sex life, for sure...but at least for these two women, their sexy selves not only withstood cancer, they overcame it. And who doesn't love overcoming cancer, even in a small way?

Take a listen...there's a lot more to the interview (~40 minutes in total), including some interesting thoughts about colostomies in young, sexually active people, about whether or not to freeze embryos prior to chemotherapy, just in case the chemo leaves a woman infertile, a whole lot about cancer and health insurance, and some fun stuff about giving cancer the beatdown with humor.

And I do love to hear about cancer taking a beatdown.

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