Monday, October 10, 2016

Still Beautiful, Still Sexy, After Breast Cancer #breastcancer #surthriver

Photo by Nick Holmes Sept 2016
Ready to discuss cancer? And look at naked boobs? Can we make that a hell yes?

Estimates are that as many as 40% of Americans will be diagnosed with and survive cancer.

Sadly, not everyone will beat cancer, breast, or otherwise. I lost a dear friend, Sherwin Davis, to pancreatic cancer just last month. #fuckingcancer

But for those of us who get cancer, and don't die of it, what then? Should we pretend we died? Live a life of fear and rehash our hurts? Grovel around like beggars at the Table of Life, expressing pathetic gratefulness for any crumbs that fall to us?

Well, as discussed as CatalystCon, and in agreement with Clarissa Pinkola Estes, surviving as a goal ain't good enough.  The goal, always, should be to thrive.

This is why I call myself a surthriver. Because my life before cancer was awesome, my life during cancer treatment was awesome, and my life post-treatment (except for the Tamoxifen regimen, which sucks big fat hairy donkey balls), is awesome.

A big part of my journey has been learning to accept that my body has changed. A huge factor helping me do that has been the sexy surthrivers I've been learning from.

That Club Nobody Wants to Belong To

My friend Mina Harker might never have come into my life, except we both had cancer. Hers was cervical, and she is a BadAss, Stage 4, 5 year+ surthriver. She also had a double mastectomy because of the BRCA1 gene, and agreed to sit on my panel for CatalystCon to discuss the modifications required in her sex life because of her diagnosis and treatment.

She is awesome and über-sexy and I love her to pieces.

If you look super closely, you might notice the scars.
Mostly, you notice a gorgeous woman

And then there's my friend Jennifer Pratt, who can rock purple, silver, or turquoise hair, or a tiara. She is talented like that.

Jennifer has been battling leukemia and ovarian cancer. Because she'e an overachiever.

Jennifer hosted the best (technically, the only) pre-cancer surgery party I've ever attended. She is upbeat and funny and also writes a blog about her celiac disease, and I'm so happy we've met.

Augusta Fleming, Now treating her Stage 3B Hodgkins Lymphoma with cannabis in Colorado, after traditional chemotherapy last year offered a miserable time (months in the hospital at a time!) and no real progress. She's the mother of two little girls, a kick-ass photographer, and a true inspiration.

Because she had to be hospitalized so much, there are evil medical bills.
Her friends have set up a GoFundMe to help.

And then there's this radiant woman, Sex Educator Ericka Hart, whose proud, joyous photo from Afropunk3 went viral on social media. (Photos shared with her permission.)

You can follow Ericka on Instagram.
"Where were the dykes who had double mastectomies? I wanted to talk to a lesbian, to sit down and start from a common language, no matter how diverse. I wanted to share dyke insight, so to speak." - Audre Lorde 
#qtpoc#queers #audrelorde #breastcancer#awareness #hereandqueer #dyke#cancerwarrior #survivor#effyourbeautystandards #melanin#blacklivesmatter 

Ericka at the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Body design by artist Laolu

Read this interview with her at Posture Magazine. Ericka continually blows me away and I am following her career with intense interest.

Showing Our Bodies When We Want To

One of the things Ericka and I and other breast cancer surthrivers have discussed, is that because we have to show our breasts (and often, other body parts) to so many different medical professionals: doctors, nurses, lab technicians, and more, it can be empowering to show our bodies when we want to. Even if that's to the whole world!

You get to see my tits! And you get to see my tits! Everybody gets to see my tits!
"Before" lumpectomy picture by Nick Holmes, June 2015

My arrangement with my favorite actor - slash - pretend cowboy - slash - poet (you should totally buy his book and get a lover to read you his deliciously sensuous poems, they're yummy!)  - slash photographer, Nick Holmes, was to have him take a set of before-and-after photos. Nick made the "before" pictures easy and fun.

Getting to the "after" pictures was much more emotionally challenging for me. Even though I was so lucky, and I knew it, not having to have a mastectomy, or chemotherapy.

About two weeks post surgery. I did not expect Laverne to swell up like that.
Possibly the vigorous sex I had with three of my lovers was a contributing factor. #toomuchofagoodthing

As I got deeper into radiation treatment, Laverne and Shirley looked like they were staging an interpretative production of Snow White and Rose Red.

Radiation reddened my breast, thickened the nipple,
and caused the skin in my armpit to break down.
Fun times!

Nothing like having one of your lovers help you bandage up your 'pit as foreplay.

Eventually, the breast skin became (more) normal, though Laverne remains pinker than Shirley despite lymphatic massage. The nipple and areola are still thicker, and ridged. I've heard it may go back to normal in five years or so.

Or, never.

That was not what I wanted to hear. But that is part of this journey - learning and accepting that our bodies have changed. We have to find ways to love the skin we're currently in. Instead of waiting until we are: thin enough, muscular enough, some other "enough." We deserve to give ourselves love and compassion now. Whether we are breast cancer surthrivers, other cancer surthrivers, or just "regular" women and men, growing a little older every day.

So I decided to stop procrastinating, and booked my "after" session with Nick. These are some of my favorites.

The one good thing about having cancer, is, it helped me lose weight.
Oh, wait.

That's another thing I am struggling to accept, that chances are I can't lose weight (95% of people who deliberately lose weight, see it all come back, with dividends). That what I have to focus on is health: eating nutritious foods, getting regular exercise, drinking water, getting enough sleep. I'm not perfect at those things, but am working on 'em. Blogged about the weight quandary here.

I'm working on accepting that, at least for now, maybe forever, I have a big belly and thick thighs. Flabby batwing arms.

And to love my body anyway.

Because life is glorious!

