Sex and Cancer

I go to an oncologist which makes me feel like a fraud because I don’t have cancer.  I’ve never had cancer.

But I go because they found an enlarged lymph node that’s supposedly not cancerous and in finding out that miraculous fact, they stumbled into a series of nodes in my thyroid that are also allegedly not cancerous.  And then when I went to my follow up about the nodes this past Tuesday, I divulged this sharp pain I’ve been having in my chest every time I breathe in deep and now I have to have another CT scan, this time to make sure I don’t have a pulmonary embolism.

I have never spent so much money to find out that I’m just fine.

But my run-ins with my oncologist (who is the sexy grandfatherly type that confuses you on such a weirdly deep level that you have to stop watching Paul Newman movies), has spurred my interest in two topics:

  1. Disease
  2. The human body

My last book was about a funeral home.  The bodies were dead and cold and the ones that were alive had sex under the covers.  I never moved the sheet back.  And it was really platonic, somewhat boring sex that you would miss if you blinked or went to change the channel when Paul Newman’s face popped up on screen.  That’s not to say it wasn’t relevant in its own little way.  But it wasn’t real.

The book I’m writing now is centered on a woman who has Crohn’s disease.  She has a cancer.  She has sex.  There are elements here that make me uncomfortable as a writer at times, but engaged as a human being.  My mother has Crohn’s disease and I probably know more about the aspects of Crohn’s than the average human – the dried in concrete technical details.  The break your heart and hurt your head details, too.  Her story needs to be told.

And I know about sex, too.  Gasp.  We all know about sex whether we’re inclined to dive in or avoid it like the plague.  So there’s this worm in my gut, barreling a hole through the tissued lining every time I close my writerly eyes and say “Nope, nope now everyone put your clothes back on!”  There’s a need there to remove the sheet, study the breathing, the gasping even if it’s a simple reference painted lightly stroke by stroke.  I can’t let my writer’s heart get squeamish about such things if the beat of my human heart is set to their rhythm.

My friend, Jessica, wrote about this.  Bravery.  An inclination to screw “acceptable” and just be on the page.

So I’m going to just be.  Naked on a metal table, naked in a bed.  It’s all the same really.  Hearts that are still beating deserve to beat, fully clothed or under the covers.

I wonder what he thinks, my oncologist, when he listens to me breathe.


Ericka Clay, Writer

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