I have recently checked the website of the American Board of Sexology, and I can absolutely confirm that I am NOT a sexologist. So why is it that my patients ALWAYS want to talk about sex? Old, young, male, female, gay, lesbian and transgendered—it doesn’t matter. This is a topic on everyone’s mind, apparently all of the time. In spite of, or perhaps because of their cancer diagnosis, sex, whether for recreation or procreation is the “hot topic” in many of my consultations.
Secretly, I wonder if they are trying to make me blush. This is not hard to do, for I am fair complected and extremely gullible. If I am not having a hot flash, I am scarlet with embarrassment over some of these exam table confessionals. Like the guy, now in his late sixties, who regaled me with the tales of conception of each and every one of his 14 children. You read that right—FOURTEEN! He was concerned that his prostate cancer treatment might slow him down a bit and that his wife might not be satisfied. (Pause here to glance at the Mrs, seated close by, who is rolling her eyes while trying to reassure him that indeed, honey, she could use a break!) Or the man who needed to tell me about every little sensation which has occurred in his nether regions now that he is ten days into an eight week course of treatment. He omits nothing—soup to the proverbial nuts. My nurse and I glance at one another. It is going to be a very long eight weeks.
These conversationalists are not only men—my female patients get right into the act. A seventy year old breast cancer patient sees me once a week for her “on treatment visit”. I want to talk about her side effects of the radiation therapy, her skin reaction, her fatigue. She wants to talk about her new boyfriend, and the best possible vaginal lubricants. When I find myself deep in conversation regarding the benefits of Astroglide versus the traditional KY jelly, I know for certain that I am out of my element. I am not a sex therapist, nor ever meant to be one. It was so much simpler back in my ER days during my internal medicine residency. There the task was simple: seek out and FIND the lost sex toy in the bodily orifice where it was last seen. Send the grateful patient home with appropriate admonishments regarding the use of such objects. Next Saturday night, repeat. Easy.
I have concluded that they think I must know something. Or have a very exciting life outside the clinic. Little do they know that my late night entertainment is to browse eBay and Etsy, looking for bargains unique and unusual. I have discovered a little shop on Etsy, called Lumme Designs, where the proprietor, Tiina, describes herself as working deep in the woods in Finland. I imagine her blonde head bent over her sewing in those never ending winters, where the days are dark and blend into the nights. Each item she sews is unique and handmade to order, but one in particular caught my eye—a purple linen and black leather corset, fitted with many buckles and straps and laces and cinches. Tiina describes this creation as Handmade Harlot Fashion. In an alternate universe, I picture myself in this corset. Perhaps my patients are on to something after all!