I love my eyes and my hair in this shot!

I am very, very happy to be alive, to have this healthy, sensuous body that gives me so much pleasure. And sometimes I think the girls look pretty damn good!

This photo is NOT by Nick Holmes, lol.

If you haven't already, please consider signing up for my newsletter (right side of page, toward the top) so I can let you know about my progress with my Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n Roll, and a Tiara: How I Celebrated Kicking Cancer's Ass memoir, to be released in 2017.

Do you have stories about body image struggles? 
Or taking back your power through boudoir or other photographs?
Your thoughts?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Got Wenches?

My kittehs:
Creativity on the left,
Motivation (Mojo) on the right
So I belong to an online group of writers, mostly women, with a couple of (male) barkeeps thrown in, because somebody needs to bring us the booze.

The Wenches are scattered across the US, Canada (I think), Sweden, the UK, and Australia, so, sadly, our wine parties are mostly virtual.

Our genres are also scattered: Young Adult, Horror, Women's Contemporary Fiction, Romance, General Lit'rature, and more. Also, Dinosaur Porn.

I've managed to escape shouldering some of the not particularly onerous duties of being a Writing Wench, but they finally caught on.

So, today, I am blogging on Writing Wenches about recapturing your creative mojo, not be be confused with my kittehs, Creativity and Mojo, after taking a writing break.

Or any kind of break, really, whether your "thing" is writing or sex or interpretive dance. Whatever interference life hands you, you CAN get back on the horse. (Especially if your thing is horseback riding.)

Come check out my post, and meet my fabulous wenches!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Unpacking the Lessons of CatalystCon

Just when you think you have no more virginities left to lose gleefully shatter...

Sept 16-18, I attended - and presented panels at - my first CatalystCon.

What is CatalystCon?
CatalystCon is a conference created to inspire exceptional conversations about sexuality. It is about reaching out and stimulating those who attend to create those important conversations in their own communities, changing how we as a society talk about and treat sexuality.  It is about stimulating the activist that is within all of us and sparking transformation in the way our friends, neighbors, children and even politicians discuss one of the most important aspects of humanity.

So, okay we can (most of us) accept that this is a conversation that needs to be stimulated. What does that look like, feel like? Who's at such a conference? And what can we learn?

Lesson One: The Hurrieder You Go, 
The Behinder You Get

For starters, it felt like me rushing to my car Friday morning, painfully aware that my friends from SPLA were waiting for me to arrive with our swag, the banner for our table, and other printed materials, which were all in my vehicle.

Our table did look nice. Partly because of volunteers like Patrick, Jules, and Mina.

I next became even more painfully aware of dropping my full, 24 oz. water bottle, directly on my big toe, while rushing to get into the car. This did not benefit my fresh pedicure or my water bottle.

Also, owie owie owie!

Lesson Two: In Any Situation, You Will Find People and Situations You Did Not Expect

Arriving at the area set aside in the hotel for us, it was highly amusing to find that our convention, including hundreds of sex workers, sex toy salespeople, and sex educators, had been placed next to a yo-yo competition, mostly young men in their teens and twenties. At least one of our conference goers, who appears in adult video entertainment, was recognized by some of her yo-yo'ing fans.

Lesson Three: If It Involves Technology, 
There Will Be Difficulties

When I created my PowerPoint slideshows on my desktop computer, everything looked great, but when I transferred them to my laptop, all my hot pink accents turned... purple. This was a problem as it totally clashed with the hot pink logo on most of the slides. Was able to fix that..

But despite locating the A-V tech, discussing cords and hook-ups and stuff the day before, (mine was one of the first panels on Saturday morning), and arriving that morning fifteen minutes early to get everything hooked up, we still had technical difficulties.

My awesome panelists: Dr. Victoria Reuveni, Dr. Jennifer Lang, Mina Harker,
plus me and Tony the Technician

Lesson Four: When You're Up On The Dais, 
No One Can See The Screen

Although I had discussed the subject matter with my panelists, and sent some of them the materials to review, add suggestions, etc., I did not realize I would have to guide them through it. Because the slides were projected on the screen behind us, and nobody else had a good view of my laptop.

So I felt like my presentations were too much my voice, though others said they went fine.

When I do future panels, I will make sure to print out hardcopy of each slide and share with the panelists, so they can chime in more spontaneously.

Lesson Five: You'll Want To Hang Out With Everybody, But There Won't Be Enough Time

One of the best things about a national conference was getting to see long distance friends again, and to meet those I hadn't yet met in person. Also, getting to fangirl over some of the rockstar educators in the sexuality field was awesome.

Caroline Ryan, who came all the way from  Ireland

Antoinette and Kevin A. Patterson of PolyRoleModels

Walker J. Thornton, Author of Inviting Desire

However, the dinner or lunch I'd hoped to have with some long distance friends didn't happen, and during chats over dinner before the keynote presentation, it was impossible to converse with everyone at the table; too much noise. Besides my immediate seatmates, it was mostly a matter of "Just smile and wave."

Lesson Six: Pervy Pin Collecting Is A Thing

I collected some I really liked,

If not as many as my friend Dana.

We've all heard of sapiosexual and pansexual.
Now introducing: PINsexual.

Lesson Seven: It'll All Be Over Too Soon

I really had a blast, and so did my tiara. I had been warned about, and luckily, did not experience much ConDrop (a term for the psychological letdown experienced by many following an exciting conference). I did my best to stay hydrated, eat healthily, and checked in with myself and rested rather than staying up half the night partying (though I heard there were some amazing parties).

Dee Dennis and the other organizers did an incredible job. I am so grateful for the experience and looking forward to doing this again.

Have you ever been to CatalystCon, or other conventions?
What were your take-away lessons?
Your thoughts?